January 28, 2024 | Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Five Triangle teams, three boys and two 18 girls attended the Florida Fest Qualifier located in the Broward Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale Florida over three days.
Day 1 had teams achieving an overall club match record of 12-2 paving the way for all teams to hold in the top half of the event. Day 2 saw similar success with Girls' 18 Black, 18 Blue, Boys 16 Black and 18 Black all earning placement in Gold bracket/pool.
The final day saw some great matchups. On the boys' side, Triangle Boys 16 Black (playing up in 17 Open) landed in the final vs. Winter Park VC Boys 16 Armour Black (also playing up in 17 Open). In a three-set thriller, Triangle fell in three (22-25, 25-23, 13-15) to earn a second place finish*.
Triangle Boys 18 Black suffered their first loss of the event in the Gold bracket semi-finals. Not deterred, they entered what would be an exciting third place match with Tropics Boys 18s Elite Breno. After dropping a tight first set, Triangle took third place in three sets (23-25, 27-25, 15-11)*.
On the Girls' side, Triangle 18 Blue (18 USA division) faced off against perennial powerhouse Rockwood Thunder in the first round of Gold bracket play. They just fell short of pushing a third set with a thrilling second set 24-26. Their overall record of 4-3 on the weekend earned the team a tied for 5th finish. An excellent start to their qualifier season.
Girls' 18 Black (Girls' 18 Open) came out strong not dropping a set on Day 1. On Day 2 pool play they won a tight three-set match with Paramount VBC and had to face long-time rival Metro 18 Travel (DC). Metro comes out on top in a three-set match but Triangle remains alive for Gold. In Gold pool play Triangle goes undefeated defeating previously qualified Rockwood Thunder 18 Elite and OT 18 O Roberto. They also have to face Metro again, but pulled through in two sets landing Triangle in the 18 Open Championship match vs. MadFrog 18 National Green (TX). With stellar play, 18 Black takes down MadFrog in straight sets to win 18 Open and qualify for USAV Nationals in Baltimore in April.
*Both Boys 16 Black and 18 Black posted qualifying performances in Florida Fest for USAV Boys' Junior Nationals (Dallas). Triangle boys teams have opted to forgo all USAV bids and attend AAU Boys' Junior Nationals in Orlando.
John Tawa | VB Magazine Coverage of 18 Black's run in Florida:
We start first with Florida Fest and the 18 Open division, which saw Triangle 18 Black, Madfrog 18’s National Green and Mintonette m.81 punch their Open tickets to Baltimore.
Triangle’s run to the title included a revenge win over Metro 18 Travel in Gold pool play, Gold play wins over two previously-qualified teams, Rockwood Thunder 18 Elite and OT 18 O Roberto, and a finals sweep of Madfrog.
“Florida Fest was an amazing opportunity for our team to compete for a bid and win a qualifier,” said Triangle coach Tonya Holmes. “Our motto for the weekend quickly became. ‘Keep going,’ in every situation. Being seeded fourth in our Gold pool on Championship Day only fueled our will to stay locked in.”
The team from North Carolina’s Research Triangle received outstanding play from setter Avery Scoggins. She pursued every ball with her hands and gave 18 Black a chance to stay competitive at the net. RS Ryan Hunter, a junior committed to Nebraska, was a difference maker on a pin. The team also got sparks on the offensive and defensive end from Ashlyn Philpot in the middle and both Asia Thigpen and Laynie Smith used their explosive arms to threaten the defense.
“It was truly a team win, pushing through and trusting one another to simply keep the ball off the ground on defense and make the smart play in the big moment!” Holmes said. “I’m so proud of these girls really pressing the issue all weekend and grinding their way to a first-place finish.”
• Madfrog was undefeated before the championship match but showed great resilience by winning four of its final five matches before the final in three sets.