Size isn't everything in volleyball. That truism was visible in the 2017 Starlings National Championship when ball control and scrappy defense proved superior to height and spiking power.
With a record-breaking 110 competing teams ranging from South Carolina to Tijuana, Mexico, there was equally a higher level of play visible among Starlings teams.
Clubs which demonstrated the defense over offense strategy included those from the Navajo reservation in Arizona. In the 16s and under division finals, Tuba City, Arizona, took down its reservation neighbor, Shonto, Arizona. In the 14s and under division, it was Shonto's turn to bring home the gold with a victory over San Gabriel.
After many years of winning medals but never a gold, a shorter crew from Cudahy, California, dominated San Gabriel from the get-go in the 18s and under finals.
In the youngest division of 12s and under, Brevard County, Florida, handled another newcomer, South Central LA, in well-played finals of the tourney's youngest girls.
The fun wasn't just on the court. At the Opening Ceremony, teams marched into the gym in costumes while the latest hip-hop tunes blasted. All-American Candice Wiggins gave a stirring speech to the 1,000 or so players while prizes were given to the girls who represented their club as a model of the "Starlings Spirit." Cash prizes were awarded to the winners of the Literary/Art Contest
and the evening ended with the usual favorite pastime: dancing on the gym floor.
Despite the unusually hot weather, once again the atmosphere of Starlings sisterhood was everywhere and many new friendships were made — with promises to return next year.
See the full list of winning teams and view photos and video from the Starlings National Championship on the Nationals page.