Over Memorial Day weekend, Apex, a girls 13-year-old volleyball club team from Park City, played in an AAU volleyball tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada. Led by coach Bobby Boggs, Apex pulled together to win the West Coast Championship in the Silver division.
"It was a great experience for our team," Boggs said. "We played against some of the best teams in the country. We played strong together as a team, and the girls had fun."
Apex captured the Utah State Championship one week prior to the Las Vegas tournament. After winning this championship, the team finished fourth in the West Coast Championship, along with winning the Silver playoff in dramatic fashion.
Despite this being their first year playing together versus many teams who have played together for a few years, the team had a successful season and won medals in five of the last six tournaments.
"Every tournament we went to we got stronger," said Corynn Olderman, a player on the team.
Another player, Sarah Pillman agreed, "Throughout the year we improved a lot in our game, had a lot of fun, and made some really good new friends."
Apex was one of two U13 clubs from Utah to go to the tournament in Last Vegas.
Brooke Heitman, a player on the team, said, "When it was decided we would go to Regionals in Las Vegas, we were all so nervous to see our competition. We knew it would be tough. Teams who travel to Regionals to compete usually have done well.
Upon seeing one of the best teams in the country, Albuquerque, warm up and then beat another team 25-3, the players from Apex felt intimidated. After a slow start, the coach called a timeout and the team regrouped, gained confidence, and played Albuquerque evenly the second half of the game. Even though they did not win, they left feeling the match was a success.
"I was scared to play them," Pillman said. "But now I know they're not that hard. I figured out they hit it in the same spots. All you have to do is cover those spots. I look forward to playing them again."
All of the girls on the team had great moments during the three-day tournament. One of the highlights was from co-captain and setter Eleanor Kingston. With the team trailing 24-14, she helped the team rally with an impressive comeback and win 26-24 with 12 straight serves. The other team captain, Grace Wiczek, stepped up when the team needed a new second setter.
"Grace had one of the best setting hands all season, but was a little uncomfortable in this position," Boggs said. "After a pregame talk, Wiczek stepped into the setter row and she had many beautiful sets during the tourney."
With Wiczek in the setter in position, Coach Boggs ran a modified 6-2 strategy, which the players executed perfectly, showing the team's ability to adapt as needed.
The last day of the tournament was single-elimination playoffs. When four of the girls opted to do some last-minute sightseeing a few hours before their first game and arrived late to the game, Boggs made some adjustments to the starting lineup and the girls who were late weren't allowed to start.
"It's good for them to learn their lesson. I doubt they'll be late again," stated one of the players' mothers, Amy Heitman.
Despite this small snag, Apex played strong in their first two games to beat a team from Las Vegas 25-20 and 25-13.
Excitement was evident amongst the players and the parents going into the final match against the Las Vegas Aces. The teams were very evenly matched and played two intense games with close scores. Apex won the first match 27-25 and then finished the tournament with another close win, 25-23. The girls shook hands with the other players and then were greeted by a line of proud and excited parents awaiting a high five for each of the players and Boggs.
"We felt like if we gave it our all we could win, and we did," Heitman said. "It was so exciting, an awesome experience!"
Apex entered this tournament with excitement and a little uncertainty, not knowing exactly what their competitors would be like. They left with big smiles and a sense of achievement as a team. Boggs looks forward to next season.
"Now our team has a new sense of confidence knowing they can compete with any team in the country," he said. "The team can focus over the summer on their goals for next year, with the potential to be one of the best teams in the country in 2015."
For club volleyball and outdoor volleyball opportunities, contact Boggs at ApexVolleyballParkCity@gmail.com.