A5 Mizuno at ease under pressure, secures 16 Open title at TCS NIT

As is custom, the A5 Mizuno volleyball team coached by Gabe Aramian is ranked in the upper reaches of every national poll, and that makes this particular 16’s group an attractive target for dozens of others hoping to make their own mark.

Yes, a day with A5 left in the rear-view mirror would have been great for some, but Aramian’s squad would have none of it Monday at the Triple Crown Volleyball NIT at the Salt Palace Convention Center. Taking on Sunshine VBC in the final, A5 started hot and fought off its only lull in a 25-16, 26-24 victory.

In the second game, A5 had a 17-10 lead, but Sunshine would fight back on kills from Devon Newberry (committed to UCLA beach volleyball) and Chloe Mueller. Trailing 19-18, A5 rode a kill and a block from Meg Froemming and two kills from Reilly MacNeill (Ohio State) to settle in for the stretch run.

With a sturdy defense at the net, A5 forced a cluster of shots to go long, and that’s what determined the final result.

“We had the target on us early this season and lost to a good Elevation team; this (event) is tough from the very first match all the way to the end,” Aramian said. “First day, everyone was a little shaky, including us. Second day was better, and today, I think we played our best. When (Sunshine rallied), you’ve got to stay calm and be aggressive. It’s very typical of Open level ball, because the talent is so high on both sides of the net.”

Also playing extremely well for A5 was Gabby Gonzales (Ohio State), who steadied the up-and-down nature of Game 2 with her accurate shots.

“We talked the night before about how this is our tournament to win. We hadn’t been playing our best, and we wanted to go for it,” she said. “It’s intense; we try to uphold our reputation and practice hard. We look at what we’ve messed up. We work on everybody being able to do everything and be well-rounded players.”

Froemming is uncommitted in terms of college now, but some school is going to be grateful for her wide range of skills.

“We realized how good we were playing this weekend, and we were so in the moment there,” she said about Game 2. “We’ve been in that situation, and we wanted to fix what was happening. It’s hard with the (expectations), but this is great group of girls, and playing volleyball is what we want to do.”

In the third-place match, Colorado Juniors got past Aspire, 16-25, 25-20, 15-11.