Plenty to hoard at USA Volleyball Boys' Junior National Championships
By Saturday, Phil White's collection of volleyball apparel grew too big.
The recent Northeastern graduate played one last time with his teammates from the school's state championship volleyball team during this week's Boys' Junior National Championships in Columbus, Ohio.
This isn't the first trip to a national tournament for White or his Northeastern teammates. Two years ago in Dallas, White got the idea to trade jerseys with other players he met, inspired by former player Devin Soop.
"It's really fun," White said. "It would cheer me up after a loss."
Saturday marked White's last game playing with his high school teammates. Coach Matt Wilson took a team consisting of players from this year's high school team, plus 2014 graduate and Penn State recruit Luke Braswell, to represent the Northeastern Volleyball Association (NEVA) in the boys' 18-and-under open division.
NEVA qualified for play with performances during the winter in State College and Rochester, N.Y. Teams came as far as the West Coast and Puerto Rico and enter in age groups from 12 to 18. If they don't qualify for the open division, teams can participate in the club division.
Numerous York County-based clubs participated in addition to NEVA, such as Yorktowne Volleyball Club. It sent six teams, two for each age group from 16 to 18. York Suburban coach Jamie Evans, with a program in its second year of club volleyball, took a squad composed of his high school players for the club division. Central York's coaches also took a 16-under squad, while some of its older players attended with other teams.
With hundreds of teams participating, the number of courts and crowds in the Greater Columbus Convention Center seemed endless.
"I'm looking at Court 40 right now," Evans said Friday before Suburban's last match of the night. "It's courts, courts and nets as far as the eye can see."
Teams, such as Evans' Suburban squad and Wilson's NEVA, were in the minority for using players from the same school. Yorktowne's 18 Blue team, for example, included towering 6-foot-9 Dallastown hitter Chad Jones and the Susquehannock tandem of Brian Sheddy and A.J. Schaeffer.
"Imagine an all-star group," said Dallastown coach Lance Ranck, who assists with Yorktowne. "It's like the Mid-Penn, L-L and York together. They come out here and they either do well or don't, so you can imagine what the competition is like."
White, a 6-foot-4 outside hitter who will play at Stevenson University, said most teams NEVA faced were stocked with players in the 6-8 range and at least two Division I college recruits.
Plenty of scouts were on hand, too.
"You look back and there's five D-I scouts just chilling and watching," White said. "It really opens up your eyes."
Yorktowne's 18 Blue team played in the same open division as NEVA and finished 4-5.
Evans said his Trojans club struggled but added these competitions are why the YAIAA and District 3 have excelled at the state level.
Take Northeastern, or NEVA. White and his teammates just won their third straight PIAA Class AA championship a month ago. They finished 6-6 this week, which ended Saturday with a 2-1 loss in the championship of the first flight tournament.
Teams began with pool play and were subsequently divided into five tournaments.
"We entered 34th in the nation and finished 22," White said. "You know you're doing something right."
The only thing White didn't do right was bring another bag. His team usually finished by 2 p.m. each day. White stayed for a few more hours, negotiating fabric trades with players he met from California, Puerto Rico and elsewhere.
His bartered stash grew enough that by late Friday night it wouldn't fit in his travel bag.
"I had stuff I carried," White said. The stack "went from my waist to the bottom of my neck."
On the ride back to Pennsylvania, he said, he wished he accumulated more.
"I wanted to trade today," White said, "but the guys were like, 'Nah, we want to go home.'"
Contact Matt Goul at 771-2045.