TAV finds groove just in time, claims 14 Open title at TCS NIT

From game to game inside a volleyball match, the players and coaches remain the same, but it’s amazing how strengths and weaknesses are in constant flux.

For the Texas Advantage 14’s on Monday, their ability to build leads in the best moments and learn lessons in the tough times made the difference, as they toppled Sunshine 25-17, 16-25, 15-11 to claim the 14 Open title at the Triple Crown Volleyball NIT. It’s the second straight 14 Open crown for TAV at the Salt Palace Convention Center, and one that certainly could have gone Sunshine’s way late in Game 3.

But TAV got some timely kills from Natalie Glenn, forced Sunshine into some tough shots, and then polished the day off with a kill from Jordyn Williams to claim first place. A victory seemed likely after TAV played so well in Game 1, but Sunshine proved very disruptive to those thoughts.

“I don’t think our energy in Game 2 was very good. I told them in the break we needed high energy all the time, point by point, but we just didn’t have it,” said TAV coach Joe Jablonski, whose team played late Sunday in a three-set win over Arizona Storm and had to turn around for an 8:30 a.m. start Monday. “We struggled there, but we found it in the third set.”

“I think we were lazing around, and maybe we didn’t try as hard. But we pulled it out,” Williams said. “It’s amazing to win this, all the energy in the room, having everyone around me – it’s a great feeling to win. We were a little tired, and I could not get out of bed this morning, but you know, I just wanted to play.”

Keying Sunshine’s rally and push to extend the match were several players, including setter Kate Kilroy and outside hitter Elia Rubin, who is only 12 years old but already moves and competes with a presence you might see in 18-year-olds.

Game 3 was also notable for the fact both teams made a bunch of mistakes – service errors, shots flying long – but TAV found composure and a better touch on their shots just in time.

“We had to keep our momentum there and talk to each other, and put the ball in the court,” said Glenn, whose father Terry had an 11-year career as a wide receiver in the NFL. “It’s been highs and lows for us this year, got second in our last tournament, but it’s been fun.”

“In pressure situations, you don’t want to make that error and lose a point, but I’m glad we were still aggressive in Game 3,” Williams added. “We sided out quickly; we had a few errors, but we worked together.”

“It was frustrating for sure, but the most important thing to do is get the ball in play,” Jablonski said. “Make the other team play great volleyball to beat you.”

In the third-place match, the Colorado Juniors beat the Arizona Storm, 22-25, 25-21, 15-4.