Monday, February 04, 2008

Qualifier Number 2

My 14s volleyball team played in our second tournament on Saturday. We left town at 4:30 in the morning. Drove down to the American Sports Center in Anaheim CA in time for the start of the tournament at 8:00 AM.

We were the number 4 seed in out bracket so we did not have to play the first match. We were scheduled to play in the second, third and fifth matches. We had officiating duty in the sixth match.

Our first game was against a team called Impact 14. We struggled in the first game, but managed to stay close. We lost that game 22-25. But I was hopeful. I hadn't seen that team do anything we couldn't counter, handle or out play. In the second game my girls seemed intent on proving me right. We jumped out to a small lead and were cruising right long until the game got to 21-18. Then the other team rotated a really good server to the line. This rotation coincided with my girls going just a little flat. They were down for just a couple minutes. But it was enough. I used my timeouts, and one substitution. But that didn't stop our opponents from stealing a 23-25 win from us. This Impact Team ended up finishing the day an undefeated 3-0.

Our next match was against a team from the Channel Island Volleyball Club. They had lost a close match against our third opponent of the day in the opening match of the day. We played OK but just couldn't seem to get out offense working. We lost the first game 16-25. This loss seemed to wake up my players a bit. We won the second game 25-16, and cruised through the third 15-5.

Our third match was against Conejo Crush 13s team. We probably matched up pretty well with this team as only 3 of my 8 players are too old to play 13s. For a group of 13s this team played really well. We won the first game 25-18. The second game was a different game. We just could not pull away from this team. They matched up point for point or short run for short run. We held our short lead most of the game but eventually fell behind 23-24. Then my worst fear happened. My star player rotated into the service spot. Normally this would be a good thing. But while she was setting and hitting well that day, and playing great defense, her serving was a nightmare. On the day this player, who has been a star of my middle school teams for 3 years, couldn't serve her way out of a wet paper bag. She was hitting 20% from the service line. Twice I had warned her that if she didn't get her act together I was going to make her start jump serving. Just so that she would have an excuse for missing. (btw, she has a very nice jump serve, that she is scared to us in games).

Well, this star player comes to the line, her team down one point, her opponents needing only one point to end the game, and she calmly and smoothly serves three straight service aces. I told her that I would consider that performance as redemption for the rest of the day, but I would still spend some time examining the game video to see if her serving problems in the last two tournaments was a technique or a mental problem. I'm really hoping its technique, I can fix that a lot easier than I can fix a mental one.

So we finished the day in second place in our bracket. I hope that is good enough to get us moved into the bronze bracket next Saturday. If not we will just have to play our way up during the mandatories which start on March 1st.

The only glitch in our day was some of the parents that came with us had some real trouble with the score keeping that was being done. They tended to get a little vocal when the teams score-keeping would make mistakes. Which happened a lot. I was shocked to see how little effort some of these other coach's put into the score-keeping process. Each team had to score-keep one match each day. Many of these coaches just dump a couple girls who may or most likely don't know how to keep score. Then they disappear. So we have girls who don't know what they are doing, or more likely just are not paying attention handling the scores for their opponents. In each of our games we had at least one stoppage of play in order for the referee to straighten out the score-keeping.

When the score-keepers would mess up the flip chart my parents in the stands would start yelling and pointing that the score was messed up. They were taking this personal because the mistakes were constantly being made against us. The referee we had was trying to be reasonable, but he was not going to allow anyone to yell at the score-keepers, even if they were messing up - a lot!

In the end, after we had finished our turn as scorekeepers the referee apologized to me and our parents for threatening to throw them out of the gym. He noticed the attention my girls paid to the score-keeping process, the lines and the paperwork. He saw that I stood there with my girls the whole time checking their work and helping them were needed. He also noticed that the two games we were score-keeping were the only games he refereed all day that he didn't have to stop the game to straighten out the score-keeping. He told me "If that is level of maturity and careful attention your parents have some to expect from volleyball players I can understand why they got so frustrated with the sloppy work from the other teams."

It made me feel good about my girls, and really disgusted with the half-assed job most of the other 14s coaches seem to be doing teaching their players about their off the court duties.

We got home about 6 PM Saturday night. Three of my players had a special engagement that evening. Our School was holding a major fund raising event that evening. The 20th Annual Saint Ann's School Car Raffle. The three players were supposed to show up dressed nicely and work as the "Vannas" for the night. Named after Vanna White their job is to take the ticket numbers as they are drawn off one board and move them over to another board. These three young athletes were radiant in their nice dresses and too high a heels. I was proud that none of them feel off their heels, off the stage, or asleep on the job. It was a long day for them and they did a wonderful job.

Our next tournament is next Saturday. But before then we have two practices and a lot to work on. I can hardly wait.

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