That’s what Hattie Monson provides SPVB 16 Elite.
“It's a lot like having a tiger in your yard,” said SPVB 16 Elite coach Erik Vogt. “You can get to the house, but you're going to have to get through the tiger to get there. That’s how she plays defense. She's all over the place.”
The 5-foot-4 libero, who verbally committed to Notre Dame as a freshman, dazzled onlookers last weekend at the JVA World Challenge in Louisville, Kentucky, leading Sports Performance’s top 16s team to the 16 Open title.
“Hattie had a phenomenal weekend last week at the JVA World Challenge,” Vogt said. “A lot of times she’d be one-on-one with a blocker and have no advantage. Hattie somehow got a touch on the ball.”
Monson and SPVB 16 Elite turned back three national heavyweights in succession on the third and final day of the tournament – PNK 16 (25-15, 25-20), Munciana 16 Ninjas (18-25, 25-20, 15-11) and Asics KIVA 16 Red (25-20, 25-19) – to claim the World Challenge crown.
“We played well the first two days, but we knew we had to step up our game and take it to another level on Day Three,” Monson said. “We played as a team and poured our hearts out there.”
In the title match against KIVA 16 Red, Monson & Co. shut down Louisville recruit Anna DeBeer, who led Assumption (Louisville, Kentucky) to its 20th state championship in November.
“We knew (DeBeer) was going to get the ball every time and that we’d have to stop her,” Monson said.
There is no secret to Monson’s ascent as an elite defender. Benet coach Brad Baker said only one player has spent as much time in the gym perfecting her craft as Monson: Wisconsin libero and 2017 U.S. Junior National team member Tiffany Clark.
“Hattie spends an inordinate time in the gym,” Baker said. “Sports Performance is open all the time, so she comes in and it’s 10:30 at night and you’re closing down the place and that’s her spring break.
“She's been doing that for a really long time,” Baker added. “So it’s not a coincidence. You spend the time, put in the work and you're going to be good.”
The daughter of a volleyball coach, Monson is also one of the most coachable kids around.
“Some kids want coaching, you can coach them hard,” Baker said. “Hattie is a kid that wants coaching, that wants to be coached. You take that where you listen and you put in the time and you’re going to get good.”
But Monson isn’t satisfied with merely being good. There is always something to work on, some aspect of her game to improve.
“I want to improve my defense, reading the hitters, reading the block, setting my offense and defense,” she said.
“I just changed my serve from a four-step to a two-step,” Monson added. “This (Sunday at the Great Lakes Power League 16 Super Open) is my first day doing it. I'm farther back, so it takes longer to get there and it floats more. It’s harder to pass.”
Monson is always looking for an edge. That’s one of the reasons she chose Notre Dame.
“The coaches are so awesome, I love the players that are there and the family atmosphere,” she said. “And the education is obviously the best.”
Meanwhile, Monson will have to be satisfied with schooling opposing hitters.
Minus the growl.
Michio Chicago 16 National went 1-2 at Sunday’s edition of the Great Lakes Power League 16 Super Open, but the south siders are playing inspired, team-oriented volleyball as they approach their final chance to qualify for the USAV Junior Nationals in Detroit. Michigan.
Michio Chicago 16 National will put it all on the line when they head north to the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for the Northern Lights Qualifier on April 27-29.
“We have definitely stepped up our game,” said Michio setter Amy Schwem. “We’re playing as a team every single time. We’re playing for each other and not for ourselves. We’re coming into practice and busting our butts together, not as individuals.
“I think that's definitely one of the biggest obstacles to overcome … learning how to gel better together,” she added.
The Northern Lights Qualifier perennially features a field laden with battle-tested opponents – some familiar, others not.
“There'll be a lot of teams that are qualified up there ... some that we beat, some that we haven’t,” Schwem said. “But I think it doesn't really matter to us. Every match is a new game and we must be ready to give everything we have for each other and for club.
“We have to bust our butts and leave it all out on the floor,” she added.
A busted butt was not the problem for Lions 15-1 at last weekend’s 2018 Asics Show Me Qualifier in Kansas City, Missouri, where the Western Springs crew dropped its final three matches, all against teams from Southern California.
Middle hitter Gigi Barr’s dislocated patellar tendon was.
“We had a lot of players out of position,” Lions 15-1 setter Rachel Muisenga said. “The teams from California that we played ran really quick offenses and we weren’t responding like we should have. Our block was late. We struggled, and then it all kind of fell apart.”
Despite the injury, Barr expects to be back in a couple of weeks.
“It’s a bummer now, but she says she’ll be back May 1,” Muisenga said.
Lions 15-1 defeated Illini Elite 16 Cardinal 25-13, 25-17 and SPVB 15 C-Fed 25-22, 25-13 before running into SPVB 16 Elite in the Bracket A finals Sunday at the Great Lakes Power League 16 Super Open.
“I think we just really need to focus on our team defense and playing as a team,” Muisenga said. “A lot of times, we get down on ourselves. But when we play great defense, we’re an awesome team and it’s hard to beat us.”
For Great Lakes Power League 16 Super Open standings, go to "Tourney Results."
For more results from Sunday’s Great Lakes Power League 16 Super Open, go to www.advancedeventsystems.com/EventResults/(S(3urgdf55v5zl3z45nksedo55))/Standings.aspx?e=PTAwMDAwMTM3MDM90&d=60257.