MARYSVILLE — Marysville-Pilchuck’s Courtney Fitzmaurice has qualified along with her select volleyball teammates from Lake Volleyball Club’s U15 Blue, to compete in the USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior National Championship Tournament from June 27 to July 5 in Dallas, Texas.
Of the more than 50 teams from across the country to compete, only two from Washington won bids this year for the U15 age division. This is the first Snohomish County team in years to achieve the honor and the first time bid for Lake Volleyball Club.
The team features players from Lake Stevens, Snohomish, Monroe, Marysville and North Shore Christian, who train from mid-November through June at Lake Stevens Volleyball Training Center on Old Hartford Road in Lake Stevens.
“This is our very first bid, so it’s a big deal in our area,” said Rachel Manske, club owner and director. “We focus on developing all 12 athletes, which is a unique way of doing things — most teams develop the top eight players and the other four are practice players.”
Each member of the U15 Blue team is a freshman and all play for their high school teams. Fitzmaurice played as a varsity setter for the Tomahawks this season.
“I’ve been watching her play since she was little,” said Manske. “She has beautiful setting hands and she is such a great teammate. She plays with a lot of heart. It doesn’t surprise me that she’s the leader that she is. She’s not the loudest on the team, but she leads by example.”
The team has been playing together and developing since they were 12 years old.
“When they are under pressure, they perform at their highest level,” said Manske, who thinks that even if they don’t win the national tournament, it will still be a great experience. “They will be growing the whole time and they will see volleyball played at a level they’ve never seen before.”
Fitzmaurice is excited about her chance to play on a national stage and credits her older sisters with getting her started in the sport she loves.
“I’ve been playing since kindergarten,” she said. “I have three older sisters who all played in high school and went on to coach. Brittany and Ashley both coach at Lake VBC. Brittany is the JV coach at M-P and Ashley is the coach at Grace Academy. My older sister Alexis coaches at a club in Arizona.”
With such successful volleyball shoes to fill, Fitzmaurice is glad that she can live up to the family name.
“I started playing select at Lake VBC in fifth grade. It was hard adjusting and realizing how much competition is out there and losing when you want to win. When we got our bid to nationals, it was like our work paid off.”
That work includes practice, practice, practice.
“We practice a lot,” she laughed. “But we also try to make sure our team bonds really well and that we are positive and never talk about ourselves, each other or other teams.”
Coach Keith Manske says it’s no surprise that the team has gotten as far as nationals.
“To be at the level they are now is a lot of work,” he said. “They are at a very high skill level and are very tenacious and ferocious. They just never give up.”
Manske gave Fitzmaurice the honor of being captain of the team.
“I made her captain because I would consider her my rock,” he said. “She never gets flustered and she’s always rock solid. On the court, people look up to her. She’s just unstoppable.”
For more information about Lake Volleyball Club visit http://LakeVBC.com.