Created:Saturday, June 30, 2012 11:45 p.m.CDT
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National title won by Fusion 16 Black

Ali Frantti and her Club Fusion teammates walked away from last year’s AAU National Volleyball Championships one victory shy of a shot at a national title.

The Fusion 15 Black team finished third in the 15 open division, but gained the realization that a future championship wasn’t too far out of reach.

“It was an eye-opener for us that we could definitely place at the top,” said Frantti, a junior at Richmond-Burton. “That was our goal this whole year.”

Ranked as the top seed out of 84 teams in the 16 open division this year in Orlando, Fla., Fusion’s 16 Black team went a perfect 13-0, winning the club’s first AAU national championship.

The team lost only five sets in 13 matches in the tournament, which concluded Wednesday.

“I think the combination of accomplishing a 13-0 record over a four-day time frame and against arguably the top talent in 16s participating in that tournament says a lot about how they played,“ Club Fusion general manager Eric Schulze said. “I thought they played extremely well.”

Fusion’s 16 Black team wasn’t the only local travel squad to return from Orlando with a championship trophy. Sky High Volleyball’s 17 Red team took first in the 17 club division, topping 176 other teams in the division with a 14-0 record.

In a rarity for national tournaments, Sky High’s 17 Red team defeated Sky High’s 17 White team, 27-29, 25-23, 15-12, in the championship match.

“From Day One when we split the teams in December, we could see that this age group was going to be extremely competitive,” Sky High executive director Scott Harris said. “The depth was incredible.”

This marks the third consecutive season Sky High has won a title at the AAU National Championships. Sky High’s current 18 black team won back-to-back championships in 2010 and 2011.

“Our teams are doing better and better,” Harris said. “We’ve medaled many teams, but we haven’t had all the championships until the last eight years.”

Several local volleyball standouts from both clubs earned All-America honors at the AAU tournament. Sky High’s Alex Larsen (Cary-Grove), Jess Bartczyszn (Cary-Grove) and Tara Blake (Marian Central) were named 17 club All-Americans, while Frantti was selected as the tournament MVP in the 16 open division.

Bartczyszn, Blake and Frantti were Northwest Herald All-Area second-team selections last year.