The East Columbus Volleyball Club entered the AAU Nationals as one of the smallest and youngest competing clubs in its division, but that didn’t stop it from placing in the top three for the second consecutive year.

A team of nine girls, who will be representing Columbus East, Trinity Lutheran, Seymour and Brownstown Central High Schools this fall, traveled to Orlando, Florida, earlier this month to win 12 of 13 games over four days. The squad placed third out of 123 teams in the 15-and-under division.

Bailey Reynolds, Sydney Jaynes and Maggie Connell played a year above their age group. Five of the nine also played on last year’s 14-and-under team that placed second overall after losing the championship game, which aired on ESPN.

The tournament is one of the largest volleyball events in the world. Reynolds, who will be a freshman at Trinity, said the intimidation has worn off in the team’s third consecutive year participating.

“It definitely was (intimidating) the first time,” Reynolds said. “But going in for a third time, we knew what to expect. It’s still cool to see how many teams are there at the competition.”

The team has had at least two players named All-American in each of the three years. Trinity’s Hannah Sabotin and East’s Madyson Foster both were named All-Americans this year, making it three in a row for Sabotin.

This is Foster’s second consecutive year being named an All-American after receiving the honor last year. Reynolds earned back-to-back honors when she was named an All-American last summer and the summer before.

“(Being named an All-American) is always a good feeling,” said Foster, who will be a sophomore at East. “It was a happy feeling, but at the same time, individual awards are also team awards because without other players doing their jobs, we couldn’t do ours.”

The club finished one place lower than a year before but still managed to offer up a little payback to the Orlando club that denied it last year’s tournament championship. The Orlando club has 450 teams within the organization, and the East club hung tough to get the victory and advance to being one game away from making it back to the championship.

“We were excited because we all wanted revenge when we played them,” Foster said. “But we had to be focused because they were undefeated so far.”

The club lost it’s only game to Sports Performance Red out of Chicago to end the tournament. The East club was one of the only clubs to have just one or two teams in the entire tournament. Coach Faith Wilder-Newland coached the 13-and-under teams that won six of its 10 games to finish 23rd out of 94 teams.

The 14-and-under team beat some of the nation’s top talent including a national team from Puerto Rico and a club from Peru. All nine of the players will either be just entering high school this season or are already there.

“When it comes to nationals, our whole team just gels together and we all play so well,” said Sabotin, who will be a sophomore at Trinity.

The squad will have a ton of experience to take with it as the players move up in high school volleyball and possibly beyond. There were a high number of college coaches attending the event for possible future recruits.

“The level that we’re playing at would be a very high level in high school,” said Dave Newland, who coaches the 15U team. “If you’re good in Indiana, you’re good. And we can compete with some of the very best with what we’ve got right here … I’m tremendously proud of  this team and especially (Reynolds, Sabotin and Foster) because they’re wonderful people.”

Club roster

East Columbus Volleyball Club 15-and-under roster

Maggie Connell, outside hitter, Brownstown Central incoming freshman

Madyson Foster, setter, Columbus East, incoming sophomore

Ashley Goercher, defensive specialist, Trinity Lutheran, incoming sophomore

Sydney Jaynes, middle hitter, Trinity Lutheran, incoming freshman

Riley Nuss, libero, Brownstown Central, incoming sophomore

Bailey Reynolds, outside hitter, Trinity Lutheran, incoming freshman

Hannah Sabotin, middle hitter, Trinity Lutheran, incoming sophomore

Kendall Schaefer, right side hitter, Columbus East, incoming sophomore

Abby Schmidt, outside hitter, Seymour, incoming sophomore

Author photo
Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.