Antioch residents Stephanie Dale, Achari Mainor, Elyse Rowland and Kendra Rowland play for the Delta Valley Volleyball Club in Stockton. Brentwood residents Tanya Alvino and Kelley Quinn play for the Golden Bear Volleyball Club out of Berkeley. Knightsen's Allison Cecchini is also a member of Golden Bear while Discovery Bay's Leanna Richey belongs to Club Pacific of Stockton.
The top 28 teams in the nation are pitted against one another in the Junior Olympics, which run July 2-5. According to Delta Valley co-director/coach Richard Chan, volleyball is no longer a west coach sport.
"It used to be that California teams dominated at the Junior Olympics but now there are pockets of great teams all over the country," Chan said. "High school volleyball is becoming a lot more competitive and younger girls are seeing that the best players also play with top club teams."
For Alvino, 17, a Liberty High setter, this will be her third appearance at JO's.
"It's pretty much the highest level of competition you're going to find," she said. "It's tough but it's fun."
For others like Mainor, 16, a Deer Valley High middle blocker, it's a great way to get noticed by colleges.
"There are a lot of scouts there so you definitely have to be on your game," she said. "The competition is really high and the expectation of winning is really high too."
Chan said between 300 and 500 college scouts will be in Atlanta looking for future players.
"You won't get noticed by playing high school ball," he said. "If you're a college volleyball coach you watch club tournaments. There might be two or three top players on a high school team but club teams are full of top talent."
Golden Bear director Ed Cohen has noticed the increase in talent coming out of the East Bay in particular.
"Nationally, the sport doesn't seem to be getting more popular, it just seems like a higher concentration of these great players are coming out of that area," he said. "With the success of the Liberty team especially (which advanced to the state championship last season), there's been a real groundswell of good athletes with hard-working attitudes who are seeking out that great training."
For Elyse Rowland, 14, an incoming sophomore at Deer Valley, the increased media attention and the Olympics have also helped the put the sport in the national spotlight.
"Keri Walsh and Misty May have gotten so much exposure with the Olympics," she said. "Girls have gotten so good at this sport and it's inspiring other girls to play it as well. It's gotten a lot bigger and more competitive."
Dale, 17, who recently graduated from Antioch High, said the sport gives confidence to taller girls.
"I actually think girls are getting taller and they're playing taller sports," she said. "I think beach volleyball is also helping. Watching those girls on TV makes you want to go do that, especially if you're a tall girl."
But as 18-year-old Liberty setter Cecchini points out, volleyball is not always a game of height.
"There's such a huge size difference between the positions so anyone can play," she said. "You don't have to be tall."
Chan agrees, saying that at one time the taller players dominated but recently the game has changed.
"I look for kids who are athletic and preferably smart because volleyball is a cerebral sport," he said. "It helps to be 6' or even 6'4" but I've learned over time that the biggest players aren't always the best."
The eight local players head east this Friday to take on some the country's elite teams. None, however, are assuming the competition will be easy.
"It's incredible," said Quinn, 17, a recent graduate of Liberty who is making her third appearance at the national tournament. "You really have to take it one match at a time because at this level, anyone can beat anyone."