Sunday, March 09, 2008

Mandatory No. 2

We played in SCVA Mandatory No. 2 on Sunday, March 9, at El Camino College in Torrance CA. We were the number four seed in our pool and therefore didn't have to play in the first match. So we left Ridgecrest at 5 AM that morning. With only one brief stop in Mojave on the way down we arrived at the college just after 7:30. This was a pretty pleasant trip, nice roads, not much traffic and other than some fog once we got into the LA area the weather was clear.

Going into this tournament I had been harping on our players to concentrate on the volleyball games and not spend so much time worrying or wondering about any extra-curricular activities that may have been planned for the day.

Unfortunately they didn't come to this tournament any more focused than before. I don't know if it is just their age, or what, but most of this team still thinks that club volleyball is supposed to be a social event. Meaning that you don't do anything without standing around for a half an hour talking about it first. Prime example was trying to get the girls out side the gym to warm up once we all got there. I called out to them and said "Ladies, lets go" and motioned for them to follow me. Then I walked outside, where I had to wait until they all eventually wandered out the door. Once outside they immediately circled up and started talking again. I got a couple of their attention and motioned for them to keep following me. Then I walked around the corner to the area I had selected for our warm-ups. Then I waited there for a couple minutes with about half the team wondering where the rest of them are. Finally I started the few girls that were there warming up and just added the rest of them into the group as they eventually strolled (while chatting together) over to where we were.

Our first match of the day was against a Bakersfield Club Jamba team. Watching the other teams in our pool warm up and play I had already decided that this was going to be our tough opponent of the day. Then half way through our first game I was starting to re-evaluate my decision. Our Starlings team started that game playing like a team who has finally come to a tournament to win. We were serving well, everyone was moving, and talking. Our passing was spot on and hit were dropping in also. We very quickly ran up a 20-13 lead over this team. Then just as fast as we started in this game, we stopped. We stopped serving, passing, moving, talking and spiking. Suddenly my volleyball team turned into 6 spectators to a very one sided volleyball game. We lost the game 23-25.

For the second game I tried to get my shell shocked team back into focus and playing again. But it was not to be. The second game was a complete repeat of the end of the first game. Except for serving. We did serve well that game. But since we were not rallying the serves didn't do us much good. We lost the second game 12-25.
Our next match was against a Beach Cities Volleyball Club team. We started out slow and static again, but fueled by a couple good service runs we managed to make the game close. Too close. We took a slight lead at 23-22 but then started reverting to our old slow ways. Several of my players seemed to sense that victory was in our grasp and really tried to keep the team moving. But we just couldn't put this team away. Eventually after several lead changes we lost this game 29-31. The longest game this team has played so far in their short history.

My players seemed to take this close loss personally and really roared onto the court in the second game. This game looked a lot like our first game. We started out playing like we were invincible. Then once we got a big lead we slammed on the brakes, stopped moving and let our opponents scramble back into the game. However, unlike the first game, this one we managed to end before our opponents mounted a full comeback. We squeaked out close 25-21 victory for our first win of the day. Unfortunately it was also our last.

The third and deciding game of the match was never close. We changed sides of the court when our opponents were up 8-2, we went on a mini run of points right after the side change, but eventually lost the game and the match 8-15.

After a one match break, we stepped onto the court to play what I thought was the weakest team in our pool. This team, called TCA, had beaten the Beach cities team, but and been manhandled by the Bakersfield team. We spotted them a 7 point lead to start the game, then actually started playing some volleyball. Unfortunately we were playing trade points volleyball. Finally down 19-12, one of my 7th grade players woke up and decided to start playing, from the service line. Using a wonderful mix on top spin and floater serves she fired off seven service aces to tie the game up. But once they finally managed to return one of her serves we were through. We lost the game 22-25.

That loss seemed to just end the day for my players. They stood in the huddle before the next game and were saying all the things you would want to hear them say. Unfortunately it was all just talk. Because once the game started there was only talk, no action. I used one time out early and struggled to find some new words to explain to them that they were not moving at all, and that just standing in place and reaching for balls that came near them was not going to work. But like the rest of the day they were either, not listening, not hearing, or just not caring. The continued to play their own special style of stand around volleyball until the game was over 11-25.

This one game win, 0-3 match record day was the worst day for us as a volleyball team. Unfortunately the blame for today must rest firmly on my shoulders. I obviously have not been getting through to these girls. So I am in the process of revamping my training schedule, and my practice plans. What we are doing is not working, so I have to try and find something that will. I have until 6 PM Tuesday night to do so. Wish me luck....

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