Saturday, October 29, 2005

Rio Bravo Greeley Volleyball Tournament

Our volleyball season came to an end today. We left town this morning at 6:00PM and headed for Bakersfield to play in the annual Rio Bravo Tournament. We first played in this tournament last year. We had a lot of fun and managed to squeek out a 3rd place finish.

The Rio Bravo tournament is a lot tougher than our own city tournament. The level of competition is a lot higher. There are a couple club teams in Bakersfield and a lot more schools. Since most of the schools have much larger student bodies than we do they are able to be selective about who plays on their teams. It is a tougher tournament but that's what I like about it. Besides the teams are pretty good sports. There are always a couple who take the win at all costs. But most of the them play a good clean game and are fun to compete against.

This year we were able to take both our teams to the tournament. Which meant that I was going to be busy again. The each division in the tournament was divided into pools. After pool play the top eight teams were slotted into a quarterfinal bracket and played a single elimination best two out of three games till a champion is crowned.

My 8th grade team started out hot. In their first game the got out to a quick 13-4 lead and then clicked into zombie mode and started standing around watching and eventually lost the game 19-21. I have seen them do this a lot this season but today was different. Today they stopped moving and playing but they also started something. They started snipping and snarling at each other. They excuses and acqusations were flying wildly around the whole day. It was the most frustrating experience of my brief coaching career. Nothing I said, nothing I did made a difference. I talked, pleaded, threatened, yelled, anything I could think of, nothing was getting through to them. They just stood around and blamed each other for all their problems.

I know I'm not supposed to think this way but I'm glad that this season with this team is over. I've been beating my head against the wall with this team for three years now and frankly I've had enough. I'm slowly admitted to myself that if it is possible to get that group of 7 girls to cooperate and play like a team then I don't know what the secret is. Even worse I've reached the point where I don't care anymore. I just want to try and get the two girls who have a chance to make the high school team the practice time they need to continue to improve their skills. I just want the rest of them to go on with their lives and refuse to do everything someone else tells them to do. I'm going to miss my two setters but I'm not going to miss the rest of them much.

Then there was my seventh grade team. They showed up playing just like they normally do. They struggled a little at the beginning but then hit their stride and cruised to a win in their first pool play game. Then we had a one hour break before our second game. Somewhere during that hour my seventh grade team turned into my eighth grade team. We got onto the court for the second pool play game and they just shut down. they did a lot of standing around and watching the game go by. I just wanted to cry for my two setters. They were practically killing themselves trying to pick up the slack for their teammates. At one point I called a time out and had one player break down into tears, for apparently no reason at all. At no reason that she would tell me. Even after the game I asked her parents to find out what was wrong. They couldn't get anything out of her either.

The team stayed in the game until the end but eventually lost by 4 points. I tried to get them moving, talking, doing anything during the break before our last pool play game. They seemed OK off the court. They were their normal happy, silly selves - talking laughing, goofing off. They were passing a ball around and everyone seemed normal.

Then in the third game it was more of the same. The team wasn't near the caliber of my seventh graders on a normal day. But for some reason this wasn't a normal day. They played slow and made a lot of silly mistakes. Eventually losing this final pool play game by two points. This put them into the championship quarterfinals seeded eighth.

In the first match of quarterfinals against the number one seeded team it was more of the same. They struggled to a 10-15 loss. Then we switched sides of the net and they picked up right where they left off - for 5 serves. Then just as suddenly as they turned off 4 games earlier my team turned back on. They started serving, passing and spiking. It was fun to watch for a few minutes. They came storming back into that game and when they got the score tied up at 12 -12 the other coach was getting worried. Unfortunately we had a caught a couple bad breaks and a couple missed calls by the ref and ended up losing the game 15-13. It was disheartening but that's the breaks of the game. You can't blame a whole game on a couple missed calls. It was just unfortunate that they just hit us just as we were getting up to steam.

So our tournament ended in the first round for both teams. It wasn't how I wanted our season to end. But end it did. I was mostly disappointed for my seventh grade team. They played such a strong season going 11-0 in the regular season and 8-0 to win our local tournament. Then to get knocked out of this one tournament that they were so looking forward too was a real downer.

I tried to cheer them up a bit and they did all promise to be back again next year. But I don't want to wait that long. I want to get these girls back into volleyball practices on a monthly or better yet weekly basis as soon as I can after basketball season ends. But that will be an issue with the school that I will have to start fighting in a couple months.

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