DEL MAR — Members of the Del Mar-based Wave Volleyball Club Girls 18s team have ended their high school club careers on a high note after winning a national championship late last month in Ohio.
The all-star team of young women, all seniors at local high schools, was seeded 17th out of nearly 50 teams in the nation that made it to the open division of the USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championship for their age group in Columbus.
From April 28 to April 30, Wave successfully battled through three matches each day until fighting for a championship title against Premier Nebraska. The game came down to the final few points in the third set, with Wave initially down but fighting back to secure a nailbiting 17-15 win.
Wave outside hitter Julia Blyashov of Cathedral Catholic High School recalled the intensity of the moment and the joy the team felt after coming out on top.
“We came into the huddle, and basically, we all looked at each other and were like, this is gonna be our time, and we gotta turn our gears on and play for each other. We just gave it our all,” said Blyashov, named the tournament MVP. “It was such an awesome moment. We just started bawling our eyes out.”
Wave head coach Juliana Conn said she had coached many of these young women on various Wave teams since they were around 12. Their win in April marks the second time one of the club’s teams has triumphed in the national championship, with the last being 20 years ago.
“They don’t come very easily for any age group. Everything has to really come together at the right place, at the right time. It’s so exciting, especially because I knew the girls from so young. Seeing them go out on this big high, it was so great and so special for them,” Conn said.
For many players, the championship felt like things were clicking in a way they hadn’t all season. Several girls had to step back in the previous months because of injuries and illnesses, leaving the team playing with less horsepower than usual.
Despite losses at regional tournaments, the team persevered through the difficult season to qualify for nationals. These roadblocks only made the outcome of the championship all the more thrilling.
“Since a lot of people were recovering from injuries and getting healthy, it was hard to build connections to people on the team, and that was difficult. Going to nationals when everyone was finally healthy, that was when we really connected and got into the zone, and play just clicked,” said libero Kat Lutz, who attends Torrey Pines High School.
“We finally came together as a team,” said Eva Rohrbach, a middle blocker from La Costa Canyon High School. “It felt unlike anything I’ve played.”
The win was also bittersweet for the players, who have completed their time on Wave and are now looking ahead to their college careers.
Blyashov, named the 2023 California Gatorade Player of the Year, will attend Stanford University in the fall. On May 5, she was also named as one of 12 athletes that will play in the 2023 Girls U19 NORCECA Pan American Cup this month in Puerto Rico.
Other Wave members will be attending schools with prestigious academic and volleyball programs, including UCLA, the University of Maryland and University of Colorado Boulder.
Conn said she hopes the memory of the team’s national win will remind the young women of their potential in the future.
“I told the girls, if you’re in college and things seem to be going difficult, or you’re not doing well, just put yourself back to that weekend. They’ll always remember that,” she said.
For Blyashov, what sticks out most is the fantastic effort made by everyone on the team.
“We honestly couldn’t have won without the help of every single one of our teammates. We all had a common goal and we all gave it every ounce of energy — all of it was left on the court that day,” she said.