Twisters use added inspiration to turn up preparation for national tournament

June 01, 2012|By DANIEL KAUFFMAN |
  • The WACO Juniors club volleyball Twisters 13U team finished second at the Chesapeake Region Volleyball Association Open Division Championships to qualify for the 33rd annual USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championships in Columbus, Ohio, from June 29 to July 2. From left to right: Kneeling -- Sydney Davis (Smithsburg), Kaylee Hykes (E. Russell Hicks), Hannah Bowers (Clear Spring) and Cierra Beaver (Springfield); Standing -- head coach Shannon Phillips, Carli Shank (Springfield), Megan Moran (Smithsburg), Devon Groesbeck (Springfield), Ashton Hinnant (Grace Academy), Brynn Lewis (Springfield), Kaylie Whittington (Clear Spring) and assistant coach Christy Moser.
Submitted photo

For the first time in a decade, a Washington County Juniors Volleyball Club team is heading to the USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championships.

The Twisters 13U squad — comprised of 10 players from five county middle schools — finished second at the Chesapeake Region Volleyball Association Open Division Championships in April and were notified days later that they had earned a trip to nationals, where they will compete in a field of 96 teams in Columbus, Ohio, from June 29 to July 2.

“I was in shock,” Twisters head coach Shannon Phillips said. “We knew we had a shot, but we were in second place last year (in U12) and didn’t get to go. (This year) we just managed to sneak out another bid for our age group.”

The Twisters have finished no worse than third place in nine tournaments this year, with a winning percentage just under .900.

“Not only did this team compete in 13U tournaments, but also against 14U teams — and beat several of them,” Phillips said. “They’re a phenomenal group of girls. They have heart, grit and drive. They’re a team, everything’s cohesive. Nobody’s a star, they all have their moments and they can all play anywhere.

“They’re not scared. They’re fearless.”

They’re also playing for a cause.

Days after receiving the letter informing the Twisters of their bid to nationals, the team learned that one of its own — Sydney Davis, a Smithsburg Middle School student — had been diagnosed with leukemia.

“It was devastating,” Phillips said. “We thought she had a pulled hamstring, and it just wouldn’t heal. ... On Monday we found out we were going to nationals, and on Friday we found out about Sydney.”

Davis, who is receiving outpatient treatment at Children’s National Hospital in Washington — “That is one fantastic organization,” her father, Tom Davis, said Thursday — surprised her teammates by appearing at practice on May 24 for the first time since the diagnosis.

“She wanted to cry and laugh at the same time,” her father said. “She wanted to see them, but she also wanted to be with them on the court.”

“She hasn’t faltered at all. She’s the same kid and the team is rejuvenated by having her around,” Phillips said. “As soon as she walked in the door, we were in a team meeting and she walked in and everybody looked at me, then ran to her. She was there cheering them on and making sure they knew she was still a part of the team.”

Several events are planned for both the team — which is raising money to offset the tournament and travel costs — and Sydney.

A car wash on June 10 at Auto Zone on Virginia Ave., and a bonanza on June 24 at Potomac Fish & Game Club, will benefit the Twisters. A golf benefit is planned for Sydney’s behalf at Black Rock on Aug. 31.

Donations for the Twisters and for Sydney can be sent to WACO Juniors director Bridget Pearl, 400 N. Colonial Dr., Hagerstown, Md. 21742.

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