Metro Volleyball Club’s 18 Travel team has 16 players on it — and as many college teams.
Feb. 15-16 | 9AM ET
And that’s not just a coincidence. Since 2003, head coach and club director Silvia Johnson had helped every 18 Travel player from every season find a place on a college roster. Johnson, a former player at Long Beach State and American University and a college assistant coach, sees her primary job as getting her athletes ready for college.
The large roster size means practices feel like a college practice, and the competition for starting spots is fierce, just like it will be for each athlete when she arrives on her chosen campus.
With her 2020 squad, which finished 11th in 16 Open in 2017, Johnson runs a 6-2 offense, and utilizes a number of defensive specialists, so although not everyone plays every match or every tournament, quite a few of her players see the court regularly.
The first player you’ll probably notice if you happen to catch Metro 18s, which ranked No. 51 in the PrepVolleyball preseason rankings, in action is libero Milan Gomillion. The only non-senior on the team, 2021 grad Gomillion has not only maintained a 2.4 passing average so far this season, she’s also capable of digging balls that allow Metro 18s to run the middle in transition.
“Milan is better than a lot of people think. I think she’s like a junior national team type of kid,” Johnson said. “A lot of people will dig a ball, but you’re pushing it to the outside or setting out-of-system. She’s actually digging balls and we’re transitioning middle.”
Johnson gives Gomillion plenty of credit for Metro securing its USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championship 18 Open bid at the Ohio Valley qualifier last week. Forced to compete without two starters — opposite Kate Sheire had the flu and middle Laila Rogers rolled her ankle during the second day of competition — Metro relied on a more balanced offense to achieve a 6-4 record and earn its spot at nationals, meaning passing and defense couldn’t have been more important.
“Honestly, we were still up and down,” Johnson said. “There were moments where we were pretty good and there were moments where we were shaky. I thought Day 2 we were just solid. We just didn’t make a ton of errors, we hit a good number, we were able to get our middles going, distribute to the right sides as well, so distribute on offense a little bit more.”
Feb. 15-16 | 9AM ET
Middle Jessica Humphries stepped in for Rogers in the middle and Stacia Gollogy filled in for Sheire in the middle. Some of the other starters also helped make up for their missing teammates, shouldering a heavier load than usual. Right side Olivia Womble finished the tournament with the second-most kills, and middle Chantelle Smith had a great showing as well.
In addition to Gomillion, outside hitter Jilienne Widener, libero/defensive specialist Sydney Reed, and setter Chandler Vaughn provide the star power for this squad.
Widener’s many accolades from a four-year varsity high school career at Westminster include four All-Metro designations and four Carroll County Times Players of the Year titles. PrepVolleyball also included the Brown commit on its 2019 High School All-Americans list. She is the only player who consistently plays all six rotations for Metro.
Gatorade dubbed Reed its Virginia player of the year last month. Although a libero and defensive player for Metro and likely for her college career at North Carolina, Reed is athletic enough to play outside for her high school, despite standing just 5-6.
Johnson described Central Missouri-bound Vaughn as her steadiest setter on the roster and a leader for the team.
Only three athletes on the Metro 18s deep roster remain uncommitted, but Johnson is confident that the trio — Humphries, Maya Scott, and Nicole Taylor — will find their perfect team and keep playing at the next level.
“Maya was actually committed to Hampton and they had a coaching change,” Johnson explained. “Maya came in and was a big reason we ended up getting the bid (at the OVR Qualifier). She ended up hitting .400 on Day 2 as an outside, so she came in big for us.
Feb. 15-16 | 9AM ET
“Jessica is an undersized middle, but she’s quick and she touches 10 (feet). She’s only like 5-7, but is a jumpy kid, looks like a track athlete, and just is really fast and mobile. I think she would do well in like a small program that doesn’t mind an undersized, athletic middle.
“Nicole played on the right for us and she is, she touches 10-2, jumpy kid. A lot of people are actually interested in her, we’ve just got to find her the right fit.”
With the nationals bid in hand, some of the pressure has been lifted for Metro 18s. Next up for this team is the Capitol Hill Classic in Washington D.C. over President’s Day Weekend (Feb. 15-17). Metro will be a favorite to win the 18 Open title, especially if a healthy Sheire and Rogers make their returns to the court.