BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) – Bowling Green’s own BRAVO 12 Black Volleyball Team won the 50th AAU Junior National Volleyball Championship down in Orlando, Florida.
After a hard few days of games, they captured the title after beating the Tribe 12 Elite Navy Team from Florida, 26-24 off of a service ace. The tournament consisted of 93 total teams from all over the country, making it the world’s largest volleyball tournament.
“It was exciting, knowing that we had won something that we had been looking forward to all year,” Jaelyn Page said. “And seeing the joy on my teammates faces brought me excitement.”
The team is made up of nine girls: Darby Campbell, Kenna Gilbert, Piper Gregory, Ainsley Huffman, Lorelei Kirby, Evie Ramey, Jaelyn Page, Ali Troutman, and Raeleigh Vickery.
“I just knew we could win it and you have to believe in yourself to know that you can do it,” 11-year old Piper Gregory said. “And if you don’t then that’s like…you might not win it if you don’t believe in yourself.”
A typical season consists of around 50 games but for these girls, they finished the overall season with a 77-7 record.
“It’s really cool because a lot of times the bigger clubs are more known and a lot of people don’t know what BRAVO is, so I like to be able to put BRAVO out there,” Lorelei Kirby said.
Having to play and win 12 games in four days and over 80 total games during the season, it can be hard to keep 11 and 12 year old’s focused. But coaches Eliza Huffman and Andi Troutman knew they had a team mature beyond their years.
“When they got together, they wanted to be playing volleyball. It didn’t matter if it was in the gym, or in a backyard, or in a pool, it didn’t matter. These girls love volleyball so that was always the center of our time together,” coach Eliza Huffman said. “We had this big goal in mind so to keep 11 and 12 year old’s mentally tough during the season is always a challenge but these girls are truly some of the toughest kids I know.”
For some kids they eat, drink, and sleep volleyball, but they learn how to deal with everything on their plate and make the best of it.
“It is a lot to handle but you got to prioritize what you’re doing first, like your homework, I always do it before practice because by the time I get home I’m tired and ready to go to bed and so you just got to prioritize and organize and you’ll be fine,” Darby Campbell said.
This team, for the most part, has been together and coached by Huffman for at least three years, so they’ve learned and grown from each other, but not only do the girls develop into better volleyball players but also into better people.
“I’ve learned more skills but I’ve also learned how to like communicate with people more and become like a better person myself,” Raeleigh Vickery said.
“I’ve probably learned the most just how to work with our team and how to be a good player (and person) to our teammates and it really helps you become a better person,” Evie Ramey said.
It takes a village to be able to have a healthy environment around a young team, so it’s not just the coaches who attribute to that, but the parents as well. Whether it was forgetting a knee pad, needing help with homework, or needing help with their hair, there was always somebody there to help.
“We couldn’t have done it without the outstanding parent group we have, this team, truly goes beyond the gym,” Huffman said. “This team through and through, parents, coaches, kids, are what dreams are made of and what national championships are made of.”
The season may be over now, but in a few months it’s back to business and they have one goal in mind.
“I think that these girls want to go back and do it again. So that’s their goal for sure,” Coach Huffman said. “I think that if they continue to work hard and they train hard, that’s an opportunity that they can take.”
If there’s one thing they take away, besides being national champions of course, it’s the family and memories that they have made within each other that will last forever. BRAVO will have tryouts again in October before the start the process all over again and to try and repeat as national champions.
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