The Hollister-based Crush Power 15-and-under volleyball club team finished as the No. 7 seed in the prestigious Power League Qualifiers Tournament in Sacramento on Feb. 8.

The Hollister-based Crush 15-and-under club girls volleyball team made some history on Feb. 7-8, as it was one of 12 teams out of 98 squads to qualify for the gold division in the ultra-competitive Power League Qualifiers tournament in Sacramento.
“Last year we got into the silver division, which was pretty freaking awesome. To get in the gold division is an unbelievable experience,” Crush coach Dean Askanas said. “When you’re talking club volleyball, the 15- and 16-year-old age group is the most competitive. So it’s monumental what the girls achieved last week—it’s big-time stuff.”
Of that, there is no doubt. Most or all of the best club programs in California were in the tournament, and the Crush went 9-1—beating perennial powerhouse clubs Encore and Vision along the way—to finish as the tournament’s No. 7 seed.
“There are clubs out there where in their entire history they haven’t gotten in the gold division of this tournament,” Askanas said.
The Crush didn’t just break in the door—it slammed through it. The program’s only loss was to NorCal, a perennial national qualifier. However, the Crush, whose tallest player is 5-foot-11 middle blocker Kate Watts—beat traditional powers Encore and Vision, teams with multiple players over 6-feet tall.
“I think when Encore and Vision saw us challenging them for seed (ranking), they’re thinking no way are these girls going to take us,” Askanas said. “Our last match vs. Vision, our captains Nikki (Andrade) and Kieley (Hoskins) go for the coin toss, and their heads are coming up to the belly buttons of the Vision girls. Their opposite was bigger than me.”
Askanas was exaggerating a bit on purpose, but his point was this: the program was able to knock off teams with bigger and taller players. The Crush did it by displaying strong ball-control skills, supreme cohesiveness and tremendous defense.
Although it’s vital to have outside hitters who can power the ball through the toughest of defenses, it’s equally paramount to be strong in other facets of the game.
“Being able to terminate the ball is lovely and important, and it’s something we’re working on,” Askanas said. “But we win with a control game. We have to win with speed, ball control and a creative offense. We don’t have massive power because we don’t have massive size. We have a multi-dimensional offense, the girls are pretty aggressive and they’re learning to be creative with their shots. Sometimes you will run into teams that are too big, hit too hard and they have ball control, and that’s as far as you’re going to go.”
Crush had 10 players compete in Sacramento: Andrade, Hoskins, Watts, Emily Schneider, Madisyn Schneider, Danika Kelly, Sydney Kunz, Abbey Lynch, Carson Gilroy, and Mattea Romo.
The outside hitters include Andrade, Emily Schneider and Romo; the defensive specialists include Kunz and Kelly; Madisyn Schneider plays opposite and Lynch plays middle blocker.
Most of the players prep at San Benito and Monte Vista Christian, but Gilroy, a libero, is in the eighth grade.
“Some of our girls are experienced, but some of our girls are so green,” Askanas said. “But the great thing is they’ve all been fantastic and have done a terrific job. We’re still improving and the girls have a lot of fight.”
One can’t overstate the importance of the Power League Qualifiers tournament in Sacramento, the first elite field of the 2015 club season. Teams can’t qualify directly for nationals through the tournament, but they can put themselves in a great position to make nationals.
Such is the case with the Crush, who can qualify for nationals by one of two ways: by winning a qualifying tournament or keeping their position in the gold division.
“I think we could do it either way,” Askanas said. “We have a long way to go, but we’re in the hunt.”
This year’s USA Volleyball Junior National Championships will be held in New Orleans from June 23 to July 2, and there’s nothing the Crush program would love more than qualifying for the biggest event in the nation’s club volleyball scene.
The team started practicing on Dec. 1, and the grind of the season tests every program’s depth, mental toughness and ability to persevere.
“The girls have done everything I’ve asked of them so far,” Askanas said. “They’ve been like sponges in that they’ve taken to everything I’ve said, and their success is showing in their play.”

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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