Tournament officials have combed through the results from the nearly 580 teams that competed Feb. 16-18 at the Triple Crown NIT and have declared the winner of the 2019 Top Club Award – Texas Advantage.
To be eligible for the award, a club must have entered a team in at least three age divisions (12s through 18s), and points were tabulated from the top three finishes of each club. Here is the breakdown for the Top 10:
1.Texas Advantage (240 points) – The TC NIT Club Champion for the second time in three years; winners of the 14 Elite, runner-up at 17 Elite and sixth place at 18 Elite.
2. Dynasty (220 points) – The Kansas City, KS program dominated at the younger age groups; winners at 13 Elite, fifth place in both 12 and 15 Elite.
3. Asics KIVA (210 points) – One of the nation’s powerhouse clubs out of Louisville; strong work in placing third at 18 Elite, fourth at 14 Elite and fifth at 13 Elite.
4. Nebraska Premier (200 points) – Since 2018, a welcomed addition to the competitive level of the TC NIT; this year they won the 12 Elite and 15 Elite titles.
5. A5 Mizuno (170 points) – Longtime presence in the TC NIT; the suburban Atlanta program placed second at 16 Elite and third at 15 Elite.
T6. Legacy (160 points) – Always a factor at the TC NIT, the Rochester (MI) club won the title at 18 Elite (the team is now 36-1 this year) and placed fifth at 17 Elite.
T6. MAVS (160 points) – Based in nearby Olathe, KS, the MAVS brought serious punch to the younger age groups in 2019, placing third at both 12 Elite and 13 Elite.
8. MadFrog (150 points) – The second Texas program to appear on this list, MadFrog (Plano) was a factor throughout, placing second at 13 Elite and fifth at 15 elite.
9. Top Select (140 points) – Based out of Orlando, Top Select opened a lot of eyes with a terrific win at 17 Elite, and then added a seventh-place finish at 18 Elite.
10. Tstreet (130 points) – The only California squad on the list, Tstreet (Irvine) won an impressive title at 16 Elite, and also muscled up at 13 Elite, placing eighth.
For full club results - CLICK HERE
Photo by Mike Grieshop
One of the magic acts in a successful club volleyball program is creating a place where athletes offer up every ounce of their competitive fire, while cooling the emotions that tend to percolate when many people aspire to the same thing.
Scholarships, playing time, a sense of progress on a long, hard journey … these are the subplots of club volleyball, and Mintonette Volleyball Club (based in Columbus, OH) has shown a command of the little things that lead to major success on the national stage. The club will be there in force at the Triple Crown NIT in Kansas City, with four teams in action from Feb. 16-18.
Club director, coach and recruiting coordinator Max Miller started Mintonette in 2006, having already soaked up lessons and insight from a 10-year run with the Central Ohio VBC. Seeing a vacancy in terms of organized travel teams and the accompanying focus on college opportunities, Miller and his staff have grown Mintonette into a notable regional power – he has two USAV age-group national titles on his own, in 2013 and 2017.
Players get a reminder every time they suit up on Miller’s vision for the organization.
“It’s on the toes of our socks - #CTP, which stands for club, team, player. You are part of something bigger than yourself, and something bigger than your team, even,” said Miller, who coached high school for 20 years and is also head coach at the University of Northwestern Ohio. “To empower them to be part of something bigger than themselves is exciting and refreshing for the parents, too.
“We’ve had five Big Ten setters in the last seven years, and fortunate to have a former All-American setter (Audrey Flaugh), who is the lead trainer for our setters. I’m big on the defensive end as well. When we realized we had the top kids in the area we started to branch out, and shortly we had folks coming in from Dayton. Toledo, Cincinnati … we even got a kid who lives right at the West Virginia state line, driving two hours and 40 minutes one way just to practice. Once we saw those type of kids making the effort, we thought this would be a bigger deal.”
Along with figuring out the mix of talent and vision, Mintonette has emphasized the development of its coaching staff, a unit that pilots 31 teams through the schedule. Nothing is quite as useful as having your own training facility, and Miller got that solved a couple years ago with the purchase of the Columbus Volleyball Center. Mintonette also has strict policies that allow coaches to do their job with minimal static from the outside.
“We treat our coaches like college coaches, telling them and the parents that if there’s an issue, you come to the admin and not the coach. Kids can go to the coach, but our policy is parents don’t at all,” Miller said. “Now, if there’s a situation where we need a sit-down, we’ll deal with it then. That way, we take the emotions out of it, and then our coaches come back. They primarily have other jobs and do this because they have a passion for the kids or for the sport. We tell people we are in the kid business, not the adult or parent business.”
Mintonette certainly served the career arc of middle blocker Katie Myers, who played with the club for five years before signing at Maryland – she’s fought off two seasons of knee injuries, leading the Big Ten in aces last season (53) and the Terrains in blocks (122). Her club era was demanding, but characterized by genuine affection for the process.
“I would have to start with the coaches; they really pushed me and my teammates to give our very best every single practice. We also put that on each other, where if you ever saw someone slack off, you’d say, hey, we’re trying to win,” said Myers, who was 14th in the nation in aces in 2018. “We became very competitive – my teams jelled very well, and I had a lot of fun. Over time, the younger girls would look up to us, and we would try to be leaders. It put a lot on your shoulders, but it helped, and they try to do that still today.
