Lighting it up: Carlson and Barber succeed with Northern Lights
Woodbury residents Brynn Carlson and Allison Barber both aspire to play collegiate volleyball.
But the spotlight isn’t as tough for Carlson and Barber to find as they compete as part of the Northern Lights volleyball club for much of the year.
“You get a lot of exposure playing with Northern Lights,” Carlson said. “Lots of coaches come to watch these big tournaments. I definitely have been working on that, working on getting to my goal of playing Division I college.”
Northern Lights volleyball club is providing the opportunities, and the girls are taking advantage.
Carlson and Barber were both named All-Americans for their standout performances at the AAU Girls National Volleyball Championships in Orlando, Flor. in late June.
The standout individual performances complimented outstanding team finishes for each of the girls.
Carlson’s Northern Lights 15-2 team went a perfect 14-0 and claimed the national championship in the 92-team 15-Premier Division.
Her squad, which entered the tournament seeded eighth, topped No. 1 Mizuno Sports Performance, a club from Chicago, in three sets in one of the knockout rounds en route to the title.
“It was a huge match,” Carlson, who will be a sophomore at Cretin-Derham Hall in the fall, said. “It was crazy, there was tons of energy. It was a great win for us.”
The win over Mizuno Performance was one of a few wins in which Carlson’s squad rallied back from third set deficits to claim victory, leading the players to start calling themselves “the comeback kids.”
And when Carlson’s crew finally claimed the final point of the championship set at Disney’s Wide World of Sports, pandemonium ensued on the court.
“We were jumping up and down and screaming our heads off,” she said. “Half of my team started crying. … That’d been our goal all season. To finally have achieved it, it was probably one of the best moments of my life.”
Barber took home a silver medal as her 15-Black team took second place out of 122 teams in the 15-Club division, finishing with a 12-2 record.
Barber said her squad peaked at the national championships. She credited her team’s successful trip to Florida to the avid coaching it received over the more than seven months she spent with the squad.
“It helped us in high-pressure situations,” she said. “We knew exactly what we had to do to get the job done.”
That same coaching has helped Barber, a junior-to-be at East Ridge, improve throughout her two seasons with the Northern Lights.
She said she has seen improvements in her consistency, setting and defense under tutelage from her Northern Lights club.
The improvements are likely coming at a faster rate at the club level than they do in the fall. Both Barber and Carlson said playing with the Northern Lights allows them to face some of the top talent in the country at each event they attend. Carlson said she’s also been to tournaments in Denver, Chicago and Omaha. Both girls said they enjoy the traveling aspect of playing with the nationally-renowned club.
“We really get to see some of the top talent and see how we match up against them,” Carlson said. “To be able to play teams from all over the United States is an amazing experience that not a lot of people get to have.”
Both girls plan to continue playing for the Northern Lights throughout high school.
Barber hopes her playing career doesn’t stop there.
“I really hope that I can continue to play there and then play after [in college],” she said, “because I love to play volleyball and I can’t see myself without it.”