Our Durham Attack U15 Black Venom volleyball team recently travelled to Columbus, OH to compete at the USA Volleyball’s Boys Jr. National Championships (BJNC). Unlike other tournaments, our team had to pre-qualify to earn an invite to this prestigious event. Back in Jan 2015, we had won the Rochester Can-Am Bid Qualifier Invitational to earn our respective berth. This tournament would pit the very best teams from across the United States.
The BJNC was a grueling 4-day tournament. Each day, our team would be assigned to a Pool of 4 teams. We would need to compete against the other teams in the Pool, and the top 2 or 3 teams would advance and stay in contention for the Gold Medal. The lower ranked finishers, on the other hand, would be relegated to a lower Tier of competition for the remainder of the tournament.
On Day 1, we opened with two match wins in the morning but then lost to Pacific Palisade Volleyball Club in 3 sets (19-25, 25-17, 9-15). This southern California team was very strong fundamentally and eventually finished 4th overall. Although we were 2-1 (win-loss) for the day, we managed to finish 2nd in our pool and stayed in medal contention.
On Day 2 of the tournament (Canada Day), the competition got tougher. We squeaked by our first match against a much-improved Victor Volleyball Club (New York) in three sets (18-25, 25-20, 16-14), but then lost a heart-break match to the Southport Volleyball Club (Wisconsin). We should have won. Although we controlled the tempo, we lost the first set and unfortunately, our comeback fell short in the third set on a controversial play (21-25, 25-21, 19-21). At 1-1 (win-loss), we then faced a very formidable opponent for the last match of the day.
Manhattan Beach Volleyball Club (California) was seeded #2 at the BJNC and their high ranking was quite justified. We got absolutely crushed in two straight sets (20-25, 19-25). The scores were not indicative of the play. In Canada, our DA Black Venom team possesses one of the top offences in the country. Unfortunately, it pales in comparison to Manhattan Beach. This top-ranked team featured two current USA National Beach Volleyball champions, a superstar hitter (who recently moved from Florida just to play with this Californian team) and the son of former world beach volleyball champion, Sinjin Smith. Although we finished 3rd in the pool on Day 2, we were the benefactors of the tournament format and seeding system. Luckily, we stayed in medal contention, but our next day schedule got a lot tougher.
On Day 3, we opened the morning against the 949 Volleyball Club (California). We had faced this team at last year’s BJNC and almost pulled off an upset win. This year, however, their team got significantly better by adding a superstar setter, who eventually was awarded the tournament MVP. Nevertheless, our boys pushed the eventual champions to the limit and lost by just a couple of points in the third and deciding set (17-25, 25-22, 13-15).