Nearing the end of an exciting, productive and successful season, the athletes of Houston Stellar 16 Elite, which features three players from Clear Springs and two from Clear Falls, stepped foot in Indianapolis on July 3.
This last and crucial midwest stop, the USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championships at the Indiana Convention Center, would be their proving ground to end their 2018-19 season.
Less than four months ago in mid-March, they earned their national bid on this same soil at the Mid East Qualifier. In the months to follow, this talented and tenacious Texas team, seeded third in its pool, put forth sacrificing efforts in and out of the gym to ultimately bring home the Gold in the 16s USA Division.
Over the four days of matches, in the 36-team division, Houston Stellar 16 Elite went 11-0 in 23 sets and only losing one of those sets. In their final match against WAVE 16 Jimmy, a Del Mar, California team, Houston Stellar 16 Elite defeated their opponents in two sets: 25-23, 25-14, respectively.
Leading the team to its first national title were head coach Suzy Buechele, a former All-American opposite hitter at Oklahoma University, and assistant coach Toure Hopkins, a former outside hitter at Kennesaw State University.
“This season, with this group of athletes from all over Houston, had the perfect ending,” Buechele said. “They came together when it mattered and played with determination and selflessness. Each of them contributed and are so deserving of this experience. It is not how you start, but it is how you finish, and I was so proud and blessed, to be part of it all with each of them.”
This tight knit gold medal team is comprised of high school volleyball players from Clear Creek Independent School District, Deer Park Independent School District and Humble Independent School District.
From Clear Springs High School there are Alyssa Christiansen (junior, defensive specialist), Alana Dawson (junior, pin hitter/right side hitter) and Talitha Lew (sophomore, libero).
From Clear Falls High School there are Mia Johnson (junior, pin hitter) and Blakely Montgomery (junior, setter).
“This has been an amazing experience,” Lew said. “We worked really hard all season for this one tournament. I couldn’t dream of a better group of teammates because not only were they 100 percent committed to our team, they made the season so much fun on and off the court.
“Also, Coach Suzy and Coach Toure are so dedicated to our team and sacrificed so much for this victory. I can’t thank them enough.”
In addition to winning gold, Johnson, was honored with the 16s MVP All Tournament National Championship Award, and two other 16 Elite players, Lew and Montgomery, received 16s All Tournament National Championship Awards.
“Being 16s MVP makes me so thankful for the people and the support I’ve had throughout this season,” Johnson said. “Being named MVP really goes to show how amazing my team is at supporting and pushing me to be my best.”