For those that have ever lived near train tracks, you know the feeling when a train is getting near. The tracks start to quake and the pressure and strength of the fast-moving locomotive is palpable in the air.
The H2 12 Under Armour team was giving off the feeling of a steaming locomotive over the past couple weeks. Strong practices, extra attentiveness, and incremental improvements in each player led to some great optimism about the Premier League finals.
First up was a Premier League tune-up as the girls played in a 13s tournament at Gametime Sports in St. Peters. The higher net and heavier ball didn’t deter the girls as they went 2-2 against the older competition, losing a close match in the gold semifinals. The coaches were able to point out that no player that H2 would face in the Premier League was as good as some of the tall (left-handed) middles that were faced on Saturday.
Encouraging words and hints of eating well and getting a good night’s rest where passed to the girls as the first match on Sunday was going to be a reffing duty at 8 am.
Little did the girls know that the parents were going to be preparing for the finals as well, making signs and large, ‘H’ ‘2’, colored cutouts.
A pleasantly warm and sunny day greeted the girls upon their arrival at Missouri Baptist for the three team finals. The first match was between the top seed TESL Red team and the third seed St. Charles Stars, familiar foes from the past two years. The Stars came out serving, passing, and mostly crushing the ball all around the court and easily dispatched TESL in two sets setting up a match of H2 vs. Stars.
A couple potential hurdles for the H2 girls. First, reffing the first match gives you little time for warm-ups as compared to the first match of the day. Secondly, you have to watch a team that looks pretty invincible.
The coaches changed the warm-up going into the weekend and the girls pulled it off very nicely, hurdle number one – cleared. As for being intimidated, the girls were having none of it.
In the first set, H2 scored five early points to jump out to a 9-4 lead only to see the Stars score four straight themselves to cut the lead to 10-9. Another run from H2 had the lead at 16-9 and it was starting to look good, especially at 20-12. Not so fast said the Stars, eight straight points and the set was tied at 20 with the Stars holding the momentum. A big kill by Anna got the serve back for H2 and Lexie G. took over from there, serving out with two aces and H2 won the first set 25-20.
The second set had much less back and forth drama toward the end of the set. No one scored more than a point or two at a time and the set was tied up at 12s. From that point on, H2 tightened their game up, smelling the chance to control their destiny for a gold medal. The H2 girls outscored the Stars 13-3 going away, the train was coming through.
The only thing that stood in the way of a gold medal was the TESL Red team that had defeated H2 previously in the year. The time-off revitalized TESL as the first set had H2 trailing 10-13 at one point. Remember the theme to the story – the freight train? The rest of the way the score was 15-3 in favor of H2 with aces and kills flying left and right.
Mathematically the girls had clinched first place but the coaches didn’t let them know that. They wanted the girls to finish the job. And finish the job they did. The outcome was never in doubt as the girls raced to an 11-4 lead and finished the job with a 25-13 victory going 4-0 on the day and winning the Premier League gold medal for the second year in a row.
After the final point, the girls briefly celebrated their accomplishments and then thanked their parents for their incredible support (and a fun trip to Buffalo Wild Wings to celebrate).
Season Goals & Progress
The team had four goals at the beginning of the year:
1. Have fun
2. Everyone improve
3. Win Premier League
4. Qualify for Nationals
As you can see, the team is ¾ of the way home. The train came rumbling through this weekend and the team plans on doing nothing but building on their momentum as they work toward the bid event in a month and a half.
Normally we don’t discuss individual accomplishments because we really want to focus on the team first but everyone contributed some important things this weekend and we want you to enjoy them as well as gain some insight to our team.
As a team we served 93.9% during the gold finals. Gabby and Kennedy led the team with five aces each. Lexie G. had four while Anna and Kate each had three. In total we had 21 aces to our opponents 14, that is 50% more points! Four players (Ellie, Kate, Gabby, and Anna) served 100%.
Leading the team in hitting was Anna with 12 kills, Kennedy with 8, Gabby with 7, and Lexie G with 5. Gabby, Ryleigh, Kate, and Ellie led the team in digs constantly keeping the team in long rallies.
Kennedy- Working hard on defensive transitioning. Put away a lot of balls and overpasses. Working the corners and making herself a dangerous offensive weapon. Confidence is increasing and she is realizing that she can be a leader through her actions as well as her words.
Lexie G- Asked to do everything – pass, set, and hit and she does them all very well. Her confidence as a hitter is growing and that makes her a very dangerous player. Great pair of hands and her decision making as a setter is growing. Her serve is becoming even more aggressive to go along with her 95% serve percentage. Coach’s hate to see her step back to the service line.
Ryleigh- Libero that is stepping up her passing game, most importantly in the serve receive. Really grown in terms of realizing that one mistake means nothing. Serve received against the top servers very effectively and didn’t let an attacked ball drop without getting a hand on it leading to tons of scoring opportunities. Also starting to increase her vocalization and leadership.
Ellie- Much improved defense, confidence is growing. At one point, Coach Doug told her that he accidentally credited her with one of Anna’s blocks and her eyes got as big as saucers and she begged to keep the stat (for all that don’t know our team, let’s just say that Ellie isn’t our tallest player). You can’t talk to Ellie for more than two minutes without having a smile on your face.
Lexi H- A typically quiet one that is starting to come out of her shell. Works hard at the net and in transition. Every once in a while will surprise the opponent with a quick line shot or cross corner shot that they have no chance of getting. As she grows in confidence, her strength will become a huge asset.
Kate- Strong passer that has been asked to fill a different role than libero. Kate and Ryleigh are starting to work incredibly well together in the back. Their communication is increasing. Kate has always been a leader and is often the one breaking the huddle in both games and practice. Kate doesn’t get rattled easily. During the last point of the last set, the opponent hit a pretty strong ball but hit the net (that wasn’t called). Coach Doug was asking for a net call but Kate decided just to dive and dig the ball up so H2 could end the game with a kill.
Gabby- Like Lexie G., Gabby is asked to do everything on the court and she is not afraid to deliver. As a tall lefty, she is just starting to realize the damage she can do in the front row as a hitter and blocker and that is an area she will improve before the qualifiers.
Ella- Tremendous transition defense. Constantly in the right place and picking up tips and rolls. Normally not one of our most vocal players, she was heard early in the first match telling the girls to get their game faces on.
Anna- Realizing the work that needs to be put in on defense to be a good middle. Transitions were much improved. During one point, she blocked two balls back at the attackers which later caused multiple hits out of bounds as they tried to work around her. Additional blocking will make the team much more dangerous. Her confidence is also growing