Southern Ocean Volleyball Club Takes on Country’s Best at Junior Nationals

Jul 11, 2018
Photo by: Supplied photo The Southern Ocean Volleyball Club squad last week competed against the country’s best in the 18-year-old open division of the USA Volleyball Junior National Championships in Phoenix.

It should go without saying by now that the Southern Regional High School boys volleyball program is one of the state’s best. But there’s a reason for that, and it largely has to do with the fact many of the players coming through the system have gained a vast amount of experience on the court.

While some of that experience is gained during the high school season, most of it is developed within the Southern Ocean Volleyball Club. Last week, Southern’s players gained valuable experience in a huge way when they took on some of the nation’s best squads in the USA Volleyball Junior National Championships in Phoenix.

Back in February, the SOVBC crew earned one of three bids after advancing to the gold bracket of the Boys Atlantic Northeastern Qualifier, securing a spot among the elite 40-team field for the 18-year-old Open Division at the Junior Nationals.

“No matter what happens in Phoenix, it’s going to be a great experience for our guys,” Southern Regional coach Eric Maxwell said after his squad won the NJSIAA South Jersey title near the end of the high school season. “With so many of our guys playing club ball at a high level, that ultimately translates onto the court in high school. Playing in the open division at Junior Nationals is no joke and the competition is great, so the experience is really going to benefit our players for the next high school season and college. They’re going to see the game a bit differently after that tournament.”

Well, SOVBC managed to win a pair of contests on July 4, but that was the extent of the squad’s victories, as it finished 2-7 in pool play, then was bounced out of bracket play in two games, 25-15, 25-19, by Southport B18-Blue on July 5.

SOVBC started off on July 2 against Outrigger 18U and dropped a 27-25, 25-15 contest, before coming right back to court 28 of the Phoenix Convention Center and falling, 25-13, 25-13, against the AZ Fear. A 25-8, 25-19 loss to HVA 181 Performance concluded the day. The next day on court 20, SOVBC provided a battle for Cream City VBC but lost, 27-25, 25-23, before back-to-back losses against Seaside 18-Black (25-22, 25-14) and Milwaukee Sting Gold (25-11, 25-17) dropped SOVBC to 0-6 heading into the last day of pool play.

On the final pool day, SOVBC started off on court 34 by winning a three-game thriller, 26-24, 18-25, 16-14, over PVC Sandlot 18-Blue, then scored a second straight win, 25-23, 21-25, 15-6, against Cincinnati Attack 18-Black. The Warren Sixpack upended SOVBC’s win streak with a 25-15, 25-19 victory.

Coached by Robert Kraft II and Jack Skinner, SOVBC was made up of players Mike Andriani, Arvind Kumar, Joe Exel, Sam Iacoves, Isaiah Gaines, Matt Jones, Anthony LeBlanc, Matt Maxwell, Drew Wilgus, Dan Maurus, Justin Kean, Zach Hem, Logan Lipositz and Derek Medenilla.

— David Biggy

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