What she helped accomplish earlier this summer is finally starting to sink in for Mac Podraza.

High school girls volleyball teams held their first practices for the coming season Aug. 1, but Podraza and eight other girls from the Mintonette 16-year-old club team may have needed a few extra days to refocus.

On July 4, Podraza's team, m.61, won the championship at the USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championships in the open division, which is considered the highest level of club competition in the country.

According to coach Max Miller, it's the first time a central Ohio team has won a championship in the highest level at the age group.

"The first couple weeks after we did it, we were like, 'Did that just happen?' " said Podraza, who attends Big Walnut. "We were the first team to bring it back, so it wasn't just for us, but it was for the whole state and for the club. It's a huge accomplishment."

During the tournament held July 1-4 in Minneapolis, m.61 went 10-1, defeating Texas Advantage Volleyball 16 Black from Carrollton, Texas, 17-25, 26-24, 15-13 in the championship match.

TAV Black won 15- and 17-year-old open national titles.

"We were down 22-16 in the second set and they had two match points, but we came back to win the second set 26-24," Miller said. "To be able to pull it off was a pretty big deal. We've won other championships, but they were all in lower divisions (of the junior national tournament)."

All nine players on the team will be juniors, and seven have committed to play collegiately.

Worthington Kilbourne's Amber Beals (libero/defensive specialist) has committed to Michigan, Pickerington North's Brianna Hollingshed (middle hitter/right-side hitter) will play for Arkansas State, Olentangy Orange's Carrigan O'Reilly (middle hitter/right-side hitter) has committed to Xavier and Podraza (setter) has committed to Maryland. Olentangy's Emily Margolies (outside hitter/right-side hitter) and Olivia Margolies (outside hitter) and Gahanna's Madison Martinez (libero/defensive specialist) all have committed to Ohio University.

The others on the team are Hartley's Chiamaka Nwokolo (middle hitter/right-side hitter) and Dublin Coffman's Riley Wagoner (outside hitter). Both of them have Division I offers as well, according to Miller.

Mintonette qualified 13 of its 27 teams to junior nationals, which Miller said is the highest number of any team from the Ohio Valley region.

A 15-year-old Mintonette team reached a semifinal of the open division.

"Just being at nationals is a great honor because those are the best teams there are," said Beals, who is the daughter of Ohio State baseball coach Greg Beals. "Just walking onto the championship court is hard to explain. It's very surreal but very humbling at the same time.

"At that level every team was great. The skills help back it up, but I think it was our drive that won it for us."

Podraza and Miller both pointed to the team's work ethic and chemistry as being key aspects of its success.

The coaching staff "pushed them to the point that we wondered whether we were going to have our legs underneath us, but I think it was just the right amount (of work)," Miller said.

"It definitely hasn't always been easy to join all the different personalities on the team together, but it's a huge thing we've worked on," Podraza said. "We've had our ups and downs where sometimes we'd yell at each other, but what helped us was that we were a team."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek