AZ high school club team is Volleyball Festival champ

Volleyball players from 25 states spent six days in downtown Phoenix in a tournament that wrapped up this year’s club volleyball season.

And a high school volleyball team from Arizona emerged from the pile as the winner of the 18 & under Championship Division.

The Arizona Storm 18 Thunder beat a Kane County squad from Illinois, 22-25, 25-17, 15-7, in Sunday’s championship match to take the title this year.  And, according to the club’s website, it was the first time an Arizona team has won a National Open Division tournament.

The championship match was covered by Fox Sports and will be televised on numerous dates throughout July.

The Festival is a huge undertaking, scheduling some 550 teams on 79 courts scattered throughout the Phoenix Convention Center.  In addition to the 6,000 or so athletes and 2,000 coaches, a crowd of 10,000 milled around watching the action.

This is the 27th year for the event, which originated in northern California, and the second year it’s been held at the convention center.  The ability to provide a facility that can house the play all under one roof, so that teams don’t have to travel to multiple sites, is the primary reason it has found a home in downtown Phoenix, at least for now.

Three other Arizona teams finished among the Top 25 in the tournament.  In the Silver Division, the East Valley Juniors took first place, followed by the Arizona Volleyball Academy 18 Mizuno in fifth place, and the Yavapai Juniors 18 Navy in seventh.

This year’s Arizona Storm 18 Thunder championship squad included: Kaitlynn Ausmus, Julia Bonadio, Alyssa Dwyer, Hannah Fitzgerald, Quincy Haught, Paige Hoffler, Asia Hogland, Madison Kingdon, Erika Papadeas, Katie Rutherford, Jennifer Teslevich, and Kennedy Wesley.

The Arizona Storm club got its start in the Valley in 2004, with the 2008-09 season being the first year it fielded an 18-year-old squad.  Since then, that group finished runner-up in the Open Division of the Arizona region – but the Festival win will look great on its resume.

In addition to the local high school players, the 18 Thunder also has coaching ties to the local community.

Head coach, Terri Cox-Spann, was the head coach at Xavier Prep in Phoenix for two years, taking the Gators to consecutive appearances in the state championships, and then winning the state title in 2000.  She was also the assistant coach at Arizona State from 2002-2007.

Assistant coach, Stacie Powell, is the current girls and boys JV coach at Mountain View High School in Mesa, where her teams have a combined 34-7 record.  She was an all All-State setter while attending Mesa High School and went on to play libero and defense specialist at Bringham Young University.

In addition to the team’s big win, middle blocker Alyssa Dwyer was honored as Renaissance Girl 2010 during the Festival’s opening ceremonies.  The award, based on her achievements on the court and in the classroom, as well as community involvement, included a $500 award to be used toward her college education next year.