By Austin Kingsley
KANSAS CITY, Mo -- What a run for the California crew.
The West Coast was well-represented in Kansas City, but Surfside might not be the first name you think of when considering club volleyball dynasties from the Golden State. But this 16s group from the Long Beach area made sure you knew the Surfside name by the end of 2023 TC NIT.
With the cameras rolling on Court 13, Surfside 16 PV Legends captured a two-set win in the 16U Elite championship over Houston Skyline 16 Royal, one of the popular title favorites heading into the weekend.
Surfside Strikes First
From the beginning of the title match, 16 PV Legends proved that they were not intimidated by the high-flying attack of Houston Skyline. While Surfside’s offense anchored much of the team’s success throughout the weekend, it was the defense that led the way early in the title bout.
Middle blocker Daniela Rusich was incredibly effective in locking down seams at the net. Even when she wasn’t getting straight-down stuff blocks, she generated positive block touches that helped Surfside’s backcourt make easy touches. Right-side hitters Preslie Saunders and Similoluwa Adefemiwa took care of Surfside’s wing blocking, too.
With this formidable net presence, Surfside enjoyed a 15-12 advantage at the opening set’s TV timeout. 16 PV Legends then expanded their lead after the break as another middle blocker, Kalyssa Blackshear, made some crafty shots in front of the setter.
But we can’t go any further without mentioning Surfside’s big gun on the left side: Kaci Demaria. If you wanted to claim that Demaria was the most valuable 16s athlete at Triple Crown this weekend, no one would argue with you. Her long frame and fluid arm swing make defending Demaria a nearly impossible task. She has risen to superstardom in Kansas City and will be a household name for years to come.
Demaria fittingly capped off a Set 1 win with a kill, putting surfside firmly in control of the match.
Texas teams don’t go down without a fight, and we saw some Set 2 resilience from Houston Skyline.
Surfside was tasked with defending a wealth of elite attackers from 16 Royal. Outside hitter Bailey Warren certainly belongs alongside Demaria on your all-16U team, and opposite Taylor Porter complements her well on the right pin. Both of these pin hitters carried big roles in serve receive, further adding to their greatness.
In a mirror image of Set 1, it was Houston Skyline that held a three-point advantage midway through Set 2. Setter Kassidy O’Brien was starting to find a rhythm, and that yielded some highlight moments from Ella Lewis on the left side and Bayleigh Minor in the middle. We were closing in on a third set.
A Final Wave of Momentum
Surfside responded to adversity and found an answer, just like it had done since arriving in Kansas City.
Demaria still loomed large in the Set 2 comeback, and fellow outside hitter Simone Roslon also terminated well. But serving and backcourt defense started to emerge as major storylines while Surfside rallied back. Libero Olivia Foye was a huge standout in this regard, as she performed all the skills you’d like to see from your libero. She literally shed a little blood in her pursuit of the ball.
Another ball control player, setter Isabella Jones, capped off the match with her own bout of strong serving. A winning ace sent Surfside 16 PV Legends into a frenzy as an improbable 16U championship run was complete.