Volleyball nationals next for Lowcountry Blacktips

The Lowcountry Blacktips' road to Dallas started in North Carolina.

The volleyball club's 17 National team won the silver division at this past weekend's USA Volleyball Palmetto Region Championship held in Charlotte, N.C.

By beating Columbia's Magnum Volleyball Club, 25-17, 25-18, to win their group, the Blacktips punched their tickets to USA Volleyball's 34th annual Girls Junior National Championships held June 28 to July 5 at the Dallas Convention Center.

According to coach Jessica Howard, to qualify, a team has to place a bid at regionals -- which Lowcountry did -- and then have the highest finish from its age group among teams that placed bids.

By winning the silver division, according to Howard, the Blacktips ranked fifth out of 33 teams, behind only the four that finished in the gold division. None of those teams, however, placed a bid, giving Lowcountry the berth.

Howard said the Blacktips would finish in the gold division, but a three-way tie ended up pushing them to silver.

"We'll see really great teams," Howard said of the trip to nationals. "It will be a wonderful experience for the girls. We'll be able to compete out there. For the ones looking to play college volleyball, this is a great resume builder."

According to Al Stern, who founded the Lowcountry Volleyball Club in 1996, the club has sent four teams to nationals in the past, with the last coming in 2009.

"It's something these girls will remember for the rest of their lives," Stern said. "A tiny, tiny percentage of girls that play club volleyball get to play in the national championship."

Stern said some teams don't submit bids because they know they can't afford the travel costs. Before the bid system, winning teams that chose not to go would see their spot given to other regions.

"It became the norm to win and not go because of cost," said Stern, who added that teams close to where the nationals were being held were more likely to make the short trip. "Instead of being a national championship, it was becoming a region championship."

Now the spot goes to the most deserving team in each region that makes the commitment to travel.

Despite the big weekend's accomplishment, the Blacktips wasted no time getting back to practice Monday night.

"We've got a huge tournament we're getting ready to go to," Howard said, referring to the upcoming Big South tournament in Atlanta. "Wee really don't have time for a letdown."


USA Volleyball's 34th annual Girls Junior National Championships

June 28-July 5, Dallas Convention Center.


Players: Melissa Bornstein, MacKenzie Cooler, Sierra Davis, Cameron Dean, Hannah Edelman, Jordan Franklin, Brantley Herrington, Haley Kohler, Mallory Lewis.

Coach: Jessica Howard

Asst. coach: PK Kelly


The four previous Lowcountry teams (year -- division, nationals site) to reach the Nationals:

2000 -- 14-under, Louisville, Ky.

2001 -- 15s, Salt Lake City

2008 -- 18s, Dallas

2009 -- 18s, Miami