Canyon Crest Academy’s volleyball team over the summer traveled half a world away to play in an elite tournament in Europe. Over the weekend, the Ravens will compete in one of the most prestigious tournaments on the West Coast, and they won’t have to travel nearly as far.
This time, they’ll be hosting it. Some of the nation’s best teams and players will descend upon the area for the Oct. 14-15 Hudl Southern California Invitational.
CCA is co-hosting the 64-team tournament with Westview High School. The tournament will be split into two divisions held at three sites: CCA, Alliant International University and San Diego Volleyball Club.
The 14th annual version of the tournament is being co-hosted by CCA and Westview for fourth straight year. It started out as a small local tournament hosted by Granite Hills for nine years before Haas and Westview coach Nancy Ros expanded it into a an event that will showcase some of the most talented players on the West Coast.
CCA is among six San Diego-area teams that will compete in the tournament. Santa Fe Christian, Westview, Bishop’s, Del Norte and Francis Parker are the others.
SFC is led by Lexi Sun, the nation’s top high school player according to Haas. The 6-foot-4 senior outside hitter has committed to play collegiately at Texas.
Teams from Arizona, Nevada and Utah will be represented in the tournament.
“It’s super fun to get all these teams together that don’t normally play against other, that have never seen or even heard of each other, that are all going to play top level volleyball, and battling it out,” Haas said. “There’s no rivalry, there’s no hatred or ill feelings, it’s all about the volleyball and it’s all about ‘Am I better than you?’ It makes for a really fun environment.”
CCA will compete in the advanced Division 1 bracket, which also includes Hamilton of Chandler, Ariz., ranked No. 4 in USA Today’s Region 9 (California, Arizona, Nevada and Alaska). The Ravens made their deepest run in the tournament last season, advancing to the semifinals. They lost to eventual champion Desert Vista (Tempe, Ariz.).
“The field is brutal,” Haas said. “The caliber of teams and the quality of volleyball is so high, just making it to the top 16 will be very difficult for any of the San Diego teams, including us. We have no preconceived notions of automatically making it to the top bracket.”
The tournament features a team with one of the tallest front lines Haas said he’s ever seen on a high school team. Pleasant Grove (Utah) has one player who’s 6-foot-8, flanked by teammates who are 6-4 and 6-3 on the front line, along with three others who are 6-2 and two six-footers.
“We see kids that big, but to have a team stacked with kids like that is unusual,” Haas said.
Last year’s Desert Vista team was led by Rachael Kramer, a 6-8 middle blocker who now plays collegiately at Division I Florida.
The tournament will be held for a 14th year, and its first with Hudl, a sports software company, as its sponsor. Hudl replaces cheerleading and volleyball apparel company Infinity as the tournament’s lead sponsor. Infinity will continue its sponsorship, Haas said.
Hudl software enables users to create highlight reel video that can help streamline recruiting for coaches and help athletes showcase their skills. Haas believes the Hudl partnership will enhance the reputation of the tournament, which he said should help bring in more elite talent.
“The exposure for the tournament is obviously beneficial to help bring in more good teams in the future, and the benefit to (Hudl) is that they get their name in front of many different coaches, especially high-level coaches who would be interested in this sort of software,” Haas said.
Proceeds from the tournament will help fund uniforms among other expenditures, such as CCA’s team-bonding summer trip to Europe. The Ravens over the summer played in a three-day tournament in Slovenia on a trip that included sightseeing in Italy.
“It brings good teams to the area that we get to compete against that we wouldn’t be able to compete against, and it helps us raise money for our program that enables us to do things for our players that maybe other programs wouldn’t be able to do,” Haas said.