June 9, 2023

Tawa’s Club Dots: USA wins Pan Am Cup; who’s on Mount Rushmore of club coaches?

This is “Dots,” VolleyballMag.com’s weekly look at 10 things in club volleyball, past or present, that interest me and hopefully will interest you. Look for Dots each week through Junior Nationals this summer.

• The USA Volleyball Girls U19 team determined that the sky is no longer the limit by winning the Pan Am Cup on Sunday in Puerto Rico. Team USA swept Mexico in the finals, capping a tournament in which the Americans did not lose a set.

Julia Blyashov attacks for the USA in the 2023 Pan Am Cup/USA Volleyball photo

• For OH Julia Blyashov and setter Izzy Starck, this is their second Pan Am Cup Gold Medals in less than a year. Blyashov hails from San Diego and plays club volleyball for WAVE. Starck, one of seven underclassmen on the 12-player team, is from Colorado Springs and plays for Colorado Juniors.

• The win capped a remarkable year for Blyashov, a 6-3 senior OH. In the fall, Blyashov captained Cathedral Catholic to an undefeated season, the California Open Division state title and the unanimous mythical national title. Last month she was named MVP as WAVE 18-Juliana captured the USAV 18 Open national championship. And now this, a run at the Pan Am Cup where she was a deciding factor in most of the matches. Blyashov had four kills, two blocks and an ace in the championship match.

• What will Blyashov do next? She is off to Stanford to join a loaded Cardinal roster. Blyashov and fellow incoming freshman OH Jordyn Harvey will battle for playing time on the pins with returning starters Kendal Kipp, Caitie Baird and Elia Rubin. Kipp is a consensus first-team All-American. Baird was a fourth-team selection by VolleyballMag.com.

• Blaire Bayless, a 6-2 senior OH from Texas, was named Pan Am Cup MVP. She had seven kills, two aces and a block in the championship match.

Oliva Babcock hits for the USA in the Pan Am Cup/USA Volleyball photo

• RS Olivia Babcock, a 6-4 senior from California, led all hitters with eight kills. Bayless and Babcock are part of an incoming class at Pittsburgh that head coach Dan Fisher has lauded as the best of his career. It also includes 6-3 OH Torrey Stafford from California and Hawaiian setter Haiti Tautua’a.

• MB Lizzy Andrew, a 6-5 junior MB from Washington; and Ava Falduto, a junior libero from Illinois; were named Best Blocker and Best Receiver, respectively, at Pan Am Cup. Falduto is headed to Penn State, as part of a class that also includes Starck. Andrew has not yet announced a commitment, which is code for “I’m headed to that school associated with farms and the color red.”

• Last week, I announced that the four current club coaches on my Mount Rushmore would be Mike Lingenfelter of MuncianaCari Klein of Sunshine, Ping Cao of Dallas Skyline and Gabe Aramian of A5.

I invited others to chime in.

The name I heard most often was legendary Assumption HS/KiVA coach Ron Kordes, though he coaches 14s in club and technically wouldn’t be eligible for my list because I don’t cover his age.

Ron Kordes talks to his during the 2019 JVA World Challenge/Lee Feinswog photo

I also heard a plea for “coach emeritus” for Rich Zeciski of Club Z fame. It is true that in the early 2000s, every team Zeciski coached struck gold, so, yeah, he deserves mention.

Other names mentioned included Ozhan Bahrambeygui at CoastJoy Fuerbringer at Mizuno Long BeachBob Westbrook of A5, Joe Ripp at VisionScott Jackson at MN Select and every Keck, current or “retired,” at 1st Alliance.

• I’m going to add to the list by name dropping coaches I know players travel to play for. They include:

Max Miller at Mintonette
Terri Spann at AZ Storm Elite
Reed Carlson at Club V
Blake Rawlins
 at VC Nebraska
Brennan Dean at WAVE
Danny Tullis
 at Louisiana Volleyball (think about you every day, brother)
Randy Gardner at Bama Elite
Kelly Crowley at Tri-State
Melissa Starck-Bean at KiVA
Adam Beamer at Northern Lights
Chris Due and Kristine Deem at Circle City
Jing Hou
 at A5
Corey Helle at Upward Stars
Jenny Lingenfelter at Ozark Juniors
Caroline Bower at Idaho Crush
Shannon Smolinski at Premier Nebraska
Kevin Marquis at Colorado Juniors
Ruben Herrera
 at Vegas Aces
Kevin Wong
 at SAS
Jen Cottrill at Legacy
Adam Ellis at NPJ
Mitch Lunning at Kairos Elite
Jason Nicholson at TAV, and
Sangyong Yun of Dallas Skyline.

I am certain to have missed some and apologize. Just know that there are a lot of wonderful coaches out there who can make players the absolute best versions of themselves on the court.

• Finally, a very good and thoughtful article on volleyball players and the medical establishment ran on VolleyballMag.com this past weekend. It is a worthwhile read for any volleyball player and her parents. I recommend it highly:


Until next time …