Saturday, October 15, 2005

Middle School Volleyball Tournament

Today was the Middle School Volleyball Tournament in Trona. We didn't have a lot of details about the tournament before we left for Trona this morning.

My morning started out early. I didn't sleep well last night and sometime during the night I ended up reaching for my glasses and hit the top of my alarm clock instead. I inadvertently changed the time on the clock forward one hour. This resulted in my alarm going off at 5:30 this morning instead of 6:30 like I wanted. I got up, turned the alarm off and went in to wake up my daughter. After I got out of the shower my daughter was standing in the hallway waiting for me. She told me that it was now 5:45 not 6:45 like we had planned. So we both had a relaxing, unhurried morning before leaving to meet the other player before heading to Trona.

We met everyone else at the school parking lot, sorted out cars and headed for Trona.

We arrived at the gym in Trona about 20 minutes before play started and it was a good thing. The schedules were a little confused and it took most of the 20 minutes to get it straightened out.

Each of my teams had to play three pool play matches. The seventh grade team went 6-0 in their pool play matches which left them tied with Death Valley who led the other pool. Since there were only 7 teams in the 7th grade tournament one of us was going to get a bye in the first round of the championship bracket. So they had a coin toss between the Death Valley Coach and my self for the first round bye. I offered to indian leg wrestle the other coach for it but she opted to call the toss instead. I won. Which was a relief, if she had opted for the wrestling I'm not sure I could have taken her. So I won the only contest of the day that I had any control of - that one coin toss.

The championship rounds were single elimination to 25 points. In the semifinals we had to play against the Monroe Middle School A team. This is a team that we had won a close match against early in the regular season. We had swept them 2-0 in pool play. We came into this game a little flat. Monroe was getting great support from their other teams and it was really loud in the gym. They have a hand full of girls that love to scream, loud and shrill. It is very annoying, and often moved into the realms of painful. Most of the parents in the stand were watching the game with their fingers in their ears.

We were down 4-10 early in the game and I could see that the noise was really getting to my girls. So I called a time out and got them together for a quick chat. I told them that I understood that they noise was very annoying but we could not control that. What we could control however was the reason for the noise. I said "The fastest way for you to shut those annoying screaming little girls up is to whip their volleyball team. You have proved twice today that you own this team now it's time to prove it to the screamers as well."

My girls went back onto the court and played like the undefeated champions that I knew they were. We won that semi-final game 25-18. It was fun to watch and it really shut up the screamers.

So then we had to wait for the results of the other semifinal, Death Valley against the Monroe Middle School B team. My girls were really mentally preparing to play the championship game against Death Valley. They were the best team in the tournament so far and we knew that we would have our hands full with them. The did it all, served well, passed, set and hit. We knew that Monroe B was not as good a team as they were so while I went a coached the 8th grade first round championship game my seventh grade team tried to get some rest and get ready for a tough final.

In the middle of the 8th grade game my assistant coach walked up behind me, tapped me on the shoulder and whispered that Monroe B had just beaten Death Valley in their semifinal game. It was the second best moment of the tournament for me. I had just been told that the our biggest competition had just been upset at the same time that my 8th grade team ran off a short service run to get a head in their match and cruise to first round win.

The seventh grade final was again a really loud, shrill noisy affair. But I wasn't worried about the noise I was worried about how nervous my team was. They were fidgety, flighty, and just blabbering. We got onto the court just before the game started and for the first time all season I walked into a huddle with my players and I knew exactly what I had to say. Normally I really haven't a clue what to say to them during time outs and pregame huddles. But this time the words were right there.

I got them circled up, put my hand into the circle, waited until the all had a hand on top of mine, then I added my other hand to the top of stack and told them "This game is going to be loud. It is going to be shrill. But most of all it is going to be just one more volleyball game. You are better than this team. You proved it twice during the regular season. You proved it twice this morning. You serve better than they do, you pass better than they do and you all know that they can't set or hit. So go out there and play one more volleyball game just like you have all season. Everyone passes, everyone moves, and every serve goes over the net. On three now, one - two - three." We all yelled "Saint Ann’s" and broke the huddle.

My team let them have a 2-7 lead when they got 6 cheap points of carried, double hits and just plain sloppy plays. Then suddenly it sunk in that this game was theirs to win and my team started serving, passing and even threw in a couple sets and spikes. They won the championship game 25-17. The last ten minutes of that game there wasn't even any screaming from the Monroe players. But my girls sure made up for the lack of it as that last ball dropped.

My seventh grade team won the first ever first place volleyball trophy for our school. The only thing that made me prouder of them was the way they handled that win. They were yelling screaming and jumping around all over the court. The 8th grade team had rushed onto the court and were celebrating with them and right in the middle of all that, with almost no prompting from me, they huddled up, shouted out a "Thank You Monroe." and then lined up to shake their opponents hands.

