Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Secret City Smashers

I have spent the last year trying to learn as much as I could about club volleyball. Since we did not have a volleyball club here in town I was forced to get what information I could from the web. There are a lot of clubs in southern California and the two things that they all seem to have in common is that they are expensive and they are all a long drive from Ridgecrest. The closest club to our little corner of the world is in Tehachapi which is about 80 miles away.

I really want to try and get my daughter onto a club team during the off season. This would give her something to do other than sit around the house and it will force her to continually improve her athletic and volleyball skills.

I have been talking with a parent of another freshman player for several months about the possibility of starting our own club team. He was researching into what was needed to start a team and trying to find a place to practice he was proceeding under the assumption that if he could get this started that I would be willing to coach the team. I am willing to do that but I was very nervous about it. My limited coaching experience is dealing with middle school aged athletes. The level of club team we were talking about would be a year or two older than that.

Three weeks ago my club team co-planner tells me that there is going to be a club team here in town. When talking to the city about renting their gym for practices the administrator loved the idea of a club team in town. His daughter was on the JV squad at Burroughs High School this year. He apparently didn’t think that the other parent and I were going to be able to pull this off so he went ahead and started up a club himself.

So suddenly there is a 16 and under club team here in Ridgecrest. This is a couple years too old for my daughter who could play on a 14 and under team. But it had two desirable things that I really liked. It was much cheaper than most other club teams and it is right here in town. So I contacted the administrator about getting my daughter on the team.

The administrator was reluctant to let my daughter join. She was younger than he wanted, and she would have been the ninth player. He was trying to keep the team to about 7 or maybe 8 girls and was looking for 16 year olds. He had let the daughter of my fellow club planner join because he felt that he owed him something for stealing his idea.

So we played phone tag for several days with me trying to convince him to let my daughter play, or at least try out for the team. Unfortunately he was being pretty stubborn and not too willing to add an extra young player. So I tried a different approach. I started asking if I could add a younger team to his club so that they could have a 14 and under and a 16 and under teams. He was slightly receptive to the idea but not sure he wanted to get that deep into this club volleyball thing this first year. So I kept nagging and he kept saying “no.”

Then last week, things changed. Crunch time arrived and two of the players he had lined up to play canceled out on him. This new club may be cheaper than most other clubs in southern California but it is still quite a bit of money. So suddenly the new club team only had 6 players and only one of them was a setter. So after several failed attempts to get an older setter to join the team he finally relented and signed up my daughter. This accomplished several goals for the team – it got them back up to 7 players, got them a second setter and it got me to stop nagging him about adding a separate younger team to the club.

I still want to add a younger team to the club but I am willing to wait until next year. That way I will have a year to watch how things work and get ready to coach the team myself.

So now my daughter is a member of the Secret City Smashers. This means she will have volleyball practice 3 or 4 times a week and will have to play in 4 or 5 out of town weekend tournaments between now and April 2007.

I volunteered to help the coaches this year but they don't seem too willing to accept any help. So I guess I will just sit in the stands and watch and learn. I would love to help out, even if it was just shagging or tossing volleyballs for drills. But if the coach doesn't want me helping then I'll just watch.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving 2006

I intended to write a nice long description today of all the things in my life that I am thankful for. Technically it is still Thanksgiving. I still have about 15 minutes to finish this.

I am thankful for my dear wife. I spent several years as a bachelor after I got out of college, maybe too many years. I had developed habits and customs suitable for a bachelor and didn’t really want to change them. When I was fixed up with my dear wife on a blind date I agreed to go only to get my secretary at work off my back. She couldn’t stand the fact that I was young single and didn’t care if I was dating anyone or not.

I wasn’t looking to get married or even serious about anyone. I was here for a short three year stint and then I was getting out of the hell hole. That was 21 years, a wife, two houses and three kids ago. I still have all but one of the houses.

I thought long and hard before I proposed. Not because I was worried about marrying the wrong girl. I knew she was the right one. I just didn’t know if I wanted to be married at all. Looking back I made the right choice. Sometimes I have to wonder if she did when she said yes. There was a time when I wondered if I even wanted to be married. Now I can hardly imagine being single.

