Foes no more: Area volleyball players team up to represent region
Truckee’s Nikki Schneider and Yerington’s Kayla Lommori celebrating a point together? North Tahoe and Truckee volleyball standouts playing side by side?
Yes and yes. And with great success.
The images may seem warped to those who have witnessed the last two years of uber-competitive clashes between the Lions and Wolverines ” the volleyball heavyweights of the Northern 3A ” and the decades of a once-heated rivalry along the Highway 89 corridor.
But when team Capital City 18 Black takes the court, rivalries of yesteryear get kicked to the curb. Together the ex-high school foes, each one a grooming her game before stepping up to the collegiate level, have combined to create a tight-knit and dominant force representing the region.
The group was particularly impressive the weekend of April 25.
Stacked with 14 All-League players from the 2A through 4A classes, including Truckee’s Nikki Schneider and North Tahoe’s Kayla Baumgardner, Capital City 18 Black finished runner-up out of 101 teams nationwide at the Far Western Regional Volleyball Tournament in Reno.
Their reward: a berth in the Junior Olympic Girls Volleyball Championships, or “JOs,” where they’ll play for a national title in Miami Beach, Fla., from July 1 through 4.
With Baumgardner and Schneider contributing in “huge” ways, said head coach Justin Malley, the 24th-seeded Capital City 18 Black club team went 10-3 in three days of play, knocking off the 21st-, 12th-, fifth-, fourth- and first-ranked teams en route to the finals. On their seventh match of the final day, the team fell in three sets to Xtreme 18s of Utah.
The two players from the mountain schools were crucial to the run, Malley said.
“Without either one of them we do not qualify, without a doubt,” the coach said of Baumgardner and Schneider, who play middle blocker and outside hitter, respectively. “They have both been critical for us all season in crunch time.”
In addition to Schneider, a first team All-League and All-State player in the 3A, and Baumgardner, the 2008 Northern 2A MVP, Capital City 18 Black boasts the two-time 3A MVP in Lommori and the 4A Sierra League Player of the Year in Douglas’ Megan Mitchell. Also on the team is Dama Cox of Yerington, which defeated Truckee in the state championship each of the past two years.
Despite their past battles, however, the lone Wolverine and two Lions do not harbor any ill will toward one another.
“They’re actually two of my best friends on the team,” Schneider said of Lommori and Cox.
And while players from other rival schools make up the team ” Douglas and Carson, for example ” Malley said the team’s camaraderie is the key factor to its success.
“Our team chemistry is fantastic,” he said. “They’re all seniors, for the most part. So there hasn’t been much of a we’re-going-into-next-year rivalry.”
Baumgardner, who received a scholarship to play at Chico State in the fall, agreed with her coach.
“We all come from different schools, but we all get along,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been on a team where there are no cliques and everyone meshes so well.”
Said Schneider, who is undecided on a college: “I definitely think (chemistry) is our biggest strength. If we get down in games, other teams might freak out and get mad at each other, but we just laugh it off and push forward.”
That poise and resolve will be put to the test in the Junior Olympic tournament. Their coach, for one, has faith they can pull off the feat.
“They bring their A-game when it’s on the line,” Malley said.
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