Finishing second in the entire country was an incredible feeling for Madison Salkowski and her club volleyball teammates. Just getting to the finals may not be enough in November after Salkowski and the rest of her Notre Dame Academy teammates reconvene for high school season in their hopes for a KHSAA state championship.
Salkowski and several current Pandas were a big part of the action as several teams from the NKYVC Volleyball Club in Wilder competed in the USAV Girls National Championships in New Orleans.
The 12-1, 13-1, 14-1, 15-1, and 17-1 Tsunami teams all qualified for the National Level of competition (second highest division) by winning the Pioneer Region Bid Tournament. The 12-2 Tide competed in the American Division.
The 17-1 Tsunami team who made it all the way to the championship, losing a tough three-set match to place second out of 48 teams. They played the finals in the downtown convention center on a big arena floor.
“On the last day, we played really great teams,” Salkowski said. “Winning the semis to get to the big court, that was our dream when we walked into the convention center. Our celebration was insane, knowing we accomplished our goal.”
The 15-1 Tsunami finished in fifth place out of 48. Each of these teams had some players chosen by a committee of USAV Staff for the All Tournament Team. Recognized for their outstanding play and leadership were Morgan Hentz of Lakeside Park, Hannah Talkers of Villa Hills, and Salkowski of Cold Spring (17-1 Tsunami); and Lainey Stephenson of Park Hills (15-1 Tsunami).
Both teams are comprised of some of the best of the best in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
“It was awesome. It was a fun experience. We played really great,” Salkowski said. “We played together since January so we had a lot of chemistry. Most of the team has played together since (age) 12, so we all know what our jobs are.”
The four all-tourney players are projected varsity players for Notre Dame Academy this fall as they hope to take home an elusive KHSAA state championship, which has stayed out of Northern Kentucky for two decades. Hentz, Talkers and Salkowski are all returning senior starters, and Stephenson will be a sophomore. NDA lost in five sets to Louisville Mercy in last year’s state final.
Hentz, one of the nation’s top players in the Class of 2016, has verbally committed to perennial national title contender Stanford; while Salkowski, who started her varsity career at Bishop Brossart, will play for Division I Seton Hall. Talkers, who is uncommitted, was the setter for the Tsunami.
The Pandas won’t start practice and tryouts until later in July, and while Salkowski humbly doesn’t take for granted that she’ll make the final roster, she is excited about the Pandas’ prospects.
“It’s on all of our minds,” she said. “Knowing we were that close last year and Mercy was a really good team. I know we can improve ourselves just enough to make it. It won’t be easy at all but it will be worth it.”
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