My dear wife is kind loving and beautiful and I’m a very luck guy.

I am thankful for my kids.
We never thought of having more than two kids. After having the first we gave serious thought to not going through with our plans for a second. But after four years we decided to go ahead. Surprise! Surprise! Twins! Suddenly I was a father of three kids. I needed an extra room in the house, more space in the car, another college education, extra food, clothing everything.

So far it is working out just fine. My kids are smart, personable and a delight to be around. At least that is what their teachers tell us. We have to keep reminding them who we are because we are sure it’s not our kids they are talking about.

I am thankful for my job. I have worked to better the defense of the United States my entire professional career. I don’t have the temperament to have succeeded in the military. I don’t mind following orders but I have a tendency to ask “Why?” a lot. As a civilian engineer that kind of behavior is expected. As a man in uniform it would have gotten me into a lot of trouble. I have had interesting things to work on most of my career. There have been some slow periods that were tough to get through. But for the most part I have enjoyed what I do. I don’t love getting up and going to work. There are so many other things in life that I would rather be doing. But they don’t pay the bills or allow me prepare for retirement. So I get up and go to work each day.

I am thankful for the dangerous men and women out there in the world doing dangerous things in the night so that my family and I can sleep in peace and comfort. I’m talking about the men and women of our volunteer military. I have met a lot of men and women (mostly Navy) serving in the armed forces. They have without exception been kind, compassionate dedicated, hard working and very intelligent people. When I see our elected officials, or Hollywood stars denigrating them by implying that they are stupid, or just poor folk with no other options it really gets my blood boiling. The men and women of our armed forces are my customers. They are the people who use the systems and weapons that are developed where I work to defend our nation. But most importantly they are the people doing what needs to be done to keep my family and my country safe. They deserve much more than a couple paragraphs in an occasional blog. That is the main reason why I have spent my entire career working in military weapons development. They are keeping me safe, so helping make sure they have the best training, weapons and equipment possible to do their jobs is the least I can do.

I’m thankful for my volleyball teams. I have mentioned several times in the past that I never really liked living in Ridgecrest and that I really hate living in California. But the time I get to spend with those girls makes me love living here more every day.

I am thankful for my friends.
It is the people around us that make getting up in the morning to face the day worth while. I have been blessed through the years with a few really good close friends. But in addition to them I have had a lot of good decent casual friendships also. Sure there are always the jerks in our lives we have to deal with, but I am thankful for them also. Without the jerks how would we know how much we appreciate the good people in our lives.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Big Corporations (from July 2006)

Like many other folks I have had my fair share of run-ins with big corporations. You know the kind of run-ins I’m talking about. You dial the 800 number and then spend the next 20 minutes pushing buttons answering questions that have nothing to do with your problem. Eventually you get the part of the process where the automated answering system will transfer you to an operator. This is the point where your call will most often be terminated when you are transferred to a dial tone.

Recently I had a much different experience dealing with a large corporation. When my mother passed away in June, I was told that she had a life insurance policy with Road Runner Gas, a company she had worked until she retired about six years ago. I was also told that she didn’t have any paperwork about this life insurance policy. We were supposed to call the company and they would have all the information in their computers.

I have to tell you that I was rather dubious about this whole situation, especially since Road Runner Gasoline had been through several name changes including Diamond Shamrock, Total Petroleum and currently Valero Energy.

Since Mom also had a couple shares of stock in Valero Oil, I had received a stock prospectus from them a year or so earlier. So I dug out this nice glossy paper annual report and looked around for a phone number to call. Inside the front cover was listed the Valero Oil corporate office address and phone number.

Preparing myself for a long exhausting and ultimately disappointing and frustrating experience I dialed the 800 number. I almost fell out of my chair when in the midst of the second ring a human female voice answered the phone with a slight Texas accent “Valero Energy Corporation, Good Afternoon, How may I direct your call?”

