DALLAS — The Tool City Volleyball Club’s 14U team felt fortunate enough just to be in the Bronze Division playoffs.
What the team didn’t expect was to actually win the bracket, and knock off one of the top teams in the nation along the way.
Yet, that was the emotional arc for the local spikers on Thursday during action at the USAV Boys Junior National Championships, which have been running all week at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas.
“It was just unbelievable,” said Dennis Patton, who coaches the 14U team along with his son and Mercyhurst University women’s head coach Ryan Patton.
It hadn’t been a particularly successful tournament for the Tool City 14U’s up until this point. They had limped to a 2-7 finish in pool play, and advanced to the tournament’s Bronze-level playoffs via a tiebreaker.
“It was like a miracle that we were able to get in that Bronze division at all,” said Patton. “It was like Houdini.”
The true miracle, it turned out, was yet to come.
The Tool City squad — consisting of Deke Patton and Chris Platz of McDowell; Brady Greco and Henry Shaffer of Saegertown; Nolan Rados and Octavian Sperry of Conneaut Area; and Jackson Decker of Meadville — began hitting its stride in the playoff rounds.
The team opened the playoffs with a 25-23, 25-18 victory over quarterfinal opponent Pace Bootlegger of Rochester, N.Y. The locals then kept up the solid play with a 25-20, 25-15 sweep of Midwest Elite of St. Louis, Missouri.
“All the teams that we play out here, they play from some time in early November all the way until the Nationals, which is going on now,” said Patton. “We put together a team after the high school season and have nine practices before we head to nationals.
“But we just kept getting better the more we played together down here. And going into (Thursday), the teams that beat us the first couple days, we would be at them all now. The more we played together, the stronger we were getting. And when we got into this Bronze bracket we really did the job.”
Even so, the Tool City team appeared to have met its match for the Bronze championship, as it faced the A5 Volleyball Club from Atlanta, Ga.
“Going into this tournament there were 49 teams in 14U Club Division,” said Patton. “This team (A5) was rated No. 5.”
A5 — expected to be a Gold Division competitor — was dropped to the Bronze Division playoffs thanks to a fluke loss in the pool play rounds earlier in the week. But the team bounced back to win its quarterfinal and semifinal matches and entered the Bronze final against Tool City with a match record of 10-1.
In the bracket final, A5 took immediate control, rolling through the local squad 25-13 in the first set, and later taking a 17-11 lead in the second set.
“That team was so strong it was unreal,” said Patton. “We were down 17-11 and we called a timeout and my son pulled them over and said, ‘We’ve enjoyed playing with each other all week. We have eight more points left. So let’s just have fun and be proud of ourselves and go out with our heads held high,’ figuring that (A5) was going to win.
“And then all of the sudden ...”
The Tool City squad started hanging with the Georgians. Even so, A5 soon had itself
in position to close things out, holding match-point at 24-20.
But the locals weren’t giving in.
“Deke Patton went back and served six straight points for us to win 26-24,” coach Patton said about his grandson.
Now, Tool City had all the momentum. And they used it to win the third and final set 15-12.
“That had to be the biggest upset, I’m serious,” said coach Patton. “Unbelievable. We had lost the first game 25-13, then were were behind 24-20 in the second game. But we pulled it out. And we can’t believe that we beat the team that was so good. It was the upset of the century.”
In other news for the Tool City Volleyball Club at the Junior Nationals:
— The 18U team — coached by Dan Hering and consisting of Logan Hering and Ben Mosley of McDowell; Will Phelan and Raef Rhoades of Saegertown; Jake Tappe of Penn Trafford; Ethan Wright of Maplewood and Lance Welker of Cambridge Springs — also had a strong playoff run, claiming second place in the Silver Division bracket.
The team finished off pool play with a record of 8-4. Then, during Wednesday’s playoff rounds, the locals opened with a 25-20, 22-25, 15-10 win over SJVC of San Juan, Puerto Rico; and then won its semifinal clash against RUSH 18 Red of Arizona in straight sets, 25-23, 25-18.
The Tool City club fell just short of the Silver Division title, losing to the Forza1 Volleyball Club out of Temecula, Calif., in three exciting games 23-25, 25-17, 17-15.
— Tool City’s 16U team finished up pool play on Thursday with a pair of wins. The locals defeated Chicago Elite B 22-25, 25-13, 15-10 and later added a win over Ohana of Des Moines, Iowa in straight sets, 27-25, 25-14.
Those wins were sandwiched around a loss to Hawaii’s Pure Aloha, 25-20, 18-25, 20-18.
That left the local club with a record of 2-7 for pool play, which kept the squad out of the playoff rounds.
The team was coached by Adam Roche. Players included Braden Bosco, Julian Jones and Mitch McKain of Meadville; Kyle Hoffman and Greyson Jackson of Cochranton; Jaden Harper and Andy Trost of McDowell; and Jakob Dies of Cambridge Springs.
— The Tool City 17U team opened pool play on Thursday and got off to a terrific start.
The team — coached by Dean Platz and including players Mark Conrad and Paul Leech of Meadville; Jon Gallo and Alex Jackson of Cochranton; Joshua Elegeer and Owen Wiecnzkowski of Fort LeBoeuf; Logan Ingram of Saegertown and Jared Taylor of Cambridge Springs — won all three matches that it played on the day
The first was a 25-19, 27-25 sweep over SMBC of Los Angeles, Calif. The locals followed that up with a 25-21, 19-25, 15-11 win over Adversity Volleyball Club of Vernon Hills, Ill. The squad then finished off the run with a 25-17, 25-19 sweep over City Beach of Santa Clara, Calif.
The Tool City 17U’s will continue with pool play today.