Pacific Rim Academy’s 17U boys team went to Texas and brought back an Open Div. National Title.
By MIKE YOUNG | SportStars
Winning USA Junior National Volleyball Championships isn’t something Northern California boys clubs typically do.
It was always the plan of the Pleasant Hill-based Pacific Rim Volleyball Academy — and on July 4 in Houston, the 17-under team followed through.
Led by a slew of talented East Bay players — many of whom have been with the club since it began in 2010 — Pac Rim won the 17U Open Division tournament in dominating fashion. It’s possible that it’s the first NorCal boys team to do so.
“This has been a national championship team in the making,” said Roger Worsley, the team’s coach and club co-founder. “It was a four-year plan basically. It started four years ago and we’ve kept our core group really strong, and built the additions that we needed to.
“We’ve been a really small team over the years so we went out and added some height. It’s been a process for us and hasn’t just materialized. And we started out in the beginning of the season this year thinking this was our year.”
Worsley and his boys headed to Texas and dominated any competition that came their way, proving they were deserving of a national title. In fact, the team only lost one set during the span of the tournament to a tough 949 Club from San Clemente. It was the same team which finished 2nd to Pacific Rim at the Southern California Volleyball Class tournament just a few weeks earlier.
“We used the SCVA Classic as a tune up for any national championship competition, Worsley said. “(949) had a good handling on us — who we are and what we do. Teams were coming after us.”
As much as Worsley pushed this U17 team to its title, the players did their share of work by stepping up when needed to. Pacific Rim contributed four players to the all-tournament team including Jordan Ewert from Deer Valley-Antioch, who had himself a standout season at outside hitter.
“I got him as a brand new volleyball player,” Worsley said of Ewert’s arrival four years ago. “He’s pretty athletic, we were able to use that athleticism and shape him into a volleyball player. He has just had a really strong command. He and Joe (Worsley), our setter and my son, spent the last four years working together and know each other’s game really well.
“And that’s what separates Jordan form a lot of the other hitters, his work with Joe, his athleticism, and really having a fighter’s instinct on how to win games.”
Pacific Rim’s coaches and players knew what to expect from Ewert. Ryan Smith came out of nowhere.
Well, not exactly nowhere.
A Texas-native, Smith approached Worsley last summer during the USA Volleyball High Performance Camp and asked for an opportunity to play for Pacific Rim since volleyball was more popular in California than Texas. Smith had an obvious passion for the sport and Worsley couldn’t turn down anyone who wanted to work to get better.
“(Smith) came in pretty raw, yet good-sized, about 6-4 or 6-5, decent hitter and a decent blocker with very minimal experience playing the game.” Worsley explained. “So we made it our objective to work on his hitting and blocking this year. Texas offered him basically nothing. He was just a raw talent and he developed into a really good hitter and blocker and utilized that to his advantage. With that, he could make really strong contributions, and he did.
Joining Ewert and Smith on the All-Tournament team were Donovan Mitchell and Joe Worsley, who was also named the tournament MVP.
For those four, plus a handful of other on the club team, the season doesn’t end with the National Championship. A portion of the roster headed to Tulsa, Okla., for USA Junior Olympic team tryouts during the second week of July.
As for Pacific Rim, if the goal for the team’s fourth year together as a national title, it makes one wonder what Year Five might bring.
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