By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Sports Writer
Legacy volleyball club returned home with two gold medals at the AAU National championships at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.
The 16 Elite and 17 Pyramid teams powered their ways through their brackets before finishing on top of the four-day tournament held June 23-26.
Pyramid went undefeated throughout their bracket and never even dropped a set.
The 16 Elites were seeded 15th to begin the tourney and dropped a few games early in their week but managed to advance. The team picked up some serious momentum in the tournament, leading to a 25-9 opening-set win in the title game against A5 club.
Opposite hitter Kennedy Osunsanmi stood out throughout the tournament, earning her the tournament MVP award in the 16 Club Bracket.
“On the first two days we found ourselves playing down to teams that were worse than us,” said Osunsanmi. “The main thing that we made sure to fix was our quality of play.”
“She is the best hitter in that age division and maybe even the country,” said Legacy director and head coach Walt Ker. “That team over-achieved. There was less of an expectation they would go for the gold medal.”
Top-seeded 17 Pyramid standout Victoria Davis was awarded tournament MVP in the 17 Premier Bracket. Legacy’s MVPs Davis and Osunsanmi also play alongside each other at West Ranch, under Elite head coach Jamey Ker. Jamey was unable to coach the team during the tournament, being busy with a European wedding. However, his father Walt was able to guide both teams in Florida.
Walt had a hectic June to say the least. The coach filled in for his son Jamey at Nationals while Jarney was in Europe for his wedding. Walt wrapped up a tournament with 17 Pyramid over Memorial Day weekend and left the next morning for Europe to attend Jamey’s wedding. After over two weeks abroad, he returned home for a day to do laundry and repack. Walt then again the next day headed to the airport and flew to Orlando for the AAU National tournament.
Jet-lagged and exhausted, the coach still got two of his three competing teams to the gold.
After a rocky start from the 16 Elites, Walt liked the improvements shown by his outside hitters. They would need to start bringing their A-game as the competition grew tougher in the tournament.
The 16 Elites found themselves in a day three matchup with Club LAC from Hawaii, a team that beat them earlier in the year. Strong serving and sound play led to a 25-8 Legacy win in the opening set. LAC managed to bounce back and force a third set, but the 16 Elites held on in a tight finale. The Elites won the set 15-13 and advanced with a 2-1 win.
“To win a national championship and be named national champions is really an insane and indescribable thing,” said 16 Elite setter McKenna Edwards. “Not everyone achieves something like this in their lifetime, and it just shows the hard work and dedication that was put in throughout the season and how far we have come.”
In the semifinals, Legacy and Club Gulfside exchanged blow after blow, leading to dozens of lead changes. The two were deadlocked all game as Gulfside took the first set, 26-24, and the Elites took the second, 25-23. Legacy built a strong enough lead in the third set to win 15-10 and advance.
The team would then head to the National Championship game located at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, Field House. Legacy 16 Elite dominated A5 early after outside hitter Leila Ballard’s strong serving took control of the set and the Elites ran away with the first game. The team had to battle back in the second set and found themselves down at one point. The team managed to rally and complete their gold medal performance.
From the 16 Elites, Edwards and libero Gabriella Cascione made the All-Tournament team as well as the MVP Osunsanmi.
“We have been working so hard for this tournament all year,” said Cascione. “I’m so proud of everyone for making it here. I’m so thankful to have played in such a high-level tournament and to be able to win it in the end. It was such an emotional moment for me and my teammates.”
From the 17 Pyramid, Laurel Barsochinni and Madison Maxwell were named All-Tournament, along with the MVP Davis, who is committed to Baylor.
The MVP ended the tournament with a crazy .517 hitting percentage over all four days.
Davis is among five Division 1 NCAA commits on the Pyramid team as of now. Addison Benson will play at BYU, Kylie Tenburg will continue to play at Utah State and Milani Lee is heading to Long Beach State.
“The overall talent of that team. There are so many good pieces,” said Walt. “We didn’t really have a weakness, which is a nice thing to say as a coach. To be able to look at the team and say there’s nothing the other team can pick on. We just had great talent at every single position.”
The Legacy Pyramid team beat OTVA from Longwood Florida in their finals matchup, 25-15 and 25-18. The team’s perfect record speaks for itself as no one could touch them. The 17 Pyramid team only gave up 20 or more points in just four of 26 sets at Nationals.
“It’s the strongest team Legacy has ever had,” said Walt. “We were loaded with great talent this year.”
Walt thought the team had been playing top-of-the-line volleyball for about two months and that it really carried into the national tournament.
The mostly local girls will head back into their high school seasons at Hart, Saugus, West Ranch, Valencia, Canyon, Golden Valley and Trinity Classical.
Most of the 17 Pyramid squad have now finished their club careers as AAU National champions. However, the team does have some younger players eligible to join the soon-to-be 17 Elites for another national championship run with Legacy.
“Legacy is such an amazing club,” said Osunsnami. “They have such high-quality coaches and insane amounts of volleyball knowledge, so me and my teammates are constantly improving in so many different ways.”