With a whirlwind of talent, it is fitting the Texas Tornados Volleyball Club in Houston has the name that it does.
Nine names come to mind when Tornados recruiting director and camp director Briggite Slack thinks about who brings out the best in the program. This cadre of players includes college commits, USA Volleyball Junior Nationals qualifiers, familiar stalwarts and even an up-and-coming rookie.
18 Adidas – Ielan Bradley & Alexis Vaughn
Ielan Bradley is essentially one of the Tornados’ elder stateswomen. A four-year member of the club, the Stephen F. Austin State University commit has improved each year, according to Slack.
“She is a tremendous athlete who has a presence out of the middle when she steps on the court,” Slack said. “Very coachable and will do whatever is asked of her for the team.”
The Tornados count on Bradley to keep the scoreboard moving.
“When her serve is on, she is easily able to run off anywhere from 4-6 points, with most of them being aces,” Slack said. “She has a vertical that makes her so fun to watch, as she gets up and over most of the other middles we’ll see during season.”
Bradley’s ability to get a kill “especially … inside the 10-ft. line” is a crowd pleaser.
Committed to Abilene Christian University, Alexis Vaughn proves to be a consistent athlete for the Tornados. Slack said that Vaughn is able “to step on the court and perform, bring the same level of competitiveness, and balance that with fun.
“She is quick in the backrow, allowing her to get to several balls that might be difficult for others,” Slack said. “She has a quick arm as well, so she is always an option while she is in the backrow for an aggressive and well placed attack. Her energy is fun to watch spread to the team and she will be the first to help pick a teammate up.”
17 Adidas – Alyssa May, Ava Martinolli & Casey Sessions
If the Tornados had a “Big Three,” Alyssa May, Ava Martinolli and Casey Sessions would likely be the closest thing.
May is in her second year of playing club volleyball, which is a rarity at the 17s level. Slack touted her as “a tremendous athlete that plays and competes at such a high level as an attacker or a setter.
“She is a great teammate and one who takes accountability for an error, and then gets right back down to business,” Slack said. “She plays at a collegiate level in her drive to want to win. She has been an impact player for her team from the moment she started with us!”
Though May is “a little undersized” as an attacker, Slack stated that “her vertical makes up for any difference there might be.
“She can jump out of the gym!” she said, adding that May is “a team player through and through” who is “very coachable” and “fun to watch.”
Martinolli is one of the Tornados’ “spark plugs” whose competitive nature, Slack explained, is evident “when her team gets a big point.”
Two years ago, she helped the 15s squad qualify for Nationals and has a return trip in her sights. Like May, she is an untraditional attacker in terms of size but possesses a vertical that “puts her right up there in order to compete at the net.”
“She is a hard, hard worker and is always working to improve her game whether it be passing, or attacking from the OH or middle,” Slack said. “She is the type of player that you want on your side of the net! Her energy is contagious and her work ethic is second to none.”
Sessions is the new kid on the block. According to Slack, her strengths “are passing and attacking from the [outside hitter position].”
“Consistency in those two skills are huge for any team,” Slack said.
She is confident that the “calm and collected” Sessions “will be able to help maintain the baseline for the team.”
“She has a lot of shots and we’re excited to see her use of them once season starts!” Slack said.
16 Adidas – Lexi Glynn & Kaia Halfmann
Lexi Glynn, the Tornados’ other spark plug, just made her first top team after two years on the second squad. Slack praised Glynn for being “an extremely hard worker,” as well as making the commitment to earn and protect her spot.
Glynn’s backrow leadership and defensive prowess ensured that her team left Spokane, Wash. with the American Division Gold Ball and a Nationals bid.
Glynn does not hesitate to be vocal, whether it is loudly cheering on her teammates or giving directions on the court.
“She is so fun to watch with how excited she gets for her teammates and she is also so focused on doing her job well,” Slack said.
Halfmann is a second-year setter for the Tornados. Her play “has forced those around her to continue to improve their game as well,” according to Slack.
“She did a great job this past season leading her team to qualify for nationals by winning the American Division at Spokane,” she said. “They fought hard in the USA Division at LSC and almost came away with a USA bid.”
Slack added that Halfmann is a quiet player, yet “she can celebrate with the best of them.”
The upcoming season presents an opportunity for Halfmann to develop more of an offensive game, to which Slack said she will do well.
15 Adidas – Lauren McIntyre & Kirby Kliafas
There is no doubt that a bright future awaits the program given what Lauren McIntyre and Kirby Kliafas bring to the fold.
Slack marveled at how McIntyre fought her way back to the club’s top team after holding a similar spot with the 13s team. Versatility is the latter’s calling card since she “can play multiple positions at a high level.”
“She is competitive, a leader and will play the role she is asked to in order to help the team,” Slack said. “Last season she set and hit for us, so she could always be on the court and help lead those around her. She is a fun player to watch and has a great energy with her teammates and is smiling most of the time while playing!”
McIntyre helped her team to a second place finish in Spokane in the American Division, just missing a bid to Nationals.
Kliafas is hailed by Slack as a go-to player, a role she took on the past two seasons. She could hit from either pin.
“She is extremely competitive and holds the team to that level as well,” Slack said.