2018 Tournament of Champions

Mater Dei, Walton Among National Powers Headed For Tournament of Champions

Mater Dei, Walton Among National Powers Headed For Tournament of Champions

Many of the top high school teams in the country will gather in Phoenix for the Nike Tournament of Champions this week.

Sep 20, 2018 by Megan Kaplon
Mater Dei, Walton Among National Powers Headed For Tournament of Champions

Last week, many of the top high school teams in the country gathered in Las Vegas to compete in the Durango Fall Classic. Just six days later, some of those same teams will be joined by other elite high school volleyball programs in Phoenix, Ariz., for the Nike Tournament of Champions. 

Often thought of as the de facto national championship in girls high school volleyball, the Nike TOC welcomes 96 teams, some from as far away as Boca Raton, Florida, and Eagle River, Alaska, and others from down the street from the event’s four venues.

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Nine teams ranked in the most recent Flo50 Girls High School Volleyball Rankings will be in the hunt for the TOC title this weekend. Keep reading to learn more about the five teams we think are the most dangerous heading into tomorrow’s event. 

Mater Dei | Santa Ana, California

Mater Dei arrives at the 2018 Nike TOC as the defending champion and No. 2-ranked team in the country. The Monarchs boast a 23-1 record, with their sole loss coming just last weekend in the Durango semifinals against eventual champion Assumption. Mater Dei went on to defeat Xavier College Prep in the consolation match to finish third overall at the Fall Classic.

Senior captain and Stanford commit Natalie Berty leads the Monarchs with 263 kills on the season, but it was senior setter/opposite Brielle Mullally, who’s headed to Providence next fall, who earned a spot alongside fantastically athletic junior setter/opposite Mia Tuaniga on the Durango Fall Classic All-Tournament Team. 

Xavier College Prep | Phoenix, Arizona

Like Mater Dei, Xavier College Prep entered last weekend’s tournament with an unblemished record. Despite 13 kills from UC Santa Barbara-committed junior Briana McKnight, the No. 7-ranked Gators lost their semifinal matchup to Redondo Union, and then fell 1-2 to Mater Dei in the third-place match. 

McKnight, who also leads the team in kills so far on the season, earned a spot on the all-tournament team, joining senior setter Shannon Shields, a Louisville commit widely considered to be one of the top setters in the Class of 2019.

With the tournament in their backyard, the Gators might also have an advantage in getting to sleep in their own beds before championship day on Saturday.

West Orange | Winter Garden, Florida

No. 10-ranked West Orange of Central Florida is undefeated, dropping only five sets in 12 matches so far this season. The Warriors’ opening match of the Nike TOC against Xavier College Prep will be a good test of their ability to compete on the national stage. 

Most of West Orange’s offense runs through its pair of star outside hitters, junior Taylor Head, an Arkansas commit, and senior Kaeli Crews, who has committed to South Carolina. Last season, Head led the team to a 9A FHSAA state championship with a team-high 353 kills on the year.

Marymount | Los Angeles, California

At 16-5, Marymount has the most losses of any team on this list, but the No. 13-ranked Sailors might just be the most battle-tested team at the Nike TOC. Their incredibly tough schedule includes victories over top-50 ranked Iolani, Mira Costa, and La Costa Canyon, and those five losses came at the hands of No. 1-ranked Assumption, No. 3 Redondo Union, No. 8 Torrey Pines (twice), and No. 12 Cathedral Catholic.

Head coach Cari Klein’s not-so-secret weapon is Grace Frohling, a 6-5 setter/opposite committed to San Diego. Recently announced as one of the top 100 players in the Class of 2019 by PrepVolleyball, Frohling sets out of the back row and hits in the front, leading the team with 363 assists and ranking second on the squad with 147 kills. 

Marymount’s top attacker so far this season is 6-1 freshman outside hitter Elia Rubin. Named to the 15-Open All-Tournament Team at 2018 USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championships in July, Rubin is having an absolutely fantastic debut high school season.

Walton | Marietta, Georgia

Walton didn’t perform as well as the team probably expected at the Durango Fall Classic, losing its first match of the season to Cathedral Catholic in the qualifying rounds and then falling in the silver division championship match to Iolani. 

That said, the 20-2 No. 15-ranked squad from Georgia, which lost just one match last season on its way to a third-consecutive state title, remains a favorite to win the Nike TOC.

The Raiders’ fantastic senior class includes middle Reilly MacNeill and Gabby Gonzales, both Ohio State commits who were named to the all-tournament team last weekend. The squad also benefits from the return of Georgia-bound middle Meghan Froemming, who missed the 2017 due to a torn ACL.