Monday, September 25, 2006

El Tejon Volleyball Tournament

Saturday morning we loaded up several cars with three of my eighth grade players and six of my seventh grade players and headed for Lebec, CA.

We had about to two and a half hour drive to get there. Games were supposed to start around 9:00 AM but the tournament officials planned our games for a little later so we were able to delay our departure time until 6:30 AM instead of 5:00 AM like we have done in the past for other tournaments.

We had to play three games in pool play (pool B) and were assured at least two games in the afternoon bracket competition.

Our first game in pool play was against one of the eventual tournament finalists from El Tejon Middle School. The El-Tejon Middle School teams (there were two of them in the 8th grade division) were well coached and were very good volleyball teams. We lost our first game 25 – 10. I would like to find lots of excuses for this loss – the long ride, nervous players, strange court, etc. But the truth is we just got outplayed by a better volleyball team.

Our second pool play game was against a team from Edison Middle School. We stacked up pretty well with this team. They started out fast and got a small lead. But we caught back up and played pretty even. We managed to get a 23 to 22 lead when an Edison Server with #1 on her jersey rotated into the service spot. This athlete smoked us with three straight service aces to win the game 25-23.

Our third pool play game was against Wallace Middle School. Again this was a team that we matched up pretty well with. The game was back and forth but we finally prevailed for our first win of the day 25 – 22.

We finished pool play with a 1-2 record and seeded third in our pool. This placing put us into the afternoon quarterfinals bracket facing the 2nd seed team from pool A. Our opponent for this game was the 2-1 team from McFarland Middle School in a single game to thirty elimination match. Again this was a very even game. At the end of the game we faced tie scores with this team at every point from 23 to 29. Neither team could manage to win a point with the serve. Then we got the serve tied at 29 and watched our opponents mishandle the serve receive and their second hit went wide. I was so busy yelling at my team not to get excited and keep playing because we had to win by two points that I didn’t see the referee signal the game as over. I didn’t realize that the game was first team to 30 until the tournament director walked onto the court and started telling both teams where and when they would play next.

So we moved onto the semi-finals where we had to play against the other El-Tejon Middle School team in the 8th grade division. I think that maybe this El Tejon team was a better team than the one that beat us in our opening game. But my girls were psyched and excited and they played like it. We stayed with this team until we had a slim 10-8 lead. Which was really exciting me because I had three of my best players sitting on the bench next to me. The El Tejon coach made a couple substitutions and the game started to change. More than her substitutions my players started playing nervous and tentative. When our opponents got their lead up to 13-10 I substituted my three bench players for three others and the game started picking up again. We got caught back up with them and tied the match at 14s and El Tejon made one other substitution and that was the end of it all. We managed to break their serve only one more time on the way to a 30 -15 loss.

We had about an hour until the 3rd place match. Early in the hour several of my players made some really bad choices about snacks. They were eating M&Ms, Candy bars and other sweets. We have told them time and again that they will not get an energy rush from candy. But they are all 11 to 13 years old and know everything. So they ate what they wanted to before I knew they were doing it.

Our last game of the day was the third place game against the same Edison team that we lost to 25-23 in pool play. I started the same lineup as in the semifinals and we started out fast. We ran up an 11-1 lead in a first one to 30 wins game. Then the candy struck. I was able to literally watch three or four of my players slow down to the point of almost sluggishness. When Edison tied the game up at 15s I made my substitutions. We played close for a few points then we got a small lead. Eventually we lost serve with a 21 – 20 lead and guess who comes up to serve - #1, the same player who ended the game against us in pool play. She hadn’t lost her touch. Five service aces later they were celebrating a third place finished and dancing around with their trophy held high in the air.

Before we headed home I had to try and convince my players that a team made up of six seventh grade players and three eighth grade players, one of which has only been playing volleyball 3 weeks, competing against teams of all eighth grade players and finishing fourth out of eight teams was a great accomplishment. They weren’t buying it.

So our first tournament of the season was a pretty good success even if my players don’t agree. I’ll try to impress that on them again at our next practice. I will also have to lay the law down about snacks. Since telling them not to eat the sweets when they have to play didn’t work I’m going to give them choice. If they choose candy for a snack at tournaments, they will not be playing any more games in that tournament. I hope I never have to enforce that edict. Finally I hope that my assistant coach is available to hit some serves at them so we can work on our service receive a bit. If she isn’t available I’m going to have to bite the bullet and see how long my torn rotator cuff shoulder can hold up with me serving at them. We had one player with a pretty good overhand serve snatch two games and a third place finish away from us. I don’t want that to happen again.

No comments: