Friday, May 30, 2008

Starlings Regionals Tournament

Starlings Regionals

The Ridgecrest Starlings Volleyball Club U14 team completed the Southern California Volleyball Association tournament season last weekend by participating in the SCVA U 14s Regionals Tournament.

The Starlings were seeded 32nd out of 32 teams in the Brass Region. On Saturday the Starlings began their weekend playing on Court A1 at the American Sports Center in Anaheim, CA. During team warm-ups the Ridgecrest Starlings managed to sprain an offhand finger on one of their outside hitters, sprain the right shoulder of a defensive specialist, and one of their starting setters took a solid spike to the face just two minutes before the first match started.

The Ridgecrest Starlings were in a pool with the 1st seed team from the Moreno Beach Volleyball Club, the 16th seed team from the San Gabriel Volleyball Club and the 17th seed team from the SHS Volleyball Club from the San Fernando Valley.

Reeling from the sudden onslaught of injuries the Starlings set out to do something they had not needed to do all season – play hurt. In their opening match against the San Gabriel Volleyball Club the Starlings put on an almost flawless team serving performance, with four members of the team delivering serving streaks of six or more serves. Strong performances by defensive specialists Jazmine Stenger-Smith and Brooke Nelepovitz led their team to a first match victory, 25-14 and 25-14. Nelepovitz valiantly tried to end the second game from the serving line with six consecutive serves that included 3 aces before her injured shoulder gave out and ended her serving opportunities for the weekend.

Next up was the 1st seed in the region from the Moreno Beach Volleyball Club. Maggie Champeny led the charge in this match with over 12 serves and a solid spiking performance proving to her teammates that her injured finger was not going to slow her down that weekend. Unfortunately the Starlings came up short in this match 21-25 and 22-25.

The last match of the day was against the 17th seed team from the SHS Volleyball Club in the San Fernando Valley, which having already beaten both the other teams in this pool was looking ahead to an easy first place finish. The Ridgecrest Starlings rallied behind their team Captains Sammi Anderson and Alyssa Ochoa who combined for an impressive 25 serves. Stifling blocks by Miss Ochoa, Laura Metcalf and Ashley Sherrick drove the Starlings to a loud and exciting 25-19 and 25-20 victory.

The Starlings ended their first day in a three way tie, at 2-1, for first in their pool with the Moreno Valley and SHS teams. The first tie breaker was game record which eliminated the Moreno Valley Team. The Starlings won the second tie breaker over SHS to take the day, and retire to a family BBQ at their motel to celebrate their upset filled day.

Day two of the tournament had the Starlings playing at CSU Dominguez Hills as the new number one seed against another team from the San Gabriel Volleyball Club, a team from the Rancho Santa Margarita Volleyball Club and a team from the Bakersfield Club Jamba team.

Again the Starlings started the day by playing strong against another San Gabriel Volleyball Club team. Highlighting the first game was the serving of Rebecca Dwyer and Ashley Sherrick leading their team to another 25-14 victory. The serving duties in the second game were picked up by Laura Metcalf and Maggie Champeny. While Ashley Sherrick added seven kills for a 25-15 win.

The second match of the day was against the Bakersfield Club Jamba team. This match was the first real let down for the Starlings. They struggled to a 20-25 loss in the first game and completely lost track of themselves in the second game to lose it 9-25.

After a two match break the Starlings were back on the court against the Rancho Santa Margarita team. Powerful serving by Anderson, Metcalf and Champeny and strong front row play from Sherrick and Champeny led the Starlings to 25-15 and 25-20 win.

For the second time in two days the Ridgecrest Starlings found themselves in a three way tie for first at 2-1. However this time the tie-breakers did not go their way and they had to settle for a second place finish. But that was good enough to put the Starlings in the upper bracket of the region’s tournament quarter-finals.

In the afternoon’s quarter-finals bracket the Starlings faced a tall, strong team from the Temecula Volleyball Club in a one game to 25 single elimination match. The Starlings stayed with the Temecula team until the game was tied 9-9 but asking for a fifth upset victory in two days was apparently too much and Temecula slowly pulled away from the Starlings to win the game 25-18.

The Ridgecrest Starlings started the weekend ranked 32 out of 32 teams and returned home to Ridgecrest Sunday evening tied for 5th place in the region. By any standards this weekend’s volleyball tournament was a resounding success for this young team.

