By Dan Lovi
For The Signal
Legacy Boys 16 Elite Win Title at Junior National Championships
The Legacy Volleyball Club, based out of Valencia, sent several teams to the 2018 USA Volleyball Boys’ Junior National Championships in Phoenix, Arizona earlier this month.
One team came home a champion.
The Legacy Boys 16 Elite, comprised of 12 16-year-old boys from Santa Clarita Valley, beat out over 70 other teams from across the country, taking home the gold in their age bracket.
Legacy struggled out the gate losing two matches in the first two days, but it was smooth sailing after that, winning six straight games without dropping a set.
“The first day, it wasn’t the end of the world because we were still first or second in the pool,” said Legacy head coach Brendan Riley. “After that first match of the second day, we played phenomenal for the rest of that day and the next day and into the gold bracket.”
Daniel Compton, who’ll be a junior next year at Saugus, said his team finally got it together after the second loss.
“After we lost that second match, everything clicked,” Compton said. “Our coach made us realize we weren’t playing our game and playing clean volleyball. Everyone was much more focused and dialed in.”
After cruising through the gold bracket, Legacy faced the undefeated Houston Volleyball Academy in the final. Legacy won the first set 25-18, but dropped the second 31-33. Facing an 11-13 deficit in the final set, Riley called a timeout to regroup his players.
“Even when we’re down in the third set and we called a timeout and had two crucial key blocks in a row, even at that point, I felt like we’re the better team,” Riley said “We had a disappointing second set loss and we were down in the third, but I always felt like we were going to win.”
Riley’s feeling was spot-on, as Legacy clinched the victory 16-14 in the final set, with tournament MVP Zack Drake delivering the final blow.
“That last play where I set up Zack, he passed the ball and I knew he would be inside,” said Johnny Buchanan, who also plays alongside Drake at West Ranch. “I was hoping he would get it, and right as he got that kill, it was a crazy moment. It finally became real that we got it.”
Gavin Leising, Legacy’s middle blocker who also starts for Hart’s varsity team, knew it would come down to who wanted it more.
“We knew we had to put everything we had on the court,” Leising said. “Put our hearts out here and do the best we could and whoever deserved it more would win.”
In addition to bringing home the championship, Drake, Buchanan, Compton and Leising were named to the all-tournament team.
“It’s a really great feeling,” Leising said. “I know that I was deserving of that position because I’ve really worked hard over the last two years to further my game and become the best player I can be.”
“It was really great, really humbling,” Buchanan said. “Being on the team that ended up winning, makes you feel like you’re a key part of the team.”
For Riley, watching his young players flourish is what coaching is all about.
“It’s why I coach, that’s the thrill of coaching — seeing them succeed and get better,” he said. “The winning is icing on the cake.”