“It was intense, and we worked our tails off. You always keep in mind what you’re trying to achieve. It helped so much before college, and I said that Maryland’s practices were just like my club practices. Other than the weightlifting and the cardio, it was the same competitively, and we worked on fundamentals every day, because if you don’t have those you won’t succeed. The speed I guess was different, because this is Big Ten volleyball.”
Myers said the probable highlight of her time at the club built up not only her skill level, but her confidence and sense that volleyball was the perfect fit for her ambitions.
“Playing 16s, I was a sophomore, and that was my team’s prime where everything clicked and we wanted to work so hard for each other,” she said. “The older girls were looking at us to win, and the younger ones were looking up for us to be leaders. When we qualified for Open, it felt so amazing, and then we thought, why not go for more?”
Miller certainly understand the concept of “more” seeing as he simultaneously took on the job at Northwestern Ohio, wrapped up the purchase of the training facility, assisted his wife through her master’s degree studies and tackled the usual stack of chores around Mintonette.
“I took the college job when I was bored at the high school level and losing my fire,” said Miller, whose college team was 26-9 last season. “I was so wrapped up in the sport that knew if I wasn’t involved in the volleyball year-round, I’d probably drive everyone around me crazy. This opportunity came up, and my wife said, take it.”
Pulling together is one of the fundamental requirements of quality volleyball, and it’s something the MAVS club program (based in suburban Kansas City) has appreciated from the start.
Even to the point of pulling together so they could attach a net to the side walls of an elementary school gym – exactly the kind of spartan surroundings that characterized MAVS’ early years, and exactly what players, coaches and admins were will to work through with the goal of building something great. Today, MAVS fields 40 girls teams and seven boys squads, with an established yet blossoming reputation as a program that fields skillful, determined athletes (including a USA Junior Nationals championship unit at 16s last year).
The 2019 edition of the Triple Crown NIT will include MAVS for the first time, with 13 teams suiting up.
Put it that way, and 1996 seems like a million years ago, when club founder Dave Gentile started the idea after his daughter and a handful of her friends didn’t make the cut at another program, and all the other options had dried up. His so-called “Bad News Bears” outfit just kept on chugging, playing on carpeted gym floors, while parents such as Kate Schnitta (also a high school varsity coach) and Kathy Bates (who is now MAVS club director) poured hours into the enterprise.
“Where it all began is still very much an important part of who we are today. We had such fun and great success that expanding was easy, but we really never envisioned the demand for more teams,” said Gentile, who is a business consultant and coach for MAVS today. “It made sense we would grow as there were so few clubs or teams available for a sport that was beginning to wake up across the country. The early days of MAVS had the club operating on a shoestring out of my garage and Kathy’s kids’ playroom until we landed a partnership with a local fitness facility and a sponsorship with ASICS.
“We realized we had a real deal when we were working out of a garage, had eight teams scrambling for courts and the three leaders were confident this was a club for the future. Even with a two-court fitness facility we still needed courts. So we had to work hard at relationships with the various school districts in the area.”
When the MAVS folks needed a break, solutions (fueled by tenacious work) had a way of materializing. A private high school, St. Thomas Aquinas, took a shine to how MAVS displayed and grew a family-first approach and donated precious gym time on selected weekday evenings and Sundays.
Another boost in fortune came when multiple players from the area’s two top clubs came to a MAVS tryout and decided to explore this new brand. Funding, competitive ability, facilities and vision meant MAVS had arrived.
“This meant we were now being accepted as a competitive and sustainable program. I was really committed to the effort and was willing to make some significant financial investments for the success of the club,” Gentile said. “Early on coaches were actually lining up to help. I’m not sure what the magic was, other than we were family focused and supported coaches in all they did for the teams and club. Once we got to a scalable size, which was around 14 teams, we really knew we were in for the long haul.”
Bates has had a front-row seat for all of this, appreciating not only the chance to coach her daughters and evolve in the sport, but to share the MAVS recipe with other families and anchor the club as an immovable force in the community.
“The kids and their families are what I love most about my profession. The relationships I have made and the lessons I continue to learn are simply amazing. I quit coaching for one year to be a volleyball ‘mom’ and MAVS administrator, and I missed it deeply,” Bates said. “However, probably the most significant reason I stayed with MAVS years ago was the opportunity to coach my girls when they were young and watch them grow up in our MAVS family environment. They were both blessed with caring coaches and teammates year after year, and we have some wonderful memories that are priceless.”
MAVS is determined to be thoughtful amid all this growth, fully aware of the cost of nearly year-round demands. Room is carved so athletes can play other sports and stick to the most important plan … faith, family, school and sport.
“Our way to cope with burnout is to accept that volleyball does not come first. Our high school age teams practice later in the evening to accommodate their school conflicts,” Bates added. “We do not mandate anything over three practices a week. We offer additional training sessions and a speed and agility program, but those programs are optional. We know they are busy and we want our volleyball facility to be a low-stress, forget-all-your-troubles kind of place.”
“Today, we continue to be the club of choice, a family-based program in it for the long haul as we believe volleyball, more than any other sport, teaches young women and men what teamwork and a focused effort can mean in their lives going forward,” Gentile said.