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Archive for Sunday, March 24, 1996

LAWRENCE YOUTH CHASE OWN CHAMPIONSHIP

March 24, 1996

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Never mind the Jayhawks, members of the Lawrence Juniors volleyball club are competing for a shot at a national title this weekend in Denver.

Tim Carpenter

Journal-World Writer.

Denver -- A contingent of young Kansas Jayhawk fans are playing a different kind of ball in the Mile High City.

They, too, compete for the right to earn a national championship.

About 70 members of the Lawrence Juniors volleyball club are participating in the National Junior Olympic Volleyball Qualifying tournament in Denver.

A mile to the west, the KU Jayhawks basketball team will try at 1:40 p.m. today to spike the Syracuse Orangemen from the NCAA Tournament.

Winner of that match advances to the Final Four in East Rutherford, N.J.

Tracy Marsh, a former Lawrence resident who plays volleyball at Emporia State University, coaches one of the Lawrence Juniors 14 and under teams in the tournament.

"First place finishers here earn an automatic spot in the national finals in California," she said.

In all, seven Lawrence Junior teams entered the three-day tournament, which winds up today with single-elimination matches.

Two teams are in the 18 and under class, two in the 16 and under and three in the 14 and under.

Marsh said the club's 18 and under Black team has a legitimate chance at the national title. The roster includes players from Lawrence High's state championship volleyball team.

Despite spending much of the day in Colorado Convention Center -- a warehouse-sized space divided into 36 volleyball courts -- most of the young women were positioned in front of a TV for the Jayhawks victory Friday over Arizona.

They had no trouble digging the action.

"We had the whole hotel lobby filled with Lawrence area people watching the game," Marsh said.

Of course, not everyone in the group is enamored with the high-flying Jayhawks or basketball in general.

"I play it, but I don't like it," said 14 and under player Emily Hermreck of Eudora. "I just get into volleyball more."

Marsh said that's the kind of commitment to volleyball that turns the head of college recruiters.

"These tournaments are great for older players," she said. "This is where they come to find their players."

Even if there's not a scholarship offer or national championship down the road, the volleyball and basketball players in Denver take plenty away from the game.

"It's a great experience," said Alice Hards of Oneida, Kan., who has three children in the volleyball tournament.

"There's personal growth from athletic competition," she said. "Besides, these trips are fun."

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