This tournament marked the end of the SCVA season. But the Ridgecrest Starlings aren’t finished yet. They have finals, the end of the school year, middle school promotions, the start of summer and only three more weeks to get ready for the Starlings National Championship in San Diego. In a four day event starting on June 19th the Ridgecrest Starlings will compete against some of the best Starlings U14 teams from all over the United States.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mandatory No. 5

Sorry for not getting this posted earlier. I had to get things prepared for Sports Night at St. Ann School.

Mandatory No. 5 found our Starlings back in Division 12. we had briefly played in division 12 back in Mandatory No. 2. The results then were not pretty. After finishing first in Mandatory 4 we were elevated again to Division 12. I was looking forward to this opportunity. We are a much better team now than we were back in March. However, the teams that are in Division 12 now, were also much better teams than they were a couple months ago.

We played at Gahr High School in Cerritos, CA. Gahr High School is right at the intersection of the 605 and 91 freeways. So we had a ways to travel to get there on Saturday morning. Fortunately we were the number four seed in our pool, so we didn’t have to play or officiate the first match. We arrived at the gym around 8 AM. This means that I missed the coaches meeting so I didn’t get to be lectured for the 8th time this season about not letting my team trash the gym, climb on things that are not meant to be climbed on, or take too long on the court. Remember folks we are there to play volleyball and we are there to play it quickly.

Our first match of the day was against the Cal Jrs 14-C team. This team eventually won our pool. They were a good eye-opening experience for my players. This was really the first team we have ever faced that served like a volleyball game is supposed to be served. Of the 9 players on their roster, six of them could fire hard, serves that cleared the net by only inches. They could also hit those serves where ever they wanted them to go. Their coach watched our team during warm-ups and for the first few minutes of play then she started directing her servers where to serve. They immediately targeted both of the younger players that I had playing in the back row. As a result, my two younger players spent most of this match getting creamed by hard serves.

Of course I had options to try and stop this. I could have called time outs to try and ice the server. But in my experience that seldom works if the server is truly good at what she is doing. Icing a server only works with a weaker server who suddenly finds themselves on a hot streak. Usually taking a time out during a hard service run is done more to allow the receiving team a few moments to collect themselves and to get ready to play again. I also could have subbed those players out of the game. But all that would accomplish is to teach them that I don’t have any faith in their ability to handle a tough situation.

So I kept a close watch on my young players and let them get pounded, as long as they didn’t start losing faith in themselves. Four times on that Saturday I watch these two young players get repeatedly hit with rocket serves and after four or five shanked receive attempts I would finally start to see their shoulders droop or their faces start looking at the floor. Each time I would give them one more receive then I was going to call for a sub and get them out of there before they completely lost faith in themselves. Every time I decided that it was time to pull that struggling player they would manage to pop one of those hard serves back into the air and suddenly we were playing volleyball again.

Yes, we had a hard time handling our opponent’s serves. And yes, we didn’t dominate our opponents with our serves the way we had done in some previous matches. But once the ball was received and in play, we were every bit as good or better team than our opponents were. Our defense was as good as our opponents and our hitting and blocking was better than any of the three teams we faced that day. In all three matches we played, by the middle of the first game our opponents were not hitting, and not blocking and any aggressiveness at the net that they may have shown early in the match was non-existent by the end of the match.

We lost our first match to the Cal Jrs. 18-25 and 15-25. Which isn’t bad playing against a team that had recorded four consecutive division 12, 2nd place finishes in the first four mandatory tournaments. Especially considering that our serves were not working and we were really struggling on serve receives.

Our second match was against a team from the Impact Volleyball Club. This team was having a rough year. They started in Division 8 for Mandatory 1. After 4 straight 4th place finishes they were finally down to division 12. But this does not mean that this was a bad team. They were good enough to have won at least one match in division 8, 10 and 11 on their way to division 12. Again we were facing a team that served a lot better than we were receiving. Again, we were facing a team that was targeting those serves at our younger players.

We managed to get a few more of those hard serves into the air where our offense could go to work. As a team we only committed three service errors and our hitting kept the game close. We were down 23-24 when Sammi crushed a spike right at the back line of their court. Everyone on the court looked at the linesman who was very obviously not paying attention to the game. This clueless 14 year old waffled back and forth between signaling in or out for a few seconds. Then she looked at our opponents and noticed all of them signaling out. So she joined in and signaled out. The referee who’s line of sight was blocked on the play went along with his linesman call. Game over 23-25. After the match three different people who were paying attention told me that the spike was in by at least 6 inches. Oh well. We had given up 24 other points in that game to get us into that situation. But I am getting really tired of coaches who will send players out onto a court to call lines or keep score without making sure that first) their players know what they are doing, and secondly) who will not stick around and keep an eye on their players to make sure they are paying attention.

