San Marco ‘super-nova’ leads team to third place in volleyball nationals

San Marco ‘super-nova’ leads team to third place in volleyball nationals
Grace Albaugh, fifth from the left, joins the All-Tournament team on the podium at the 2019 USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior National Championships in Indianapolis.

Fourteen-year-old Grace Albaugh of San Marco led her club team to a third-place finish and was the only freshman amidst a group of sophomores named to the All-Tournament 15 and Under team at the 2019 USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior National Championships in Indianapolis in June.

Grace Albaugh
Grace Albaugh

Albauch and her OTVA Jax 15 teammates (Orlando Tampa Volleyball Association Jacksonville) arrived in Indianapolis as the 14th seed overall in the 15U USA Division. After the first day, Albaugh was recognized by PrepVolleyball.com, a leader in volleyball-related news nationwide, as one of only 20 “Shining Stars” in her division for her individual play, but it wasn’t enough to power her team, which lost its first three matches the first day. OTVA Jax stayed in contention with two victories on the second day and posted a 2-1 record on the third, defeating Premier Nebraska, the third overall seed to secure a spot in the championship bracket the final day. The girls defeated 305 Volleyball Club from Miami to get to the semifinals where they lost to Sky High Arizona to take home the bronze medal. 

Albaugh, who started on the Bolles High School varsity squad last year as an eighth grader, was joined on the team by incoming freshman Allison Cavanaugh of Bishop Kenny, Sydney Lewis of Bartram Trail High School, and Jessica Shattles and Zeta Washington of Ponte Vedra High School. 

To gain a spot in the national tournament, Albaugh and her team traveled to Orlando, Atlanta and Philadelphia to compete in National Qualifier Tournaments. Her team posted a 7-2 record over three days to place fifth out of 58 teams at the Florida Regional National Qualifier, earning one of only 36 bids awarded nationwide in the more competitive USA Division.

It was not Albaugh’s first visit to the national tournament. Last year, she led her club team, OTVA Jax 13U, to a fifth-place finish among 64 teams in the national tournament’s American Division in Detroit. “I am proud of how hard we fought in this tournament,” said Albaugh. “Last year we got fifth, this year it was third, and my hope is next year we will be first.”

Albaugh was named as one of five “Supernovas,” for her outstanding play on the final day of the tournament by PrepVolleyball.com. Although she is only 14, Albaugh’s overall performance during the tournament led to her selection by opposing coaches to the 2019 USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior National Tournament 15U USA Division All Tournament Team, the highest honor an individual player can earn. “Grace’s selection for that team is a testament to the hard work and dedication she has put in at the gym over the past season, as well as her all-around sportsmanship,” said her coach, Will Berdecia, OTVA Jacksonville Club co-director. “Compound that with the fact that she is only 14 and it’s even more of a remarkable achievement. Grace has a bright future ahead of her, and I look forward to seeing what she and our team will accomplish in the future.”

Albaugh started playing volleyball three years ago, both for her club and the Bolles Middle School team. Playing on varsity last season, she started every game and was named “Player of the Match” three times during the season, twice during the playoffs. During the season she logged 152 kills – third most on her team – and achieved the Bulldogs’ second highest hitting percentage.

“We are a young team, and I think the experience we gained last year will serve us well this season,” Albaugh said. “The energy you get from playing in front of your friends and for school pride is different than playing club. Coming off the success at Nationals with my club team, I’m excited to see what we can accomplish during the Bolles season.”

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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