Naples volleyball team wins AAU Junior National Championship

Reporter: Zach Oliveri Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

One team is serving impressive performances as they worked to a championship. This year, the Gulfside 16U Prime from Naples won the championship at the AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships, the world’s largest volleyball tournament.

While traveling between two states, the team played 24 matches in just two weeks. In those two weeks, they only lost two of those matches. By the end of the tournament, they were hoisting the national championship trophy.

volleyball national championship
Gulfside 16U Prime winning. CREDIT: DEXTER ROGERS

The Gulfside 16U Prime volleyball team from Naples stood on stage at Disney World as the AAU Priemer Junior National Champions.

“I honestly didn’t know what to do. Like I didn’t know if I was going to cry… if I should start laughing,” said Prime setter Milena Lopez.

“It’s kind of a feeling that like you can’t really describe. You’re just so in the moment, and you’re just so happy,” said Prime libero Alexa Haley.

Despite playing together since they were 14, the Gulfside 16U Prime struggled to start the season. The team had to adjust to first-year head coach Dexter Rogers’ system.

“I told one of the parents at the beginning of the year, once we learn to trust each other, then we’re going to do fine, but we didn’t have that trust at the beginning,” said head coach Rogers.

national volleyball championship
Celebrating the national volleyball championship. CREDIT: DEXTER ROGERS

That all changed once they got to Orlando. The team finished the tournament with a 13-1 record.

“Our mindset was different from any other tournament because we all wanted it,” said Haley.

“We finally got to the point where we were running in the same rhythm,” said Lopez. “We were all communicating and playing together.”

They couldn’t celebrate the national volleyball championship for too long because, after just two days at home, they were getting on a plane headed to Chicago. They were heading to the USAV Junior Nationals, where they finished third.

Nevertheless, nothing can erase what happened at Disney for the Naples volleyball team.

“It was super fun for them to be able to say, ‘… from Naples, Florida,’ when we were up there with our medals,” said Lopez.

Dominating on the national stage was huge for the team and players, especially for recruiting. Lopez said when they found out a recruiter was there for a certain player, the rest of the team would offer encouragement, playing together for that person’s success.

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