After a short pause, at least I hope it was short. I was so stunned to have a human answer the phone that I may have sat there dumbfounded for several seconds. Eventually I explained that my mother who had retired from Total Petroleum a few years ago had passed away and I was checking into a life insurance policy. The voice on the phone replied “I’m sorry for your loss. I’m sure our personnel department will be able to help you. Will you please hold while I transfer you?” Then there was a pause for several seconds until I realized that she was waiting for a response. So I told her I would hold.

Immediately the line transferred and started to ring. Right after the second ring the phone was answered by a different female voice, this one with a slightly heavier Texas drawl. “Personnel Department how may I help you?”

I repeated my question to this woman who responded. “I’m so sorry to hear about your mother. You and your family have all our sympathies. What was you mother’s name?”

I told her my Mom’s name and could hear her typing on a keyboard. “Almost immediately she responded “I can transfer you to the appropriate personnel manager who can take care you anything you need. Will you please hold?”

Again, there was a pause while she waited for me to agree to hold. I did. The Texas Drawl left me with a repeated expression of sympathy and transferred my call. This time the phone was answered on the first ring. Another female voice also with a Texas accent introduced herself and asked how she could help me. I repeated my question and answered several return questions such as Mom’s name, address, date of birth, etc. After a short pause this third human female informed me that she did have all of my mother’s information there and that there was an insurance policy. She verified my fahter's address and told me that she would have to mail the forms to the address of record. Since I was going to be in Cheyenne in a week that was find with me. Then she told me that the proper claim forms would be mailed out that very afternoon. Then she gave me a couple explicit directions on filling out the forms. Then expressed her sympathy with my loss and asked if there was anything else she could do for me. I replied no, thanked her for the kind thoughts and all her help and then I hung up.

Total time on the phone for this call – just over 3 minutes and I got to talk to three different polite women who all had marvelous accents.

Three days later, My dad got the single page, double sided form in the mail, a stamped return envelope, a hand written note of sympathy and a repeat of the special directions along with the personnel managers direct phone extension if we needed any other assistance.

When I got to Wyoming I filled out the form, attached the death certificate as directed, had my Dad sign and mail it and two weeks later he received the full insurance settlement from Valero Oil.

A lot of large corporations seem to have forgotten who their customers are. But there are still a few of them out there who remember and still know how to deal with real people.

Cleaning Up Some Unfinished Writing

As I mentioned several months ago I have had some trouble finishing things I was writing for several months. I am trying to get some of that stuff cleaned up, finished, or deleted. So over the next couple weeks or months I may occasionally post an old outdated message. I’ll try to note them as appropriate when I do that.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sci-Fi Book Meme

I saw this on Mostly Cajun, All American and Opinionated who found it at Physics Geek and figured I'd steal, plagiarize borrow it myself.

This is a list of the 50 most significant science fiction/fantasy novels, 1953-2002, according to the Science Fiction Book Club.

Bold the ones you've read, strike-out the ones you hated, italicize those you started but never finished and put an asterisk beside the ones you loved.

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
*The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
Dune, Frank Herbert
Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
Neuromancer, William Gibson
Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
*The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
Cities in Flight, James Blish
The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison

Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
*Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
*The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
*Gateway, Frederik Pohl
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice

The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
Little, Big, John Crowley
Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
On the Beach, Nevil Shute
*Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
*Ringworld, Larry Niven
Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
*Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
Timescape, Gregory Benford
To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

I haven’t read too many books that I would say I hated. I really didn’t hate A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin. But I had to read this book for a class in college. Le Guin was the Professor’s favorite author so a full one third of the reading list was her work. This was a Studies in Science Fiction English class. Yet the reading list contained nothing by Asimov, Clark , Bradbury or Heinlein. By the time the class was over I hated everything Ursula K. Le Guin had ever written. It's been 25 years maybe I should give her another chance. I still have the books.

