Junior Olympics volleyball growing rapidly in area
Junior Olympics volleyball is rapidly growing in the area.
The SMASH is based out of New Richmond. It just completed its second year of JO volleyball. In its first season, the SMASH fielded three teams. This year there were four teams. WWVA President Shelley Johnson said interest has been so strong that the SMASH could put “six or seven” teams on the court for next year. The JO season runs from November to April, beginning after the high school season is completed.
Junior Olympics volleyball is a competitive club volleyball program offered across the country for athletes who would like the opportunity to participate in volleyball after the normal school season ends.
The SMASH teams are open to girls from all over western Wisconsin. This year’s teams included girls from New Richmond, Somerset, Osceola and Clayton.
Starting a JO program in the area was meant to provide more opportunities for local girls who were travelling to River Falls, Hudson, Stillwater or Minneapolis to compete in JO programs. Johnson said it offers options to girls who otherwise wouldn’t try to compete at an elite level. It is also opening up options for girls to communities east of New Richmond, which is where Johnson is expecting a big influx of girls for next year’s teams.
This year, the SMASH had teams competing as 12-year-olds, 14-year-olds, 15-year-olds and 16-year-olds. The 12-year-olds played in five tournaments and the three older teams each got to play in seven tournaments. They played in tournaments all over Minnesota, from Mankato to North Branch to Rochester to St. Cloud.
The 12-year-olds placed fifth or better in three of their five tournaments. The 14- and 15-year-olds each took second place in one tournament and had two top 10 finishes.
The 16-year-olds put together the strongest SMASH season. They won three tournament championships and took second place in two other tournaments.
Johnson said the JO program helps girls who want to play volleyball past high school.
“We can be another advocate for our girls who want to continue their volleyball career past the high school level,” she said.
The WWVA has offered other local volleyball opportunities for 11 years. There is a spring league that is just for girls in New Richmond in grades 4-8 that runs from March through May. A program called Little Spikers, for girls in grades 2-6 from all communities, is held in October. Last summer, a sand volleyball program was begun for girls from all communities in grades 2-12 to keep them active in volleyball. The program was held at New Richmond’s Freedom Park.
Anyone interested in more information on any of the WWVA programs can check the association’s website at www.wwsmash.com.