The EliteVBTC Story

Lauren Sampson: College Connections

Lauren Sampson, an Elite Alumni, just finished her Freshman season at Gannon University. She came back home for Christmas Break with some recommendations and insight for our younger players looking to compete at the next level.

Gannon University is a Division II School located in Pennsylvania. Lauren was able to make a significant impact for the team as a Freshman. The team finished with a 31-3 record with a trip to the PSAC Championship game and the NCAA Tournament. She was named Freshman of the Year for the PSAC Conference along with a First Team selection. Sampson earned a spot on the 2018 NCAA Atlantic Region All-Tournament Team and won PSAC Northwest Volleyball Athlete of the Week on three separate occasions. She finished her season with the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) naming her to the 2018 DII All-American Honorable Mention team.

At Elite Volleyball Training Center, we strive to continue to help the next generation of athletes prepare for what lies ahead. We asked our returning Alumni a series of questions regarding their Freshman year experience. Here is what Lauren has to say about her first season at Gannon University:

Were you ever home sick and felt like you were all alone?

  • For the first few days I felt homesick, but I got over it quickly.

What did Elite help you prepare for?

  • I was ready to play at a high level. I was ready to compete for a spot on the court along with compete for the win. Everyone at Elite pushed me to become better, and I was well prepared when I got to school.

What did you take for granted while in the gym at Elite?

  • I took the resources I had available outside of practices for granted. This included lessons, conditioning, and weight room training.

What is your recommendation to our younger players that have dreams of becoming a collegiate volleyball player?

  • Work hard all the time. Get as many extra reps as you can on the court or in the weight room.


“Elite has helped me prepare for the intensity and high level of college volleyball”

Lauren Sampson
Elite 2018 Alumni
Gannon University

Nikki Van Cleave and Dan Reilly Join EliteVBTC Full-time

We are excited to announce Nikki Van Cleave as our new Recruiting Coordinator for Elite Volleyball Training Center. In addition to her recruiting responsibilities, Nikki will be teaming up with Jackie Cline to enhance our Setter Training, coaching clinics and lessons, and stepping into the role of Heach Coach for the 17 Blue team.

Prior to joining EliteVBTC, Nikki was the assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at The Ohio State University Women’s Volleyball program. The Buckeyes advanced to the NCAA Tournament and Sweet Sixteen in both her years with the program. She coached three All-Americans and four All-Big Ten players. She was named an AVCA Thirty Under Thirty Award Recipient in 2017. While at Ohio State she recruited the #16 and #13 ranked recruiting class according to

Van Cleave also has coaching experience as the assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She assisted the program to the Horizon League regular season championship, tournament championship, and NCAA appearance in 2013.

As a player for Marquette University, Nikki was named two-time All-Big East setter, and honorable mention All-American in 2010 following a 12.10 assists per set average which ranked fourth nationally.

Following her collegiate career, Van Cleave competed overseas in Germany for a season following her senior campaign.

Her addition to Elite Volleyball Training Center will streamline the recruiting process for the athletes and their families. She has extensive knowledge in the field of recruiting, not to mention her long list of contacts in the collegiate volleyball world. All recruiting fees are included in your club tuitions. Please reach out to Nikki at to set up anything from a meeting about the recruiting process to a mock phone call with a head coach.



Dan Reilly has been working with Elite Volleyball Training Center for the past few months as a part-time coach. We are excited to announce he will continue with Elite as a key staff member in club training and lesson training. He has been named head coach to the 16 Blue team at EliteVBTC.

Reilly is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He recently finished working with The Ohio State Women’s Volleyball program as a video coordinator. At Ohio State, Reilly helped with scouting of opponents and used video to provide technical and strategic feedback to coaches.

Prior to his time at Ohio State, Dan lived in Charleston, West Virginia, assisting with the Men’s and Women’s Volleyball teams at the University of Charleston, and in Wilmington, North Carolina coaching club volleyball.

At the University of Charleston, Reilly assisted in aspects of the offense and blocking schemes, helping lead the Women’s Volleyball team to a 42-29 overall record and second place in the Mountain East Conference both years. During these seasons, Reilly was an integral part of coaching three First Team All-MEC Players, as well as helping drive the team to two AVCA Team Academic Awards.

Reilly also coached the University of Charleston Men’s Volleyball team in the spring of 2018, Dan helped lead the Men’s team to a 16-10 overall record, with a 5-9 record in the EIVA, both program records. During his time with the men’s team, Dan was tasked with analyzing video and preparing scouting reports, as well as assisting with offensive and defensive schemes for the Golden Eagles.