This close loss seemed to encourage our opponents a bit. They played better in the second game. They definitely served a lot better. I think they realized that their hard serves were their best offensive weapon to use against us. Eventually they won that game 17-25.

Our third match was against the No. 3 seed in our pool, a team from the Stealth Volleyball Club. This team had played the last two tournaments in division 12 after starting the season in division 10. So again they had a lot of experience playing against higher division teams. The only difference was that while they also had great servers, they had the same difficulties receiving hard serves as we did.

During the two games we played against them we had 5 different servers with service runs of more than 5 serves in a row. Once our Starlings figured out that they could match this team serve for serve they got a rush that really pumped up our hitting game. We won both of these games 25-15 and 25-17.

The most entertaining part of this match was watching the referee unload on the Cal Jrs. Coach because of the lousy job her team was doing of keeping score accurately and for missing very obvious line calls. If only he had cracked down earlier in the match a couple of the close games that had been played (with and without us being involved) would have turned out differently. We were not the only team that day to suffer from missed calls by linesmen who were not paying attention.

The final match of the day we had to call lines and score keep for the Cal Jr. vs Impact match. I was very pleased with the job my players did that match. Afterwards the referee congratulated our team on their diligence and attention. He told the team “If more 14s teams would take their officiating responsibilities as seriously as you do, my job would be much easier.” I was also thanked by two other sets of parents from other teams for having players who obviously knew what they were doing and paid attention the entire match. I was very proud of our players.

In the end we were 1-2 in matches, and finished in 3rd place. This was a great 3rd place finish. We faced a couple very good teams who were very good at exploiting our weaknesses. We managed stay in division 12 and in the process prove that we do belong there.

The best compliment I received at the end of the day came from a couple parents from the Stealth team. They loved the way our entire team stayed positive, upbeat and focused during the both the matches we were losing and the match we won.

Friday, May 09, 2008

The Creation of Wyoming:

I got this is an e-mail from my niece...

Once upon a time in the Kingdom of Heaven, God was missing for six days.

Eventually, Michael the Archangel found Him, resting on the seventh day. He inquired of God, 'Where have You been?'

God sighed a deep sigh of satisfaction and proudly pointed downwards through the clouds, 'Look Michael, look what I've made!'

Archangel Michael looked puzzled and said, 'What is it?'

'It's a planet,' replied God, and I've put life on it. I'm going to call it Earth, and it's going to be a great place of balance.'

'Balance?' inquired Michael, still confused.

God explained, pointing to different parts of Earth. 'For example, Northern Europe will be a place of great opportunity and wealth, while southern Europe is going to be poor; the Middle East over there will be a hot spot. And over there I've placed a continent of white people, while over here is a continent of black people.' God continued, pointing to different countries. 'This one will be extremely hot and arid while this one will be very cold and covered in ice.'

The Archangel, impressed by God's work, then pointed to a large land mass and said, 'What's that one?' 'Ah,' said God. 'That's Wyoming, the most glorious place on earth. There are beautiful lakes, rivers, sunrises, sunsets, rolling hills, high mountains with snow covered peaks, open prairie, geysers, hot springs, water falls, monumental rock formations, abundant wildlife, excellent fly-fishing streams, pure white snow in the winter, white fluffy clouds, blue skies year-round, and a place where a person can see millions of stars in the sky at night.'

God continued,

The people from Wyoming are going to be modest, intelligent and humorous and they are going to be found traveling the world. They will be extremely sociable, hard working and high achieving, and they will be known throughout the world as diplomats and carriers of peace.'

Michael gasped in wonder and admiration but then proclaimed, 'What about balance, God? You said there would be balance!'

God replied wisely, 'Wait until you see the idiots I'm putting around them in Nebraska, Colorado, South Dakota, Utah, and Montana.'

Indiana Jones Preview

I finally saw a preview of the new Indiana Jones Movie that premiers later this month.

I'm ready to go now....

I haven't been all too thrilled with most of what Hollywood turns out these days. In fact I refuse to go see about 99 percent of it. But I have always loved the Indiana Jones movies, all of them. Even Temple of Doom.

