A girls club volleyball team comprised of players from area high schools is making waves in the AAU circuit.
Coached by Bret Cariveau and based in Mayfield, the PU5H (pronounced “Push 5”) Volleyball Club’s 18s team currently boasts a record of 24-7 and has won two bid tournaments, earning them entry into the AAU Nationals in Orlando, Florida, at the end of June, and the West Coast Championship in Las Vegas at the end of May.
The PU5H VBC’s 18s earned those bids with championships in the Nashville Super Regional earlier this year and last weekend’s AAU Super Regional in Birmingham, Alabama. Cariveau said his team faced some especially stiff competition in the latter event, as the opponents in the semifinals and finals boasted multiple Division I college-bound athletes. But PU5H made up for it with solid execution and never-give-up attitude.
“Fundamentally, we’re very sound, and effort-wise, we don’t give up,” Cariveau told The Sun on Friday.
That never-say-die mentality was on full display in the semifinals, where they fought back from a 10-3 deficit in the first set to win 26-24 before going on to claim the second set, 25-14, to win the match.
“This is the first team I’ve ever coached that never quits and doesn’t ever think they can’t come back,” Cariveau said.
It all goes back to the club’s motto of #RTL, which stands for “Refuse to Lose” and is printed on all team apparel.
“That is truly the mindset of this team. When they get down, they don’t give up or ever think they are going to lose,” Cariveau said. “They come together, grind it out and fight for one point at a time. We have a mindset as a club to play one point at a time in bunches of five points, which is where the PU5H came from. This has been something I have pushed and instilled in my teams since I began coaching volleyball.”
PU5H’s 18s team consists of Paducah Tilghman’s Jennifer Goddard and Bailey Schipp, Marshall County’s Halle Langhi and Alyssa McClain, Graves County’s Audrey Cariveau (the coach’s daughter), Caldwell County’s Olivia Mitchell, Hopkinsville’s Hailey Hallmark and Madisonville-North Hopkins’ Alexis Fliehman. Mitchell has committed to continuing her volleyball career at Georgetown College, while Fliehman is headed to Midway University.
Cariveau said he can’t say enough good things about this group.
“I am truly blessed and honored to be coaching these athletes. This is an amazing team that I get to coach. It is the most talented, hardest working and individually competitive team I have ever coached,” he said. “The amount of work they put in is unreal. We practice three days a week, and, for the most part, all of them come in usually an hour before practice starts to work on different things, and they’re constantly working trying to improve things.”
Cariveau said his daughter, along with Mitchell and Fliehman, lead the team, which “plays really well together and plays for each other.”
“Our team is undersized compared to the teams we are beating in these qualifiers and larger national tournaments, but, fundamentally, we are very strong, and our refuse-to-lose attitude makes up for the lack of size,” he said. “We have beaten several teams that have several girls committed to play Division I volleyball next year.”
Making their success all the more remarkable is the fact that it’s an 18s team that features just two 18-year-olds — Mitchell and Fliehman. The rest of the girls are younger, including Schipp, who is 15.
“Bailey is playing RS (right-side hitter) for the first time and has done an amazing job adjusting to the change, learning the position and is becoming a solid RS player,” Cariveau said.
And Goddard, their setter, had never played that position until about four months ago.
“She has become a really solid setter in a short period of time and gives our hitters hittable balls they can score on,” Cariveau said. “So we’ve been winning and having this success with someone who, prior to four months ago, never had experience setting in her life.”
PU5H VBC includes teams of other age groups as well, and Cariveau is looking to continue to build on the success his program has already achieved. The current season runs through early summer.
“I thank God daily for the opportunity He presented to start PU5H VBC. In two years, the club has had tremendous success and is providing athletes from numerous schools across western Kentucky the opportunity to improve their volleyball skills and technique,” he said. “Our goal is to help each girl achieve their personal goals, whether that’s making their middle school or high school teams or playing in college.”