When Allison Larson and Jessica Hollandsworth co-founded Club Gold Volleyball two years ago, the pair of former college volleyball players wanted to pass on some of their wisdom and knowledge to the younger generation.
What they didn’t expect just two years into the club’s history was a shot at a national championship.
With two teams — 12 Blue and 13 Blue — heading to the USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championships today through Monday at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minn., the fledgling club has a chance to make some waves against the best teams in the country.
But they can also put their club on the map and give Club Gold’s long-term outlook a boost.
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“We’ve been pleasantly surprised with how well (the club) has done. We believe strongly in what we do, so it’s not surprising in that sense,” said Larson, who — along with Hollandsworth — graduated from Richland High School in 1999. “But we didn’t think about nationals when it started up.”
The 12 Blue team will start its five-game run through pool play today with two games, followed by three on Friday. The 13 Blue team will begin Friday with three games, followed by two Saturday.
A storybook finish isn’t necessarily expected, but both teams, coached by former Lewis-Clark State and Whitworth standout Kim Zorn, will be looking to embrace the experience of being at the nation’s best club volleyball tournament.
“More than anything, I’d like the kids to walk away with overall experience. I also want them to improve their level of play against the best teams in the country,” Zorn said. “Regardless of how it goes, we’re still guaranteed to be among the top 48 teams in the nation.”
The 12 Blue team won five tournament championships over the course of the season and finished second at the regional tournament in Spokane in late April. The 13 Blue squad didn’t win any tournament championships, mainly because the team would always “play up” against 14 year olds, but won the regional title.
Zorn said the 13 Blue is better at blocking (”they’re a little taller”) and pretty good at ball control but that both teams are trained in all facets of the game.
“We train very much in a system where everybody is learning to be a volleyball player. All kids set, hit and pass,” Zorn said. “Every day they’re coming to the gym and getting better.”
Zorn said the club’s “Gold Medal Squared” philosophy was developed by U.S. Volleyball Hall of Famers Doug Beal, Marv Dunphy and Carl McGown. Their system is based on studied scientific principles from human kinetics, organizational behavior, statistics, and psychology.
Larson just hopes the kids have fun with it and learn to love the game.
“I loved the principles behind it, and no one in Tri-Cities was teaching that way,” Larson said. “We wanted our daughters to learn it from the beginning instead of in college.”
Larson said the trip to nationals will cost each player between 2,000 and 3,000 dollars, but after a month of heavy fund raising they were able to get everybody to Minnesota.
“It’s a pretty neat experience. Our coaches and parents had a long discussion about whether it was beneficial to go,” she said. “We decided that this kind of thing doesn’t happen too often, and we need to run with it.”
Schedule — Thursday: Club Gold 12 vs. Club West 12-National (SC), 9 a.m.; Club Gold 12 vs. Aspire 12 ROX (AZ), 11 a.m.
Friday: Club Gold 12 vs. Sky High 12 Black (GL), 9 a.m.; Club Gold 12 vs. Dynasty 12 Blue (HA), 11 a.m.; Club Gold 12 vs. TCA Philly 12 Black (KE), 1 p.m.
Roster — Graysen Banta, Abriel Cuello, Brooklyn Ford, Megan Fullmer, Sianna Iverson, Autumn Larson, Haliana Naipo, Zyree Raban, Kaylee Steiling, Zoie Warner, Madison Zorn. Coaches: Kim Zorn, Tom Schwisow.
Schedule — Friday: Club Gold 13 vs. HJV 13 Elite (LS), 3 p.m.; Club Gold 13 vs. Arizona Storm 13 Thunder (AZ), 5 p.m.; Club Gold 13 vs. CTV 13 Red (NT), 7 p.m.
Saturday: Club Gold 13 vs. AVC Clev Rox 13N Skip (OV), 4 p.m.; Club Gold 13 vs. Ignite 13 Elite (HO), 6 p.m.
Roster — Jordanne Bauder, McKenna Benson, Shayla Hood, Hayley McKay, Caitlyn Palmer, Lindsay Rosenthal, Caylee Shelton, Kaitlyn Thompson, Bethany Wang, Olivia Williams. Coaches: Kim Zorn, Morgan Veleke.