But what I'm looking forward to the most about the new movie? Karen Allen is back as Marion Ravenwood.

I loved her in Raiders and was very disappointed that she wasn't in the second and third ones. It was good to see her back with Indy again. Sure she is almost 57 years old now, but she is a good looking 57 from what I saw. Maybe it's the freckles, I've always liked girls with freckles. Good thing my dear wife has them, huh?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Robot Test

It is amazing some of the things I can find to do to waste time when I am supposed to be doing something useful, like sleeping.

Name That Robot
Created by OnePlusYou

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Mandatory 4

When the schedule came out for Mandatory 4 we were scheduled to play at Citrus College. This was a wonderful location for us. It is one of the closest to home locations that we could draw, and the start time was delayed until 9 AM. Which meant that we would not have to leave town until around 6 AM which is much better than our usual 4-5 AM departure times. But the day after the schedule came out it changed. Suddenly we were scheduled to play at TBD. Man, I really hate playing at TBD, the facilities there are really bad.

Finally on Friday, a third schedule was released and we were scheduled to play at the Home Depot Center in Carson CA at 8 AM. So we were back to a 4:45 departure time in order to get there in time.

We were the number two team in the pool which meant that we didn't play until the second match, but we had to officiate the first match, so at least five of our players had to be at the Home Depot Center by 8 AM.

For those of you who have never played volleyball at the Home Depot Center it is a really unique environment to play in. The Home Depot Center is also known as the Los Angeles Velodrome. The Velodrome is a large indoor wooden bicycle race track. The infield of the track is a large enough space that they can set up 5 volleyball courts in it. Last year the U16s team my daughter was on played a tournament in the Velodrome. I hated it. The parents have to stay off the court. So they sit outside the bicycle track and watch the volleyball games from over 100 feet away. Between the spectators and the courts is a large black net that keeps the balls from flying out onto the bicycle track. However, this year being down on the court as a coach I didn't mind the place so much. There is plenty of room around the courts, it's actually kind of quiet down there. And the roof is really high, there are no overhead obstructions to get in the way. This however did bother a few of our players. They felt like they were playing in a really large fishbowl. Which is actually pretty fitting. The hitters and setters took a little time to adjust to the fact that the roof was so far away.

Our pool for the tournament consisted of teams from Bakersfield, Victorville and Pasadena. So the Arroyo team from Pasadena was the only team that didn't have to deal with a long drive that morning.

In our first match against the Arroyo Volleyball Club Team from Pasadena. Our Starlings started out a little slow, but quickly got organized and got used to the size of the venue we were playing in. They won that first match in two games - (25-18 and 25-15). Following that match we had our only break of the day. Then it was back on the court for a match against the Bakersfield Volleyball Club. The match my players looked a little more like the team I was used to seeing. Which is not a good thing. After winning the first game 25-19 the girls slacked off a little and tried to take it easy for the second game. This led to a 19-25 loss in the second game, and for the first time this season actually started a little bit of barking and snapping at each other on the court. Fortunately they were able to get things together for the third game. We played pretty even until the side change then my front row took over the game and we ran away with a 15-11 victory.

Following that match was our second officiating duty of the day, then our last match.

The final match of the pool was the 2-0, number one seed team from the White Lightening Volleyball Club in Victorville CA against our also 2-0 Ridgecrest Starlings. The way the other matches had worked out this match was for first place. The loser was going to finish in second. Our servers came out of the shoot hot in this match and when we really started spiking the game ended quickly - 25-16. Unfortunately that quick easy win led my still young and relatively inexperienced players to think that they second game would be just as easy. It wasn't. In a back and forth game where our opponents pretty much abandoned their attacking offense in favor of playing defense to counter our attackers both teams stayed close most of the game. Eventually we gained a small lead and held on for a 25-22 victory.

This left us in 1st place and will move us up to division 12 in two weeks. I hope my girls are ready for that. So far this season the only tournament that was not a first or second place finish for us was Mandatory 2, the one and only time we played in division 12.

Highlights for the day were Alyssa serving 36 times with zero errors and Ashley recording 13 aces in just 30 serves. Oh, and the ice cream I had to buy, because they finished first place again. Yeah, I know I guy who is supposed to be teaching them about healthy lifestyle choices buying them ice creams seems a little contradictory. But what the heck, it they keep winning, I'll keep buying ice cream.