Members of the local Black Hills Junior club volleyball which won their division at the Nationall AAU Tournament last month in Orlando, Fla., included: Back row from left: Assistant Coach Don Haskvitz, Jenny Pinnt (Chadron), Ashlynn Elshire (Hot Springs), Hadley Hollenbeck (Edgemont), Elizabeth Davis (Hot Springs) and Head Coach Betzy Haskvitz. Front row: Raelee Provorse (Edgemont), Katelyn Lauritsen (Edgemont), Tavian Urban (Edgemont), Trin Boeselager (Chadron), Kaylee Bader (Hot Springs) and Paige Slingsby (Chadron).
By Brett Nachtigall
ORLANDO, Fla. – After qualifying for the national AAU volleyball tournament earlier this spring with a tournament title in Gillette, Wyo., the Black Hills Juniors team – made up of 16-year-old players from Edgemont, Hot Springs and Chadron – embarked on a memorable few days in Orlando, Fla., late last month.
Despite running into rough waves in the first three days of pool play, the team saw nothing but sunshine in bracket play and finished as a Divisional National Champion.
“To say this was a dream come true is an understatement,” said Head Coach Betsy Haskvitz. “We pushed these girls hard to reach their fullest potential for the last five months and their hard work, dedication, sacrifice and passion showed at the National Tournament.”
Coach Haskvitz said the national tournament featured 200 courts under the same roof at the Orange County Convention Center. Volleyball was played from 8am-9pm every day and all courts were continuously full. Three days of pool play determined who seeded out into brackets in each division.
The local Black Hills Juniors team ended up playing a total of 12 games over four consecutive days, June 26-29. The first three days were spent in pool play where they team went 0-3 on Day 1, 1-2 on Day 2 and 1-2 on Day 3, picking up wins over GVG from Kentucky and a hometown team from Orlando, Fla., called Riptide Black Sheep. Their losses were versus teams from Maryland, Illinois, Puerto Rico, Texas, New Jersey, Georgia and Virginia.
On the fourth day of competition, June 29, the Black Hills Juniors settled into their final 10-team bracket where they went on a run and won all three of their games, including a second victory over Riptide Black Sheep in the first round and then 2-0 wins over Loudon Elite of Sterling, Virg., and Elite East of Gahanna, Ohio.
“My dad (assistant coach Don Haskvitz) and I were blessed to coach alongside each other and have the honor to coach these amazing young ladies,” Betsy added. “I’ve never seen a team play with so much fire and grit and make such an incredible comeback after a rough first couple of days.”
“This group of young ladies bought into the program and the unique practices that Betsy and I had put together,” stated Don Haskvitz. “Along with that, their genuine respect of the game earned them the title of National Champions. On and off the volleyball court they represented their team, their families & the Black Hills Juniors program with pride, which earned them the respect of many people.”
Members of the Black Hills Juniors volleyball team who traveled to Florida included Tavian Urban, Raelee Provorse, Hadley Hollenbeck and Katelyn Lauritsen of Edgemont; Elizabeth Davis, Kaylee Bader and Ashlynn Elshere of Hot Springs; and Trin Boeselager, Jenny Pinnt and Paige Slingsby of Chadron.
Reflecting back on their time in Florida and the National Tournament, Trin Boeselager, an outside hitter, defensive specialist and team captain from Chadron, quoted British track and field athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill when she said, “The only one who can tell you ‘You can’t win’ is you and you don’t have to listen.”
“Nationals was an amazing experience,” stated Boeselager. “I loved every part of it and would go back any day. No matter how down you are in a set you can always come back to win, you just need to have the confidence and the right attitude.”
Middle Hitter Ashlynn Elshere of Hot Springs said, “Nationals was an amazing and fun experience that I hopefully get to do again. There was a lot of great competition and camaraderie. I want to thank my coaches and teammates for giving me the opportunity to compete.”
“Having the opportunity to play in Orlando, Florida with our Black Hills Juniors club team was an amazing experience,” said Tavian Urban, a Libero from Edgemont. “We got to compete against many different teams from areas all across the U.S. We were also able to gain exposure that was different from High School volleyball. This was such a great team to go with, and we grew closer on and off the court. It was an unforgettable experience that I am forever grateful for. It will be great to see my club teammates compete in the future, and even face them across the net in competition during High School matches. Thank you to everyone that has supported us and allowed us to have this amazing opportunity. We all appreciate it so much.”