It may be harsh saying I hated Harry Potter. I just found Rowling's story line and writing style to be childish. I've never cared much for stories with children protagonists. I really dislike stories that require a soliloquy by a main character at the end to explain what happened. The Philosopher's Stone had both of those things. I did keep reading her other Potter books just so I could talk to the rest of the family about them. I have to admit that it took a while but in her last book I finally started feeling some empathy for the characters. Either she's getting better as an author or I'm weakening as a reader.

Finally a complaint about this list as a whole, how can a list of the 50 most significant science fiction/fantasy novels not include E.E Doc Smith’s Lensman books?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Iraq = Vietnam

For the last couple years I have been listening to the talking heads in the media and many politicians blathering on about how Iraq in turning into the next Vietnam. Eventually someone tries to make the point that we are facing defeat in Iraq war the same way we were defeated in the Vietnam war.

Jerry Pournelle make the point on his blog Chaos Manor in Perspective that we were not defeated in the Vietnam War

But we were not defeated. We withdrew on orders from the Congress. That wasn't defeat.

The last time we engaged in Viet Nam we, with our South Vietnamese allies, won a great victory.

Breaking an alliance with phased withdrawal is not defeat. It only feels that way. Perhaps it ought to feel that way -- but our troops were ready to engage the advancing North Vietnamese armored divisions. They didn't cut and run. They were ordered to stand down and watch the slaughter of their former allies and friends and soldiers they had trained.

God help us. God forgive us.

If the media and politicians consider the Congress of the United States deciding not to fight anymore a defeat then we are certainly heading for another one in Iraq. Because that is the objective of our new congressional leaders. Cut and Run, Get out Now, No War for Oil, yada yada yada.

Our military will never be defeated in Iraq. But they may be ordered to quit fighting and leave the job half done - again. We should be ashamed of ourselves for not having the heart to finish the job in Vietnam. But if we fail to learn from our mistakes of the past and repeat them in Iraq it will not be the fault of our military.

The United States military is the best trained and equiped fighting force in the world. The only enemy on this planet they can not defeat is the civilians we elected to control their funding and leadership. The only war they can not win will be the one they are told to stop fighting.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Double Slit Experiment

It's Tuesday morning. You can't use Monday as an excuse to be a little slow this morning. So here's a little video - just to get your brain kick started. It won't make you smarter and it won't explain the mysteries of quantum physics. But it might get you to thinking - just a little, and that is always a good thing.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


I'm sitting here with my family watching the University of Wyoming play football at BYU.

I have done my duty as a loyal UW graduate and taught my children that BYU stands for Bite Your Underwear.

My oldest daugher just asked me why do you hate BYU so much Daddy.

The best answer I could give her was there is on 9:21 left in the game. BYU is up 41 to 0 and their starting quarterback and his favorite receiver, their tight end Harlene are both still in the game and trying to run the score up. Which they just suceeded in doing. So the score is 48-0.

Actually my hatred of BYU stems from my years at Wyoming in the late 70s. It seemed like every school in the Western Athletic Conference had a rivalry going with BYU. Most years football and basketball conference titles came down to BYU vs Someone Else with BYU winning a lot of those games. They have good sports programs and therefore tend to inspire hatred in the schools that lose to them.

Well, BYU's special teams just scored to make it 55-0.

Karsten Sween Wyoming's starting QB is a local boy. He graduated from Burroughs High School two years ago. His starting at Wyoming means that the local paper has covered the Wyoming games a lot more than usual. Which means they at least get mentioned. This last offensive series they took Karsten out of the game to protect him and put the back up in. Third play, Wyoming uncorks an 81 yard run to finally get Wyoming on the board.