To top off the tournament win two of my players - Kelly a seventh grade player, and Gloria one of my sixth grade players were named to the all tournament team. And Jenny was awarded the tournament MVP award. I couldn't have picked three better players if they had asked me my opinion. I certainly wouldn't have been able to chose which of those three to give the MVP to. They all played well enough to deserve it.

Now all that said that was only half my day. While all that seventh grade excitement was going on I was back and forth between them and the eighth grade tournament. The 8th grade were starting out short handed. Two of their better players did not play in the tournament. One was competing in a swim meet in Riverside. I don't begrudge her that decision. She is really dedicated to her swimming and from what I hear she is a better swimmer that volleyball player. The other missing player is a completely different story. She has some of the best volleyball skills on the team and one of the worst attitudes to go along with it. She is really high maintenance. She demands a lot of personal attention and recognition. She had never caught on to the idea of teamwork. Team spirit and cooperation are totally alien concepts to her. Today in a incredible display of poor team spirit, lack of dedication, and incredible selfishness she decided to skip the tournament and go to Knotts Berry Farm with her parents. As far as I am concerned to only reason she is still on this team is school policy won't allow me cut a player just because I think her attitude stinks.

Since I only had 5 eighth grade players for the tournament I had to pick one of the seventh grade team members to play on the eighth grade team. This was a tough decision. It meant that my 7th grade team would be playing with only 6 players in the tournament. But we wanted to play both teams so I had to pick one. I immediately eliminated my two seventh grade setters and one of the sixth graders on the team from contention. Coincidentally the three girls I eliminated from contention to play on the eighth grade team were the three all tournament/MVP selections from our team. I wasn't about to break up that winning combination even though two of them tried to talk me into letting them switch teams. Finally I narrowed my choice to two players and then asked my 8th grade captains which one they would prefer. The player they picked immediately jumped at the chance when I told her what I wanted her to do.

For being a sixth grade player on a team of eighth graders and competing against 8th graders she did remarkably well. In several plays she really saved the day for her teammates. She personally scored more points off spikes than three of the teams we faced today did.

That said, my eighth grade team struggled through the pool play. They didn't get blown out of a single game but only managed to win one of them. The finished pool play with a 1-5 record and went into the championship bracket seeded seventh of eight teams. Our first round match was played against the Murray Middle School A team. This team had easily beaten us during the regular season - twice. They also won both games that they played against us during pool play. I don't know if this made them overconfident or just sloppy. But mix those two possibilities up with my 8th grade team who really rose to the occasion and played their best game of the last three weeks and we ended up with a 25-22 win to put us into the semifinals. Unfortunately that was pretty much where our day ended. Our semifinal match was played against Lone Pine, who was last years returning champions. They played like champions again this year. We lost our semifinal match 10-25.

After a celebration with the 7th grade after their championship win the eighth grade team had to play in the third place match against the team from Edwards AFB. We had never played against Edwards but they looked to be a pretty good team. For a while I thought my girls were going to pull off another upset win. They started out down early but once the score got to 2-10 they started playing like I've seen them play before. They managed to tie the game up at 18-18 then that old zombie curse rose up and smacked them down again. They just turned off and stood around and watch Edwards run off 7 easy uncontested points and our 8th grade tournament ended right there.

It wasn't all bad though. They finished pool play in 7th place and the tournament in 4th. So their afternoon was better than their morning.

My two setters were picked for the all tournament team. Katie who I just threw into the setter spot earlier this year has improved steadily all season. My daughter Amanda who is the other setter also played a good tournament. She had several goofs, but she seems to be getting the hang of playing the net a bit more. She got in several spikes, including one thunderous one from the back row.

I was pretty proud of both these players for their accomplishments during today’s games. They certainly deserved the all tournament honors.

I don't know who won the 8th grade tournament. We were all tired and most of the girls and their parents left right after we were eliminated. I was going to stay around, but there was still the 5/6th place game to play before the finals. Both my daughter and I were hungry and tired so we packed up and headed for home.

Well next week we start preparing for the Rio Bravo Tournament in Bakersfield on Oct 29th. Last year a combination of 7th and 6th grade players took 3rd place in the 6th grade division of this tournament. The girls are excited about playing this tournament again this year. We will be playing in the sixth and seventh grade brackets again this year. This is because most of my 7th grade team is actually made up of 6th grade girls, and the eighth grade team will be in the 7th grade bracket because that is where the tournament organizers figure they will have the best shot a being competitive. This tournament is a lot different than our local tournament. They level of play is a lot higher. Last year is was a great learning tool for this years 7th grade players. I'm hoping it has the same effect on my 6th grade and a couple of my 8th grade players this year.

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