By Cody Thorn
The flight home will be a good one for the TStreet Volleyball Club 13 Bailey squad after winning the TC NIT Elite championship on Monday.
The Irvine, California club beat MadFrogs 13’s National Green from Plano, Texas in three sets, winning the first set, 25-23 and the deciding third set, 15-7. In between, MadFrog won 25-15.
“It feels incredible; this is the first of many big tournament wins for this team,” TStreet coach Bailey Tanner said. “They win a lot of local ones so it was about time we got a national one. We are ready to go home and get better and go onward and upward.”
TStreet Bailey went 9-0 during the tournament and was 3-0 in matches that went three sets – including the semifinals against Arizona Storm 13 Thunder early in the day.
“I was worried,” TStreet’s Ella Olson said of going to a third set. “But I knew we would pull it out. It was great winning. We came a long way and we proved why we got here and we showed them what we had.”
The decisive third set in the finals started out in favor of the Californians after a kill by Kate Jackson started the scoring. Olson, who led the team with eight kills, made another to make it 3-1 on a shot that landed in the corner, just in bounds.
“We had a call that didn’t go our way. It was close, 1-2, and it made it 1-4,” MadFrog coach Stefanie Samuels said. “We got the ball back and then we missed a couple of serves back-to-back. That put us back where we could’ve closed the gap, we didn’t get the opportunity to.”
MadFrog pulled within 6-4 but back-to-back points for TStreet, including a kill by Megan Hodges, made it 8-4 and led to a timeout by the Texas squad. The break didn’t help much as TStreet scored the next three points – two when kills by Jackson went off a MadFrog player and out of bounds.
Samuels called another timeout but TStreet added the next two points and led 14-4.
MadFrogs kept battling and scored three straight, the last on a kill from Keelyn Green, making it 14-7. However, a shot into the corner by Katherine Nowak fell in and ended the title match.
“Normally the team that wins the second set has momentum and we didn’t let that get to us,” said Olson, who was named her team’s MVP for the match. “We gave everything we had left, it was our last game, we came this far. We just had to show them.”
Olson came up with big plays throughout the finals. A kill in the first set gave TStreet its first lead of the set, 10-9, after trailing by as many as three points. The first set was tied at 10, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21 – before return errors gave TStreet the lead for good.
“We knew they would get kills, they were big and strong, but we had to hang in there and dig them out,” Turner said.
MadFrog, which had a majority of the roster of players that won the 12’s title last May in Kansas City, reached the finals by beating Mizuno Long Beach 13 Rockstar in the semifinals, 25-22 and 25-18.
“This was the first loss of the season and we’ve played a lot of good teams,” Samuels said. “Our region in North Texas is so strong with Skyline, TAV, Dallas Premier. We’ve been doing so well, now what do we learn from a loss like this?”
Up next for the Texas club is a trip to Salt Lake City in early March.
For TStreet, the win in three sets was different than the two previous ones, where they won the second set and then carried that momentum into the third set to win.
“We knew they (MadFrog) are a good team but our girls were terrific all day, all weekend,” said Tanner, who was an AVCA All-American player at Washington in 2016 and was a three-time All-Pac 12 selection. “They bought back a few times and we got better each time we went three sets. I was stoked.”
Tanner played for TStreet when she was younger and is now coaching, following in the footsteps of her dad Troy Tanner, who won two NCAA titles as an assistant coach for the BYU men’s program. He also coached Misty May and Kerri Walsh to a gold medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics.