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SBVC 18-Blue Improves Ranking by 61 Places at Las Vegas Classic

The Santa Barbara Volleyball Club’s 18-Blue Team improved from a ranking of 100 to 39 at the Las Vegas Classic. The team members are, back row, from left: coach Kat Niksto, Kamille Williams, Dani Abrams, Delaney Mayfield, Audrey Baldwin, assistant coach Sarai Anderson; front row from left: Ciana Smiley, Phoebe Madsen, Megan Seabury, Kennedy Klusendorf and Peyton Shelburne. Not pictured, Caylin Zimmerman and Sophia Fay.
The Santa Barbara Volleyball Club’s 18-Blue Team improved from a ranking of 100 to 39 at the Las Vegas Classic. The team members are, back row, from left: coach Kat Niksto, Kamille Williams, Dani Abrams, Delaney Mayfield, Audrey Baldwin, assistant coach Sarai Anderson; front row from left: Ciana Smiley, Phoebe Madsen, Megan Seabury, Kennedy Klusendorf and Peyton Shelburne. Not pictured, Caylin Zimmerman and Sophia Fay.

Over the President's Day holiday weekend, the Santa Barbara Volleyball Club's 18-Blue girls indoor team traveled to Las Vegas to take part in the 3-day tournament known as the Las Vegas Classic. Competing in the most challenging open division, the team began the weekend ranked 100th out of 108 teams.

“Being that this is our first competition of the season, we knew we were going to be ranked pretty low, but that didn’t discourage us, it just motivated us to prove them wrong” said Coach Kat Niksto of her team.

The team opened play Saturday with a win over Athena 18-1 Gold (25-23, 25-17) the 46th ranked team in the tournament. Next up they played MN Select 18-1 (13-25, 14-25), the eventual champions of the tournament; before finishing the day with another win over Club Idaho 18 Premier (25-15, 25-11).  That 2-1 finish was good enough to secure 2nd in their pool, advancing the team to the top 56 teams for day 2. 

“It was a great first day of play! Everyone on the team stepped up and contributed in the wins, and no one backed down (from one of the best teams in the country) in the loss," Niksto said. "Middle blockers Kamille Williams, Dani Abrams and Ciana Smiley had some big blocks on the day; while setters Audrey Baldwin and Phoebe Madsen set a balanced offensive attack."

Day 2 saw an increase in the overall competitive level of play. The team opened the day with a narrow 3-set loss to SA Magic 18 Premier (25-18, 19-25, 12-15), followed by a loss to 951 Elite 18-1 (13-25, 23-25). They bounced back, however, with a win over Delta Valley 18-1 (25-18, 25-17) pushing their way into a 3-way tie for 2nd place. Unfortunately for SBVC, the tie breaker didn’t fall their way and they ended up 3rd place in the pool, eliminating them from the top section of the tournament.

“The team fought hard today, and came up with a big win at the end of the day” commented Coach Niksto, “unfortunately the loss early in the day hurt our chances, as we are still learning what it means to play consistently at our highest level of volleyball.  Our pin hitters really worked hard today, Peyton Shelburne mixed in off-speed shots very effectively, while Kennedy Klusendorf and Delaney Mayfield took some big swings for kills against some big blocking teams. “

 Day 3 is always the hardest to stay motived after being knocked out of the main event in the tournament. Inconsistency struck SBVC again on Monday as they dropped a close match to Diablo Black 18-1 (18-25, 25-23, 12-15). The team finished ranked 39th out of 108 teams, a vast improvement from their original ranking of 100th.

“I’m really proud of how the team played all weekend long” said Coach Niksto, “especially it being our first competition of the year! Libero Megan Seabury was phenomenal on defense all weekend long, drawing the attention of almost every opposing coach to comment. And having been invited to play up (from their 16 Blue team) for the weekend, Caylin Zimmerman and Sophia Fay both stepped in to help the team at critical times throughout the weekend. Overall the team had a good long weekend of volleyball, and now we go back to practice to hopefully improve in preparation for our next big tournament in about 1 month.”

Up next for SBVC, the 16 Blue are back in action Saturday for Qualifier #3 to determine which division they will start their season in. Good luck team!

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