Through three years at Menlo School, Abby Holleran has had to scrap and claw to earn her volleyball stripes. So, it was fitting she helped anchor the defense for a Vision Volleyball Club team that was forced to fight for respect at junior nationals.
Holleran’s Vision 17 Gold team did just that. After entering the 17 Open tournament as the 32nd ranked team at the USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championships, Vision ultimately placed 11th in the nation at the four-day tournament in Indianapolis.
Navigating the nationwide field of 36 teams, Vision advanced to the Silver bracket on the tourney’s final day last Friday, placing them among the second flight of the top 16 teams. They won their first match in the single-elimination round over Six Pack 17-Iowa 25-22, 25-20, before falling Top Select 17 Elite-Florida in a three-set comeback, extra-points thriller 24-26, 25-18, 17-15.
“Coming in the 32-seed out of 36 teams … and getting a better finish than we did last year, I’m pretty proud of us,” Holleran said.
The Vision 17 Gold squad is coached by former Menlo-Atherton head coach Ron Whitmill, who now runs the program at Valley Christian-San Jose.
Holleran is the only San Mateo County player on Vision’s roster. The Menlo Park native is heading into her senior season at Menlo School, where she contemplated quitting the sport after a lackluster junior-varsity season as a freshman in 2016.
“I thought I wasn’t even going to play again,” Holleran said.
It was her 2017 club season at Vision following her freshman year that changed her mind. This year’s Vision team consisted of the same core players, including Sacred Heart Cathedral outside hitter Skylar Canady, whose Fightin’ Irish team knocked Menlo out of the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs in Holleran’s junior season.
Holleran didn’t garner much playing time during her junior year though on a senior-heavy Menlo roster. A defensive specialist, Menlo has utilized three different varsity players at the libero position since Holleran has been on campus — Jessica Houghton in 2016; Grace Enright in 2017; and Riley Holland in 2018 — but she’s hoping to compete for the role in the fall.
“This year I’m excited because, getting to take on the libero role, that’s something I’ve been looking forward to since my freshman year,” Holleran said. “So, that should be fun.”
Vision opened in style at the Junior National Championships, posting a 3-2 record through pool play, including a win over Arizona Storm in the opener 25-22, 10-25, 15-11. It was vindication from the regular season when the Arizona Storm did its best to prevent Vision from qualifying for the national tournament.
In Vision’s first qualifier tournament of the season at the Colorado Crossroads, the Arizona Storm handed Holleran and company a defeat to keep them from earning a national bid. Vision ultimately played in three national qualifier tournaments, and didn’t secure a bid until the third and final one at the Far Western Qualifier in Reno, Nevada.
In meeting Arizona Storm last Tuesday, however, Vision was playing a better level of volleyball, Holleran said.
“That was pretty awesome,” Holleran said. “We were all pretty happy about that. … It was super, super nice to be able to beat them.”
Vision dropped its next two matches in pool play, but took down Six Pack 25-17, 25-19, then needed beat Metro 17 Travel-Washington DC in two sets for any hope to advance. Vision won that match 25-17, 25-19, but had to play a one-set tiebreaker against Metro. Vision won that showdown to advance to bracket play.
“We were definitely happy moving out of that pool because we weren’t even expected to get out of that round,” Holleran said.
Vision posted a 1-1 record in bracket play last Thursday, including a sweep of Premier Nebraska 17 Gold 25-22, 26-24 in the second match to secure a place in the Silver bracket finals.
Rage 17 out of Belmont — coached by Notre Dame-Belmont head coach Jen Agresti — settled for 31st place in the tournament. Rage lost its first three matches on the first day of pool play then won three straight through pool and bracket play, before dropping its last three to finish with a 3-6 record.