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Shaler volleyball players gain experience against stiff competition

| Sunday, July 16, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

A team from outside the continental United States helped reinforce a lesson to Shaler senior John Ramsey. No point is won until the volleyball hits the court.

At the 2017 boys junior national championships, which took place July 1-8 in Columbus, Ohio, Ramsey spent a lot of time on his toes.

“Enjoying playing in that environment is living in the moment,” Ramsey said. “Our first match was against a team from Puerto Rico. They were ranked No. 7 coming into the tournament, seventh out of 74. We had no idea what to expect. Out of all the teams I saw there, they were the best as far as ball control, and they kept sending everything back across the net. No matter how hard they hit it, where we hit it, they kept sending it back over the net.”

Shaler had a contingent of players across age divisions trying.

Ramsey, who played in the 18U bracket, was humbled by the experience. His team reached the finals of the Flight 6 championship before losing to a team from Santa Monica, Calif.

“I learned that even to continue your playing career you have to realize there are players that are a lot better than you are,” Ramsey said. “Even though we play in the OVR and we can beat up teams in our area, until you see times from Southern California or Puerto Rico, there are on a complete different level.

“Their style of play is different. Their mentality is different, everything. It's totally different and hard to adjust to if you are only going to play them in one match.”

Rising freshman hitter Brandon Miller was on a team ranked seventh out of 48 in the 14U division. Facing high expectations was a good test.

He said he believes his team played well, despite struggling at times with injuries.

“It helps a lot,” Miller said about nationals. “It's never going to get easier. We are going to have to work harder. I'm confident going into high school, club has given me more experience and the thought process. I can handle it. It's definitely a more high-paced level than middle school.”

Succeeding in such an environment involves more than defeating your opponent. Sensory overload can take over as well.

With multiple matches going on in close proximity, there's always a whistle going off or a crowd roaring.

“It was exhilarating,” said Shaler libero Cam Agnew, who played U16. “The atmosphere and everything, there were so many people cheering. It was cool. There were a lot of families and players.”

That experience helped everyone else out.

Being a part of club championships for a second time helped Miller gain confidence.

“Through my years of playing — I started in Catholic school — I've been playing for six years,” Miller said. “Playing with guys that haven't been around the sport as long, it definitely built leadership in me and help me feel like I'm a core player of the team and I can talk to guys if they ever need advice.

“If they have a question, they can always look to me.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.

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