by Kyle Koso
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Electric in every moment, composed in the big picture, and confident about how to maintain that tricky balance – it’s proving to be a potent mix for the TStreet 14 Carson volleyball squad.
The California-based program is brewing up as a hefty challenger for the title as the 2023 Triple Crown NIT plays out at the Kansas City Convention Center, with TStreet going 3-0 on Saturday in power-pool play. They wrapped up their early run with a resounding 25-11, 25-14 victory over Legacy (Mich.) and are one of five teams to get through Day 1 unscathed (joining Arizona Storm, Austin Performance, Skyline Royal and Texas Advantage.
“We’ll take this great start and just hope to keep rolling. One of our biggest strengths is staying calm when things get weird – the leaders of the team start that vibe,” said TStreet head coach Carson Tanner.
Indeed, when TStreet faced the occasional moments of tension, there was almost no wobble at all, with setter Gabriella Souza constantly directing the ball to the best-positioned player to make things right. For most points, those kills shots came from the differing angles of 6-foot-2 middle Megan Hodges and 5-8 outside hitter Ella Olson.
“Souza is an amazing setter and will take any type of ball and make a play out of it,” Tanner added. “All the hitters know to be ready for the set.”
That road map helped TStreet settle in at the finish after watching a 16-6 lead tighten up to 16-13.
“Our team has a really good connection; I’ve been with them since we were 12, and we have a huge bond together,” said Hodges, who made some clever tips but really did damage in the middle, attacking crisply off Souza’s sets. “A point is important, but we don’t let an error on our part make everything feel wrong. We try to use it to get better.
“It’s great (controlling the middle). It’s such an amazing feeling to get that perfect block, the perfect time, and the ball goes straight down.”
TStreet took a 16-6 lead as well in Set 1 and never flinched, sweeping up the set on some Legacy miscues. In Set 2, Hodges had a block and a kill to reset the score to 18-14; an ace from Alexis Link made it 23-14, and a noisy kill from Olson brought it match point with TStreet wrapping it up on an opponent’s error.
“We know we can get out of (trouble), we’ll get it back – we’ve built that trust in each other. This shows our hard work is paying off and our ‘A’ game is pretty much the best in the country,” Olson said. “This was a good warm-up day and we’re only going to get better.”
Olson is one of those unique volleyball athletes, showing up on the outside giving up several inches to most players. But her vertical jump is eye-catching, and coupled with a very violent arm swing, it’s a lot to deal with for defenses.
“My brother is going to Pepperdine; I watched him grow by getting in the gym. He’s about 6-foot tall, as an (opposite hitter), I saw his vertical go up like crazy,” she said. “That got me going to the gym, waking up before school, going before practice, and I think that helped me a lot.”