By Laura Marzullo
In the AAU Nationals, there were 56,000 participants, 3445 teams and 171 courts from June 17-29. The AAU Nationals, held in Orlando, caters to teams all over the United States and internationally.
Determination leads to success. This is what Brandon Elite Volleyball Association represents. One of its teams, 15 Gold, placed fifth out of 188 teams in their division. For four days, these 10 girls were challenged with fierce competitors who were not going to lose without a fight.
The morning of June 24 started with a passionate team meeting as the girls sat with a 6-0 record.
“The closer we get to the championship bracket, the better and more disciplined the teams become. Teams will not make as many errors and we need to control our errors if we want to come out on top,” said Coaches Magaly Carvajal and Estefania Lebron.
The girls entered their challenge match competing against a team from Florida. The first set was lost 15-25. The second set was won due to great passing from Mikayla Lastoria, Idara Camacho and Diana Hiatt. The attackers had some stellar moments led by Ella Kahikina, Madison Sofarelli and Alexia Goderich. The third set was close, exciting and nerve-racking. Captain and setter Paula Lebron had some great serving runs, ran the offense and was able to find hot hitters early. The middles, Elaina Fischer and Angela West, took control of the game with their defiance of not allowing balls to come over and ability to annihilate the ball. The final set resulted in 15-13, another win for 15 Gold.
On day four, the team entered the championship bracket. The first game had spectators biting their nails and sitting at the edge of their seats. The girls were able to fight harder than their opponents. Standing at an 11-0 record, they prepared for the quarterfinal match against another undefeated team. The game was neck and neck, but the experience of the other team gained the best of them. 15 Gold ended the tournament with 11 wins and one loss.
One of the players, Fischer, was recognized as an AAU National All Star due to her stellar performance and sportsmanship. She thanks her Gold Olympic coach and mentor, Carvajal, and her parents for encouraging her as an athlete and as a leader.
“Being an All Star is an honor voted on by the top coaches at the national tournament,” exclaimed Fischer.
“She is an excellent student, selfless teammate, sweetheart off the court. However, on the court, she is dominant, defiant, strong and brings the heat,” said Head Coach Damian Goderich.