BY DAN STICKRADT
Katherine Carlson, Hannah Murdock and Taylor Dellinger have their fair share of similarities and differences as teenage girls, just like all of their teammates.
All three attend different high schools but share the same passion for volleyball. In fact, eight high schools represent their club volleyball team.
Collectively, they have created some new elite status on the volleyball court. Members of the Legacy 16-1 Volleyball Club, which is based out of Rochester Hills, they all combined to capture the AAU Open Division national title this month, which is believed to be the first Michigan-based club team to win a national AAU title in the Open Division.
“That’s what is so impressive,” offered Legacy 16-1 head coach Jennifer Cottrill, who is also the head coach at Novi High School. “Not only did they win a national title, but we were told that no other Michigan has ever won the Open Division, which is the highest division at nationals. The girls put it all together at the right time.”
The team was picked last December, shortly after the conclusion of the Michigan high school season. Joining forces for tournament play in the winter months, this squad of hitting terrors won three other tournaments with several other top-5 or top-10 finishes.
Legacy finished 13-0-0 at the national finals, held in the greater Orlando, Fla., area at the ESPN Wild World of Sports and Orange County Convention Center. Legacy won 26 of 28 sets at the national tournament and defeated Mizuno Northern Lights 2-1 (25-17, 25-27, 15-10) in the championship match. Legacy swept its first 10 opponents at the nationals, and its only other 2-1 win came in the quarterfinals against Asics Manciana Wild (20-25, 25-16, 15-9), the only time the team had to come back from a 1-0 deficit.
Legacy defeated AVOLI 16 Enrique in the semifinals, 2-0 (26-24, 25-13).
The squad also finished seventh at another prestigious tournament in Dallas, Texas, one week later. Overall, Legacy 16-1 has boasted an 83-10-0 record since January 1.
Allison Bastanelli (Marysville), Jenna Lerg (Famrington Hills Mercy), Katherine Carlson (Pontiac Notre Dame Prep), Lizabella Porada (Livonia Ladywood), Margo Main (Saline), Kara Rogers (Saline), Olivia Beyer (Plymouth), Rachel Giwa (Lake Orion), Isabella Bucchi (Pontiac Notre Dame Prep), Taylor Dellinger (Clarkston) and Hannah Murdock (Lake Orion) comprised the winning formula.
All of the team members are Division I and Division II college recruits, with Bastanelli recently committing to Big Ten Conference member Illinois.
“We really seem to play well with each other on the court and we spend a lot of time with each other off the court,” said Murdock. “I think that’s why we have done so well.
“It’s really special (winning the national title),” she continued. “Not too many can say they have done that.”
Sometimes when many standout players clash, the recipe of disaster can strike. Legacy was the opposite.
“We all get along so well with each other, on and off the court, even though we attend a bunch of different schools,” echoed Dellinger, who transferred back to Clarkston after attending school near Huntsville, Alabama, for four months last year. “At times it hasn’t completely settled in. I almost have to remind myself. When they told us we’re the first (team from Michigan), it really makes it feel that more special.”
Cottrill noticed that her team was really picking up steam at various tournaments this spring. When Legacy didn’t lose a set in their first 10 matches at nationals, she sensed something special of her team, seeded fourth for the national tournament.
“We really started to come together and everything just kind of clicked,” added Cottrill. “We have a lot of talent and size on this team. But I think it was their ability to play together that made the difference.”
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