The upper levels of the Mintonette Sports volleyball club continued to dominate the competition this summer, earning three national titles.
"We qualified 12 teams to national tournaments this year and, for the sixth year in a row, we qualified more teams to national events than any other club in Ohio," said club director Max Miller, who coached 13 years at Hartley and four at Watterson. "In the past two seasons, we've had 36 girls go on to play volleyball at the collegiate level."
The club, which was founded in 2006 and is based in Powell, had 31 girls teams competing in age groups from 9 to 18 this summer.
Mintonette's age 16 team won the AAU nationals that were held June 21-24 in Orlando, Florida, accomplishing the feat in the age 17 Premier Division because of a scheduling conflict.
The squad went 14-0, losing just one set, and defeated Orlando-Tampa Volleyball Academy 25-22, 24-26, 15-11 in the final.
It then went 11-0 in the USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championships in Indianapolis on July 3-6, beating the San Antonio Magic 25-13, 25-17 in the Open Division final.
"Coaches who have been in the sport longer than I have would hope to win one national title in their careers and we got two in a matter of weeks," said coach Audrey Flaugh, whose team finished 74-14 this summer. "It was really special."
Team members included Tazmin Appiah, London Davis and Addison Evans of Olentangy Orange, Ellen Kinnaird of Olentangy, Logan Flaugh of Olentangy Liberty, Olyvia Kennedy and Sydney Taylor of Watterson, Sadie Brown of Dublin Coffman, Riley Kindall of Westerville Central and Emi Waller of Canal Winchester.
All are juniors except for Brown, who is a senior.
"It wasn't like we didn't have our ups and downs," coach Flaugh said. "We lost (Appiah) for the season with a torn labrum early and (Brown) suffered a stress fracture in her leg and just made it back for the final two tournaments."
Davis was named MVP in the USAV nationals, and Taylor and Kennedy also were named to the all-tournament team. In the AAU nationals, Taylor was named MVP with Davis and Logan Flaugh on the all-tournament team.
"We didn't have a great start of the season, but we didn't check out and we kept improving and just came together," Taylor said. "That's why this is so rewarding. Everyone stepped up and we did it together as friends and teammates."
"We went into the AAUs ... just wanting to use that for practice for the (USAV) nationals," Davis said. "But winning there really gave us the confidence heading to Indianapolis and we were able to win both championships."
Miller coaches the age 17 Mintonette team, which competed in the Open Division in both the AAU and USAV nationals.
The team went 11-0 and lost just one set in the AAU nationals, beating top-ranked Top Select Volleyball Academy of Orlando 17-25, 25-19, 15-10 in the final.
Mintonette then went 10-1 and finished second in the USAV nationals, losing 27-29, 25-18, 15-12 in the final to top-ranked Texas Advantage.
The team was 153-16 the past two seasons, including 73-8 this summer, and was comprised of nine seniors who have committed to play in college. That group includes DeSales' Maryanne Boyle (Providence) and Emma Brown (Robert Morris), Olentangy's Madyson Chitty (Rutgers) and Liberty's Claranne Fechter (Campbell).
"This group is one of the best collectively that I've ever been around in terms of unity," Miller said.
Chitty made the all-tournament team in both events.
"We beat a lot of really good teams in the AAUs, especially in the quarterfinal, semifinal and final," she said. "We came out with energy, and except for the first set in the finals when nerves got to us a bit, we played very well. Once we settled down in the final, we were just fine.
"Although we finished higher as a team in the (USAV nationals) than we ever have through the years, we were a little disappointed to lose in the championship. But we'll get it next year."
Vanguard wins boys championship
It was a historic summer for Vanguard Volleyball, as its 16U Gold team won the Open Division in the USA Volleyball Boys Junior National Championships on July 5 in Dallas.
"It was the first time any (boys) team from Ohio won the national championship," club director Wes Almond said. "It was a special moment for the boys, their families and this club, and even for all Ohio clubs. The Midwest isn't a hot spot for the sport like California and other states, and yet we beat strong teams from California in the semifinal and championship."
Vanguard went 12-0, defeating Ohana Athletic Club Black of Fountain Valley, California, 25-23, 25-20 in the final after beating Bay to Bay of San Jose 25-21, 25-18 in a semifinal.
"We weren't playing great a few days before the tournament. In fact, we had maybe our worst practice of the year right before we left," said coach Evan Bell, whose team was 17-16 entering the tournament and finished 29-16. "The boys really came together.
"The funny thing is that we played in a regional tournament at the (Greater) Columbus Convention Center in December and placed like 20th out of 40 teams. We thought it could be a long season. Instead, these kids kept believing in themselves and improving. The amount of growth they made this year was very special."
Vanguard was founded in 2007 and had 10 teams ranging in age groups from U14 to U18 this season. The teams practice at Mintonette.
Local players on the national championship team were Samuel Irwin, Maxwell Kaiser and Samuel Kaylor of Olentangy, Lawton Hinley and Jake Smith of Orange, Logan Burrell of Gahanna, Liam Davis of Hilliard Darby, Jake Maziarz of Watterson and Tyler Nutting of Dublin Jerome. All are juniors.
Nutting was named tournament MVP and was joined on the all-tournament team by Hinley, Kaylor and Maziarz.
"I think we really gained confidence on the first day of the tournament in pool play and we just built on it," Nutting said. "We played our best three matches of the season on the first day and that seemed to light a fire."
Bell, who coaches at Darby, said nerves got to his team early in the championship match.
"We trailed 12-7 but then we calmed down, the nerves went away and they just started playing," Bell said. "Some of the kids admitted beforehand (that the championship) was the biggest match of their lives. ... It was very rewarding that they were the first ones from Ohio to win a national title."