Reilly attended Penn State Altoona for four years where he played Division III Men’s Volleyball for the Lions.  A switch of majors added a 5th year at Penn State Main Campus in University Park, PA. During his final semester, Dan worked with the Penn State Men’s Volleyball team as an assistant manager, and finished with a degree in Kinesiology.

Reilly’s educational background includes a Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology from Penn State and a Master’s Degree in Strategic Leadership from the University of Charleston in 2017. He currently resides in Columbus, Ohio.


For the Love of the Game

A stranger comes to your door. He hands you and your family $200,000 cash. He says this is for your daughter to help her get her life started right. He also suggests that she meet some of his connections. These connections are very successful business owners, corporate leaders, or experts in their field. He explains these connections are part of his tight knit family group. This group of people want to help her become a successful person in this world in any field of work she finds interesting. He finishes his conversation explaining that the only thing your daughter needs to do to receive all this money and special treatment is…play a game for four years.

He approaches you and explains that he notices your daughter is exactly like a group of people he knows. They would get along perfectly. He explains that this group of people spend 20 – 30 hours a week doing the same game. Even when they are not doing this game they spend all their time talking about it. Sometimes they even like to dress up wearing gear that represents this game. He can guarantee that in four years your daughter will make some of the best friends of her life.

She will be able to travel the country for this game. He would provide private jets that would take her and her group to play this game against other girls from other states. Since they are traveling so much, he said she needs to represent the group. He will give her 2 pair of game shoes, 2 t-shirts, shorts, pants, a winter coat, gloves, a hat, special shoes to wear on the plane, and even shower sandals. He promises to give her all new gear every year, and he explains he will even wash her clothes for her. All she needs to do is play a game for four years.

In addition to the $200,000 cash and the gear, he promises to give her a monthly check to cover her rent and food. This amount is the same every month even if there are times of the year that she does not need to play the game as often. He promises that there will be plenty of time for her to take classes in any field that interests her. She can become whatever she wants to be when she grows up.

He does explain that he needs her help to show others how awesome this game is. He says that there will be times that she will have to take some of these new players to football games. It won’t be that bad because he promises to get her seats really close to the field. There may even be days that she can go on the field and watch the action up close and personal.

Lastly, he promises that there will be several younger participants that will look up to her. They will ask her for her autograph and tell their parents that she is who they want to be like when they get older. She has the potential to be in the newspaper, or even on television. She may even become a household name.

You daughter gets all the above if…..she plays the board game Twister for four years.

I know, you were assuming that all this was for a volleyball scholarship. If your daughter received all the above for a simple board game of Twister, you would be eternally grateful to the organization that so generously provided for your daughter and your family. That is how we must feel regarding volleyball scholarships. Your daughter has an opportunity to go to college for FREE….plus much more.

The love of the game must come first. If the end goal is to get a scholarship, then your daughter will stop being excited about the process when she commits to play collegiate volleyball. She needs to love the game through the good times and the bad. She should not feel as if she is entitled to anything. My sophomore year of college, I called my father crying. I was not getting the amount of playing time I thought I deserved. He interrupted me and said, “Jackie, just go to practice and play volleyball because you love volleyball.” He was right; I loved volleyball. After that, I played my heart out, not for playing time, but because it was the game I loved to play. The game does not owe you or your daughter anything. However, the game can provide everything if she shows her passion for her teammates, the love of the game, and the willingness to continue to learn and grow.

My dad kept the ball that started it all. When it was new we used it to pepper in the backyard when I was a kid. This ball is now tattered and torn, flat and unuseable, and my dad handed it to me the day I got in the car to drive to The Ohio State University to play for their volleyball program. It sat on my shelf in my dorm, apartment, and now in my office. It represents my volleyball life. I hope your daughter loves the game so much that she ruins a few balls in her career too.


Game Changer

If you are ever at a convention center volleyball tournament, take a moment to walk over to the 10 and Under – 12 and Under courts. As you mosey into this area, you will feel as if you are getting taller, but the nets are actually getting shorter. The ball is different also. Pick one up, and you will see it is lighter. Coaching styles and athlete body types are much different too. I am telling you, the 10U – 12U game is completely different from the game played by 13’s – 18’s.  The 13’s age group is a game changer for a lot of athletes.

At the age of 13, a volleyball player essentially becomes an adult volleyball player. She will be asked to play on a women’s regulation height net at 7 feet, 4 1/8 inches (compared to an 11/12-year-old net height of 7 feet, and 10-year-old net height of 6 feet 6 inches). To most athletes this is the difference of getting their hands over the height of the net at 12’s to barely getting their finger tips over the net at 13’s. The ball also changes from a “light,” volleyball (7-8 oz.) to a normal volleyball (9-10 oz.). To the average person a change of one ounce seems like nothing, but to a young girl still developing muscles and growing it can feel like 5 extra pounds.