Game over. Bite Your Underwear 55 - Wyoming 7

My dear wife asked if I was upset. Not really. I'm a Wyoming fan I've gotten used to my team falling apart late in the season. But it does stink that they had to get torn apart by BYU and on national television. But there are certain truths for Wyoming football - you can end the season 2-10 as long as those two wins are against BYU and CSU it was a good year.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Yesterday I asked people to vote for the candidate who would do the following:

  • Win the war on terror
  • Nominate and confirm competent fair judges
  • Cut our taxes
  • Control govenment spending
  • Secure the borders of the United States

Well that didn't happen. Instead what the American public voted for was:

  • Surrender, Cut and Run, Apologise for pissing off anyone who attacks us.
  • More activist judges who think the constitution empowers them to act like gods who can create laws from the bench
  • Increase our taxes until we are bleeding from our eyes. At which time we will be told that the wait time to get our bleeding eyes treated under the new socialized medical system is 3 years.
  • Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend Spend
  • Welcome to America, here's your welfare check and your drivers licence and don't worry about those pesky immigration laws, we take them as seriously as we do election laws.

If you think I'm over-reacting, I hope you are right. But I don't think it is a coincidence that the morning after the anti-war liberal left wing wins elections to take over control of congress that Hamas declared war on America

“America is offering political, financial and logistic cover for the Zionist occupation crimes, and it is responsible for the Beit Hanoun massacre. Therefore, the people and the nation all over the globe are required to teach the American enemy tough lessons,”

I recommend that everyone start reading the Survival Blog we may all need the advice offered there soon.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Go Vote!

It is tuesday November 7, 2006 - Election Day

Go Vote.

I would prefer that you vote for candidates who will:

  • Win the war on terror
  • Nominate and confirm competent fair judges
  • Cut our taxes
  • Control govenment spending
  • Secure the borders of the United States

But if none of those things are important to you, vote anyway. It is your right and responsibility to do so.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


At some time in our lives most of us will have a hero to look up to. As kids it is Superman, or Batman or some other superhero. Sometimes it is a sports figure or some other famous person that is in the news. For many of us it is our parents.

I have never been much of a hero worshipper. I loved comic books when I was younger. But the heroes in them were just characters in a story. I never dreamed of growing up to be Spiderman or a member of the X-men. I have never been that enamored with politicians, movie stars or other public figures. I didn’t really get into sports until I was in college so I didn’t have to deal with childhood hero worship of sports figures. Sure there are those rare athletes that I love to watch play their game. It may have been a form of hero worship, but it may have been just the joy of watching a well trained athlete perform at the best of their abilities. I’ve had many years of pleasure watching Dr. J, Walter Payton, Payne Stewart, Carl Lewis, Chris Everett and Lance Armstrong do those things that they did so well. Did I worship those athletes? No. Did I love to watch them play? Absolutely.

I have no problem with having heroes to admire. But I have never ascribed to the idea of hero worship. I don’t buy sports memorabilia. I don’t wear jerseys or caps with my favorite player’s names or numbers on them. The only shirts or hats that I own with team logos on them were gifts, and I don’t wear them very often. I love sports and the athletes that play those sports. Today, I have 8 new heroes that I won’t ever worship, but I love watching them play their sport more than any professional athlete I have ever seen.

Yesterday my volleyball teams and I along with the best group of parents I have ever dealt with, traveled the 30 miles over the hill and through Poison Canyon to Trona, CA. The last two years Trona has hosted our local middle school post season volleyball tournament. This tournament is growing each year. Three years when Saint Ann’s hosted this tournament there were only 5 or 6 teams in each of the 8th and 7th grade divisions. Over the last two years involvement in this tournament has expanded to 11 teams in each of the two divisions this year. This meant that we were in for a very long day.

I took three teams to the tournament. This was really stretching things though. I started the season with 18 girls to play volleyball. So I decided to play three teams – a 6th grade team, a 7th grade team and an 8th grade team. However after two weeks I had two girls quit because the program was too hard. So that left me with six 6th grade players, six 7th grade players and four 8th grade players. My 8th grade team played all their games this season with the four 8th grade players and several different combinations of 6th and 7th grade players filling the two open spots on their team.

Since we had promised to take all three teams to Trona at the beginning of the season we stuck to our word and took three teams comprised of 15 girls with us on Saturday. The sixth and seventh grade teams were in the seventh grade division and my “eighth” grade team in the eighth grade division. It was a very busy day for several of my players. During the course of this tournament I had 8 different sixth and seventh grade players play games in both divisions of this tournament. When the day started the only four athletes on my team who were sure of their playing positions were my four eighth grade players who knew they would only be playing in the eighth grade division.

