Created:Wednesday, July 4, 2012 11:57 p.m.CDT
Updated:Thursday, July 5, 2012 12:03 a.m.CDT
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Sky High 18 Black 2nd at Junior Nationals

Sky High 18 Black players celebrate a victory last week during the USA Volleyball Junior Nationals in Columbus, Ohio. The Crystal Lake-based club team finished second in the 18 open division. (Photo provided by Julie Anderson)

Sky High Volleyball’s 18 Black team was considered the most successful squad in club history coming into the summer.

The group of recently graduated seniors was the only team to garner two national championships with Sky High, winning back-to-back AAU titles in 2010 and 2011.

They added to that legacy at last week’s USA Volleyball Junior Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, finishing their club careers with a second-place finish in the 18 open division of their last tournament as a team.

“This is the dream team so far,” said Sky High executive director and head coach Scott Harris, who has run the club program for 23 years. “It’s just incredible. It’s a talented group … a very physical group and very athletic.”

Sky High compiled a 5-2 record in pool play, but its biggest win of the tournament came in the semifinals against Vision Gold 18-1. Harris said Vision Gold 18-1, a club team from the Bay Area in California, was undefeated this year, held the No. 1 seed in the tournament and featured two outside hitters who will play at Stanford and Duke next season.

Sky High prevailed, 25-23, 19-25, 15-12, in the semifinal, before losing to Tampa Bay 18 Black in the championship match.

“We decided we had to go out and leave everything on the court,” said Melanie Jereb, who recently graduated from Cary-Grove and will attend Creighton this fall. “We are family with each other at this point. We spend so much time together in the gym and outside of the gym. We wanted to make each other proud.”

Jereb, Abby Gilleland (Marian Central) and Mary Streidl were named All-Americans at the tournament. Other local players on the 18 Black team were Cary-Grove’s Ashley Rosch, Huntley’s Sam Boesch and Amy Dion and Crystal Lake Central’s Amelia Anderson.

Many of the 18 Black players have played together for Sky High since middle school. They’ve added a couple of players in the past three years, including Jereb, and quickly developed into one of the nation’s best. All 10 players on the roster will compete next year in college.

“Playing on this team for each of us made us stronger people, players and women just because we put ourselves into all these pressure situations,” Jereb said. “It was one of my greatest experiences being on this team with each other.”