Haleigh Nelson knew how important it was to be there for her team.
Triangle Volleyball Club’s 18-and-under Black team had made it to junior nationals held in Dallas. As the team prepared for the end-of-season tournament, Nelson, a Cardinal Gibbons graduate, had already reported to the University of Wisconsin, where she will play volleyball, for summer school.
“My team has been a big part of my life for four years, so it really was important to me to play with them at junior nationals,” said Nelson, who met her teammates in Dallas for one final competition together. “I wasn’t going to give up the chance to play with some of my best friends a last time.”
The team qualified for the USA Volleyball tournament’s open division, reserved for the top 32 teams in the country. Teams must receive a bid from a high finish at one of eight junior national qualifying tournaments throughout the season.
“Our goal at the beginning of the year was to qualify for junior nationals, and that’s a pretty significant thing,” coach Mike Schall said.
“Eighteens can be a tricky age group to coach because of the different directions they’re going.
“They’re graduating from high school for one, (and some of those who are playing in college have summer school) so that made practice a little tricky the last couple of weeks, especially with Haleigh in Wisconsin. There were a lot of demands, but we said from the beginning that our team was going to stick together.”
In addition to Nelson, several other Triangle players had to report to their respective schools shortly after returning from Texas, cutting down on time that could have been spent with family and friends before heading off to college.
All of the team’s seniors have committed to play in college, including Leesville Road graduate Sasha Karelov, who will play for Duke.
Triangle was ranked 28th heading into junior nationals, and that is where the team finished.
“We had a pretty hard pool,” said Leesville Road graduate and Appalachian State recruit Kati Stammen. “We went 2-8. ... You’re playing in an open division, so we’re playing against the best teams in the country, and it was good competition and a good experience. You just play your best, and you just go with the results.”
This year was the fourth year in a row that the Morrisville-based organization qualified an 18 team in the open division, club executive director Sherry Fadool said.
Eight other North Carolina teams competed at junior nationals this year, but Triangle sent the only 18 team and the only team to qualify for the open division.
“We’ve been seven times with different teams,” Fadool said. “No other club in North Carolina has done that.”