Great Lakes-Quicksilver 17 team is (back row, left to right)
Head Coach Jayme Plummer, Rachel Switalski, Nicole Niemi, Allison
Palmer, Assistant Coach Jeff Harrah; (front row, left to right)
Amanda Balasko, Ari Prinzbach, Melanie Smith, Katie Dilger,
Amanda Sawicki, Rachel Gulasey and Monica Daar. (Photo courtesy
of Mike Balasko)
Lakes-Quicksilver squad takes third in Dallas
By Jim Horvath
Published July 16, 2008
one ever doubted the power of teamwork, the Great Lakes-Quicksilver
17 volleyball team would be quick to put that doubt to rest.
The Junior Olympic volleyball club, based in Westlake,
finished third out of 48 teams in the American Division of the USA
Volleyball National Championships in Dallas, Texas earlier this
The team included players from throughout the Cleveland
area and included a pair of seniors from the Westshore. Amanda Balasko
of North Olmsted High School was an outside hitter for the team,
while Magnificat’s Rachel Gulasey was the team’s setter and ran
the team’s 5-1 offense.
Leading the team was head coach Jayme Plummer, the
program’s co-director and an assistant coach at Cleveland State
University. Plummer was quick to point out how teamwork made all
the difference for his undersized squad, which had no player over
“It was never about one girl. It was always about
the team,” said Plummer last weekend. “That’s how this team was
able to get as far as it did.”
The team qualified for nationals, then shook off a
slow start to win their pool and finish 8-3. Great Lakes-Quicksilver
then defeated Wisconsin Select 22-25, 25-22, 16-14 in the quarterfinals
before taking on the Woodlands Stars, a team out of Dallas. The
Stars prevailed in a hard-fought match 25-22, 25-23 and went on
to win the tournament with an easy 25-15, 25-20 win over IPVA.
“After seeing what the Dallas team did in the finals,
our girls felt like their match with them should have been the championship
match,” said Plummer. “We told them they couldn’t look at it that
way, that they had their chance.
“We came up a little short, but I think once the girls
realized what they had accomplished they felt better about it. This
was a pretty big accomplishment for them because they had never
gone this far,” he said.
But through it all, Plummer said it was all about
the team’s attitude.
“From the beginning, our goal was to reach nationals,”
said Plummer. “But we really didn’t have any one player who you
would consider a super star. There’s nobody on our roster who you
would say ‘wow, she’s a Division I player all the way.’
“We had a group of girls who were solid players, who
were all about the team. If one of them was having a bad day, the
others would step it up and elevate their game. They had a great
work ethic and were very competitive, and that really helped us
when we faced some of the bigger teams down in Dallas,” he said.
Great Lakes-Quicksilver, according to Plummer, was
one of the smallest teams in the American Division. In a game where
height counts in a big way, the smaller Westlake squad made up for
its lack of it with tenacious defense.
“We had no girls above 6-0, so we had to out-hustle,
out-work and out-defense the bigger teams we faced,” said Plummer.
“The girls went into Dallas excited to play, but we got off to a
slow start and had to regroup. We weren’t doing the things we needed
to do at that point.
“The girls turned things around mentally, and they
focused on one point at a time. The next team we faced, you could
just tell their coaches felt they were going to just walk onto the
court and win. They were a lot bigger than us, and they thought
they had it, that they easily had us beat.
“Well, we won the match. After that, we played well
the rest of the way,” he said.
Balasko was the team captain and was one of the team’s
vocal leaders, according to Plummer. “She always stayed positive,
no matter what the situation, and always communicated well with
Gulasey, said Plummer, led by example. “She led us
by how she played. She’s by far one of the most competitive players
I’ve ever coached. Whenever a point was scored on her, she took
Gulasey caught the eyes of others besides her coach.
She was named to the all-tournament team, along with teammate Amanda
Sawicki of Mentor, one of the team’s outside hitters. Balasko, just
missed making the squad, as did Lakewood’s Nicole Niemi, who played
the right side.
“It really was a team effort,” said Plummer. “It was
never like one girl carried us. We played so well down there. We
were clicking on all cylinders, so I think it was a great experience