My sixth grade team, which we took to this tournament just to get them some experience for next year played some good games. They were eliminated from the tournament after the pool play portion with a 1-5 record. What impressed me most were their five losses. They were only blown out of one of those games. In one game they came roaring back from an 8 point deficient to lose in overtime. These girls are going to be a good base for my seventh grade team next year. Two of my sixth grade players played in (and won) one of the eighth grade pool play games. Four of my sixth grade players started one of the seventh grade team’s pool play games when the rest of the seventh grade team was helping the eighth grade team win their most important pool play game.

I asked a lot of my seventh grade team yesterday. At one time or another every athlete on that team played in more than one game with one of the other teams. My seventh grade team went 6-0 in pool play and won a bye in the first round of the afternoon bracket play. In the semifinals of the afternoon brackets I started to see signs of the aggressive schedule they had played that day start to show. They started the game slow and let their opponents get a seven point lead at one point. Eventually they got themselves into the game. They finally settled into their offensive system and started passing, setting and spiking and eventually cruised into win to send them to the finals against a team from Edwards AFB that we had beaten earlier that day in the pool play portion of the tournament. The finals were a different story all together. I used my first timeout when we were down 0-4. I used my second timeout when the score was 1-9. My players were playing in a panic. There was a lot of movement but no action on the court. Their biggest problem was that they had abandoned everything they spent the last 3 months learning. They stopped passing and setting and were just sending every ball they hit over the net. On the back of 8 straight service aces we finally managed to close the gap in the score but eventually lost the game 21-25. This left my seventh grade team with second place in the tournament. Second place is a great accomplishment, but, for a team that had dominated every local team they faced this season they took it pretty hard. I have to take the blame for the loss. First because I always say that when they win, they get the credit and when they lose, it’s because I didn’t prepared them well enough. Today that was very true. I just never could find the right way to train them to prepare for teams that were better than our local competition.

Once the seventh grade finals ended I was ready to step onto the court to celebrate a second place finish with my team but seeing the disappointment, the tears and the despair in their eyes I changed tactics in a heart beat and decided to do a little preparation for next year. I circled up the girls and facing the tears and upset I asked them one question “How many three-hit offensive plays did you attempt in that game?” Immediately both my setters replied “None.” I corrected them that they had actually run – one. Then I added “That is why you lost this tournament. You gave up on everything you have worked to learn for the last three months. You played this game like all the teams you have destroyed all season. That is why you lost.” Then I added “Four of you have a commitment to play with the 8th grade for two more games. But if you play like you just did out there, I have two 6th grade players sitting on the bench over there who would love to take your place, and I. Will. Sub. You. Out. In. A. Heartbeat. Got It?”

Then, without waiting for a reply I stood up straight and yelled “We just won second place! Come on, that’s a great finish to a tournament so how about some happiness here? Now let’s get in line and shake our opponent’s hands.” Then I hugged the one girl that couldn’t stop crying and herded them all to the net to shake our opponent’s hands.

Right after this game the tournament officials gathered all three remaining seventh grade teams on the court and passed out the all tournament team awards, the third, second and first place trophies and the tournament MVP award. While this was going on the last eighth grade semifinal was on the court and ready to start. Our opponents were standing on the court staring at the four players on my side that were waiting for them. They got rather wide eyed when four players broke out of the pack at the awards ceremony and started running onto the court. Three of them wearing all tournament team ribbons and the fourth carrying the second place trophy. Suddenly they all stopped and ran back off the court and left the ribbons and trophy with their teammates. Then they were back, two of them on the court and two waiting to situationally substitute into the game.

