River Cities Thunder 18s have championship hopes
HUNTINGTON — They say that success in sports often comes with a price.
For the River Cities Thunder 18s volleyball team, their journey has proven how true that can actually be.
Last season, the Thunder qualified through a regional bid tournament and took advantage of the opportunity to win a national championship.
This year, the team has seen some of last year’s players journey to other clubs, but the success has remained constant as head coach Jason Morris and assistant Mitch Jacobs, who is also the director of coaching for River Cities Thunder volleyball club, have again led the Thunder back to national prominence.
In January, the club traveled to Nashville for the Music City Volleyball Championship, which serves as a national qualifier for the USAV Nationals — the tournament where the Thunder won a title last year.
Despite only having six practices leading up to the tournament, the River Cities Thunder 18s finished first out of 40 teams in the American Division, which included many major clubs on the national volleyball scene.
“It was pretty wild,” Jacobs said. “I was watching it happen, man, and I was just like, ‘This is crazy.’ Jason did a good job of getting them ready. Just to win the Nashville qualifier when it’s always been so dominated by the major clubs is really cool. There were some major club victories that we had.”
The Thunder’s recent success also comes at a price, however, and those affiliated with the team are reaching out to the community in an effort to help his team again realize its dreams and potential.
According to Jacobs, the total cost incurred for the USAV Nationals in Dallas is $14,000 and the team is doing what it can to raise funds through different methods, which includes selling candy bars, auctioning a Yeti cooler and other fundraisers.
The team has also started a GoFundMe page (https://www.gofundme.com/river-citiesthunder-18-jason) in an effort to assist with the efforts to defend their title in the American Division in Dallas from April 26-28.
With less than a month left before the tournament, however, the team is still far from its financial needs for the tournament.
“I think they are still about $10,000 short of what they need to be coming up with, so they really need some help,” Jacobs said. “The tournament is the last weekend of April, so we basically have three weeks before we are out there playing.”
Jacobs said the club has become a great source of state pride with many of the top volleyball players in the state having played for the club before using that instruction to move on to the collegiate level.
“We’ve been fairly dominant in the state of West Virginia and this area, so when (college) coaches think of West Virginia club volleyball, River Cities is the team they want to watch at major tournaments,” Jacobs said. “That’s why almost all of our kids get recruited and it’s why our kids get offers. A lot has to do with the quality of training and what’s going on every day in the gym — the level they are being driven to.
“This is exciting because this is the first time that two years in a row, we’ve qualified for nationals. We want our kids to be rewarded for their efforts and to go represent our state on the national level, which is the standard that we’ve built this club up to. We want the community to really get behind us and we’re a 501(c)3 company, so any donation to us will be able to be written off.”
In addition to the GoFund-Me page, there is also the availability for sponsorship on the team’s jerseys and warm-ups, Jacobs said.
“If there are any national companies in our area who want exposure, we are going to be in Dallas, so that opportunity is also available. There is only one spot per piece (warmup and jersey), though, so those interested need to contact me soon.”
RIVER CITIES THUNDER 18S VOLLEYBALL
HEAD COACH: Jason Morris
DIRECTOR: Mitch Jacobs
TITLES: Music City Volleyball Championship
QUALIFIED FOR: USAV Girls 18 Junior National Championships
SPONSORSHIP AND DONATION CONTACT: Mitch Jacobs, owner/director, River Cities Thunder, 304416-1520