by: contributed photo, The Nike Northwest 16-year-old Air Elite squad celebrates their championship at the elite Volleyball Festival in Reno last week.

The Nike Northwest Volleyball Club won the ages 16-and-under national title at the Volleyball Festival last week in Reno, Nev.

The No. 2-seeded Air Elite squad put together a 13-0 record to reach the finals of the double-elimination bracket before falling in a three-game thriller to top-seed City Beach from California. That forced a winner-take-all game to 25.

'We spent the first match just getting used to the big arena and all of the people, but we settled down and started doing what we do well,' Air Elite coach Michael Seemann said.

The finals were played in front of about 6,000 people on the University of Nevada-Reno campus.

The powerhouse squads were tied midway through the decisive game before Air Elite pulled away down the stretch with solid attacks from Portland Christian's Kim Hill in the middle and Gresham's Aimee Frutchey on the left side. Gresham's Kyra Speer converted the final two points to close out the 25-18 victory.

'We were tied at 11-11, then we just took off,' Air Elite coach Michael Seemann said. 'We funneled a lot of balls to one side, and were able to make our attack from a lot of different angles.'

Seemann is the Associate Head Coach at Portland State University.

Other team members include Rachel Femling, Grace Haessler, Britani Hathorn, Leanna Ludes, Claire Scott, Bethani Hathorn and Leslie Young.

The team's biggest challenge in the 216-team bracket came during the Sweet 16 when Air Elite knocked off rival Portland Volleyball Club in three sets. After splitting the first two games, Air Elite rushed to an 8-1 lead before hanging on for a two-point win to reach the quarterfinals.

'You can't get caught up on the size of the bracket or you're going to get lost on the task at hand,' Seemann said. 'Everyone was gunning for us - just closing their eyes and swinging away. But this team did a good job keeping focused on each opponent along the way.'

The Nike Northwest 18-year-old team finished third in its bracket, putting together an unbeaten record before losing in the semifinals. That team includes Gresham players Lana Zielke, Allie Eide and Kaylyn Jones.

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