My eighth grade team went 6-0 in their pool play including a huge win over Lone Pine. Lone Pine was the two times defending champion of this tournament. They don’t play against any of our local teams during the regular season. But they show up at this tournament every year and take home the first place trophy. We had scrimmaged against Lone Pine at their gym in October and we lost 4 straight games to them. They came to our gym last Thursday for another scrimmage. We played a best 2 of 3 match with them winning the first game easily, we squeaked out a 26-24 second game win and lost the third game 12-15. When we got to the tournament all my players could talk about was that we were in the same pool as Lone Pine. Our pool play game with Lone Pine was a close one. It was probably the most watched game of the day. Both teams played well with neither team ever getting more than a two point lead. Eventually we prevailed to win that game 17-15. Followed immediately by four of my players rushing over to the seventh grade pool play game to replace the four sixth grade players that had started for them.

Now we were facing a Murray Middle School team that we hadn’t played in the regular season with the winner getting to face Lone Pine in the finals. We started off slow. I think my seventh graders hadn’t recovered from their finals loss yet. But my eighth grade players stayed with them and pushed them into performing better. Eventually they started playing like the team I’ve come to love and eventually won the game 25-21. Next up – Lone Pine.

We had a third place game buffer between our semi final and the finals. When the finals started Lone Pine was all business. They seemed to take that pool play loss to us personally and were looking for revenge. They shot out to a 3-0 lead before my girls seemed to figure out that they were in a volleyball game. From that point on the game is kind of a blur to me. We were never able to close the initial gap in the score they established. I think I aged 20 years in the 15 minutes that that game took. Nine different times Lone Pine would get a 2 point lead and told myself if we don’t get this point I’m calling time out. Each time I decided to call time out my team would win the point. So I let them go.

The game started out a lot like the seventh grade final had. My team was not running the offense they had learned to run. But with the score 2-5 my two eighth grade setters and one seventh grade hitter took over control of the team. We had several plays where they were the only three players who touched the ball and each one of plays was a textbook pass, set and spike.

Lone Pine finally called a time out when we managed to close the gap to 16-17. This gave me an opportunity to point out to my team that Lone Pine was panicking. They hadn’t set a hitter for the last 5 plays. They were sending every second hit over the net. One of my setters immediately asked “Should we back off the net then until they start spiking?” I was thrilled that she understood the implications of what I told her, but disappointed that she had to ask. I asked her what she thought? Immediately she looked at her teammates and said “Everyone off the net.” To which the other setter added “Plan on first and second hits to be freeballs. So stay back until they hit one at us.” All I could do was smile, stick my hand into the circle and say “Keep it up on three.”

Unfortunately the time out iced my server and she missed the next serve. So we went back to playing 2 or 3 down. When the game got to 20-22 my assist coach who tends to think that I don’t use my time outs enough tapped me on the shoulder and said “If they win this one, call time out”, which was the same thing I was thinking to myself for the ninth time in the game. But no sooner did she say the words and Lone Pine served into the net.

Since getting home last night I have watched the last six plays in that game video twice. I still can’t really explain what happened except this – an ace serve by my most nervous server. Two freeballs by Lone Pine and one perfect dig by my eighth grade setter followed by two textbook perfect pass-set-spikes that were put away by a five foot tall hitter who can really jump and one perfectly placed quick hit by my seventh grade hitter who had finally gotten the tears out of her eyes.

The game ended with a shot on the endline that I was sure what out, but the referee called good, and the look on the Lone Pine coaches told me she was right. My eighth grade team celebrated a 25-23 win to unseat the two time defending champions. The toughest thing I had to do all day was tell them to stop jumping around and screaming long enough to give a cheer to Lone Pine and to line up and shake their hands.

So that was a pretty long explanation of why these are my eight newest heroes.

8th Grade Champions

The five medallions are all tournament team honors earned as seventh or eighth grade team members. The small trophy is the 8th grade division tournament MVP award. How they decided which of my two setters sitting in the front row to give it to I have no idea. I am positive that if my seventh grade team had won their division the far left back row player would have been that division's MVP. If they gave such an award, she would have been the overall tournament MVP. She played in 14 full games and half of a 15th on Saturday and won all but one of them. If that is not an MVP performance I don't know what is.