Athletes ages 10 – 12, come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are short and round, others are tall and thin, and some are so tiny even the smallest size spandex look like basketball shorts on them. The most successful volleyball players ages 10-12 are the stronger, thicker girls. They are the ones with the best serve. They go back to the service line and serve a line drive ball that the other team has no hope of returning. The tiny volleyball players go back to the service line and try with all their might to get the ball over, just to have the ball barely clear the 10-foot line on their own side. Even if they do serve the ball over, it is usually in the form of an underhand serve. Underhand serves are the easiest to receive. Any good team is going to convert this serve into a hard-driven attack and a point.

When these volleyball players transition into 13’s, the strengths are almost reversed. Serving becomes less important. It is no longer the number one scorer but becomes just a way to enter the ball into the game. Most 13’s are able to get the majority of their serves over the net consistently. The girls who are taller and faster now have the advantage. Shorter and slower athletes now struggle to keep up with the speed of the game.

The skills that a 13-year-old athlete are expected to perform or at least be willing to try are:

  • Overhand Serve: Almost every 13-year-old is overhand serving. Most are using a Jump Float or Jump Top Spin Serve. The goal is to serve a tough enough ball that the other team cannot pass it to their setter at the net.
  • Full Approach Jump and Attack: She must be able to transition off the net and expect to get set the ball. Once she is set, she must be able to approach, jump and score.
  • Block: She will not need to be an expert blocker. However, she should be showing desire to stop the other team’s attacker by blocking.
  • Use Three Contacts: Passing the ball over the net in one contact or sending a ball over by passing/setting (also known as a freeball) is no longer acceptable. The only way to beat the other team is to start passing, setting, and hitting the ball hard.
  • Running Plays: Most 13-year-old teams will start running plays off of serve receive or freeballs. The idea is to confuse the other team, so they are not ready for the attack. Here’s an example of one of our Elite Volleyball Training Center teams running a front one and a back one play off of serve receive.
  • Dig a hard-driven attack: She must be able to dig a hard-driven attack up in the air. This ball should not go over the net but should be directed toward the 10-foot line on her own side.
  • Be a good teammate: She must be able to cheer on her teammates, even if she’s on the bench. Most 13’s and older volleyball players are only playing 3 of the 6 rotations. Usually they are either playing front row or back row.
  • Tell someone what to do: Feedback is crucial in the game of volleyball. She should be able to look at her setter, when she receives a bad set, and say, “I need it higher.” This should be done without fear of hurting her setter’s feelings. The team is working toward a common goal of winning. If she needs a better set to score, she needs to speak up.
  • Take criticism: On the other side, she needs to be able to take this feedback. If she’s not passing a good ball to the setter, she may be replaced by someone from the bench who can. She needs to maintain a positive attitude and be willing to hear her faults, so she can correct these mistakes.

Just because a volleyball player was good/great when she played on a 12 and Under team, does not mean she will be good/great at 13’s. There are 5-6 months between the end of the season to the start of the next. That is a lot of time for athletes’ bodies to grow taller, thinner, or faster. Make sure your athlete is working on the things listed above in the off-season. The key is to be an athlete first, and a volleyball player second. A coach can teach anyone to play volleyball if they are jumping higher than everyone in the gym. A coach cannot make you faster or jump higher if you are not willing to put in the time to get there. Our staff at Elite Volleyball Training Center works with athletes transitioning from the Junior’s game to the adult game every day. We would love the opportunity to work with your daughter in a lesson or clinic to help her reach her goals.

EliteVBTC Continues to Grow

Elite Volleyball Training Center is proud to announce that we will be reinstating our satellite club, Elite Juniors. Elite Juniors will be home to regional teams in the 11-14’s age groups.

Tryouts will be at Elite Volleyball Training Center, but practices will be held at the Ball House in Plain City, OH. The program director of Elite Juniors will be Sandra Borer. She is our current 14 Black Coach and 13-14 tier coach. Borer played collegiate volleyball for Eastern Michigan University. She has 17 years coaching experience. Borer currently sits on the board for the Ohio Valley Region, the governing body of the Ohio area volleyball programs under the direction of USA Volleyball.

I’m so excited to be part of the expanding volleyball community here in Columbus and the surrounding areas,” said Sandra Borer. “I could not be happier to have this opportunity with my Elite family and the supporting staff that has made this all possible. In the 2017-18 season alone, over 1,600 Juniors registered for a tryout membership and never upgraded to a full, active OVR membership. This means 1,600 athletes either did not make a club team, or chose to go a different direction. With the expansion of Elite Juniors, we will be giving more Junior players the chance to learn the game of volleyball and become leaders both on and off the court.”

Elite Volleyball Training Center strives to encourage and prepare young people to reach their highest potential in athletics and in life. Our professional coaching staff provide age-appropriate training in a fun, safe and competitive environment.

Our philosophy is to prepare our athletes to compete at the club, high school, collegiate, and international level. We do this by teaching the most successful and proven techniques in the game today. Elite’s coaching staff represents experience at all levels, including collegiate and professional playing experience, club coaching experience, and collegiate coaching experience. Traditionally, the athletes within our program exemplify the utmost character, respect, and competitive spirit on and off the court.

The goal of the Elite Juniors Volleyball Club is to provide an organized program with great coaches. We are looking for athletes in the Central Ohio area who would like to continue to grow in the game of volleyball. Elite Juniors will still be a part of the Elite Volleyball Training Center family. We strive to make each athlete from the national level to the regional level feel like they have a home at Elite Volleyball Training Center.

Tryout information for Elite Junior and Elite Volleyball Training Center will be posted at on September 1, 2018. You can reach the Elite Volleyball Training Center staff by email,, or by phone, 614-504-5363, if you have any questions.

Are You Starting?

Picture this…the volleyball team is huddled before the start of the set. The coach comes into the huddle and says, “Here’s the line-up…” As she reads off the names of the athletes starting the set, the huddle is filled with silent fist pumps from the starters, and groans of disappointment from the non-starters. What if I told you that there is… NO… starting line-up in volleyball.

ESPN sports analysts and parents who love basketball have tainted the mindset of our youth volleyball players. In basketball the best players are always the first five to be on the court. This is not the case in volleyball. There are many outside factors that a coach needs to consider when deciding the starting line-up. The good thing is they have several tricks up their sleeves when it comes to who plays where on the court.

Things to consider:

  • Did we win serve or receive on the coin toss?
    • Younger teams typically what to win the serve, in the coin toss, so their best most consistent server can serve first. With serving being a strength and passing being a weakness, a coach for a younger team is hoping to get a run of points early in the game so the other team cannot catch up. Older more advanced teams typically want to choose the chance to receive the ball first. In rally scoring the receiving team is more likely to score than the serving team. This gives your team the best chance to score the first point. Then the coach may have his best server in right front so that she can rotate back and serve first.
  • Who is the other team’s best hitter, best blocker, and weakest blocker?
    • Coaches want to match up their best blocker with the other team’s best hitter. They are also trying to match up their strongest hitter against the other team’s smallest blocker. Usually this requires a coach to watch previous matches or game film on a team to see what the tendencies are of the other coach’s starting line-up.
  • Coaches must spread out their strongest players.
    • See the image below for a better reference. Typically, a coach wants to have his best setter sandwiched between the best outside hitter and the best middle hitter. In the diagram below you can see that the setter is starting right back, the O1 (strongest outside hitter) is in the right front, and M1 (strongest middle hitter) is in middle back. The opposite, or OPP, is usually a very strong hitter also.
    • So, if your best middle is starting middle back and the libero typically comes in for the middles in the backrow, that means the best middle is on the bench at the beginning of the set.

  • Who do the setters connect with the best, and who is the best passer?
    • A two-setter offense, such as a 6-2 or 4-2, may mean that one setter connects with a certain middle better than the other. The coach may set up the line-up to allow that setter and middle to be in the front row together more often. This throws out the strategy listed above of a M1, or O1.
    • A coach never wants to get stuck with multiple weak passers passing against a strong server. A coach may rotate the players, in the starting line-up, to avoid a situation where the weakest passer is passing against the best jump server in the gym.
  • Which line-up won the last set?
    • Sometimes you can have your worst players on the floor, but for some reason they are winning. Volleyball is a momentum-based sport. The athletes on the floor may be carrying the team because they are pumped up, supporting one another, and creating a positive playing environment. A coach probably won’t change the line-up for the next set because the current line-up is winning. Usually the statistically analysis of the game will show who the best players are, but stats cannot show you who carries the team’s momentum.

As you can see, there are many factors that help a coach determine who plays when and where. Make sure you son or daughter knows that groans of disappointment are not appropriate when the coach reads the starting line-up for a set. Each athlete should move into their current role and give 100%. If he or she is on the bench, that bench better be the loudest most supportive bench. If her teammate stuff blocks the other team’s best hitter, she should be jumping up and down in excitement for her teammate. The moral of the story is… don’t waste your energy trying to know what is going on in the coach’s brain. Roll with his or her strategy and win every time you touch the ball.