Friday, May 06, 2005

Far Western Volleyball 2005 Part 1

In the middle of their first game with Yahoo 15, the eventual winner of this year’s Reno tournament, my daughter’s 15th seeded team blew a small lead. Ultimately, they fought hard and played well enough to just barely lose the game 25-23. The volleyball parent inside me though was boiling over, I’m sure I sounded like someone with B(no offense to anyone out there who actually has Tourette’s). In their next match with Gold Cal 15’s, a very solid team, they had a 19-17 lead and ended the first game with something like 5 hitting errors and a missed serve. I have no idea what I may have said or what kind of faces I made, it’s just that Mrs. Boris is always around to remind me and threaten me with divorce. I suppose it’s a good thing for me that I’m the only parent who does these things.

I know the drill. When bad things happen to your team, you just go to some private place inside yourself where you blame all your daughter’s teammates, the coach, the referee, and the club director. The trick, though, is keeping all that stuff private and never quite saying it aloud. Instead, you learn some mantra where you smile a lot and say encouraging things. Sometimes I’m convinced thatBwould make an incredible volleyball parent. In the meantime, I’m learning to meditate and stuff and trying to learn to gnash my teeth at less than 110 decibels.

Even though my daughter’s club doesn’t go to JO’s. Qualifiers are one of those venues where all the demons come out for volleyparents. First off, there are those bid things that only seem to be slightly less mysterious than processes that end with white smoke coming from the chimney of the Vatican or with Ryan Secrest sending someone home. This is almost guaranteed to evoke a volleyball version of King Lear where very good teams insist that they should have had the opportunity to be challengers, or er....not like challengers...In the meantime, no one knows precisely how the Lears at USVA actually figure out the whole “at large” thing and whose daughters are truly deserving (hint, there’s this device called a “database”, it might not be all that hard to ensure that everyone is looking at the same results)

Second, they have that Junior National tryout where they essentially winnow down the field of prospective junior volleyball idols to a precious unusually tall few. Finally, there are all those college coaches who used to spend most of their time looking at 17’s and 18’s. Now you actually see them prowling around 15’s matches, you definitely see them at 16’s, and had I watched 14’s, I imagine one or two might have popped up there for giant setters who commute to Northern California all the way from Seattle. For those of us who are secretly using our soon to be discretionary social security and IRA savings on the college scholarship lottery, whatever in us that is “nuts” is just bound to distill out at or around qualifiers.

Before I stray too far, the one thing that really impressed me about Yahoo 15 was that when it came close to actually dropping a game to a darkhorse like my daughter’s Empire team, they simply stepped the defense up a notch or thirty. They dug some very hard hit balls and made it clear that if anyone was going to take a game from Yahoo there it wasn’t going to be on a Yahoo mistake. It’s one of those qualities that has nothing to do with height or armspeed and everything to do with the kind of skills volleyball can teach that might carry over to realms outside learning to hit balls over a 7’4” net. It was a big step for Empire to be hitting balls like that in that particular situation and the evil parent in me was blind to that fact in the lust for the big upset that night.

I’d also mention that someone keeps mentioning 9 and 13 for Yahoo, both very good all around players, and I don’t know if anyone mentions 33 and 5 for that team or their libero. 33 has a great arm from the left and hunted down a ball or two beyond the far corner of the backline with a vigor that made one think “libero” rather than big L1. I imagine that beating Yahoo will always be one of the signs of a successful season for Empire teams. All of the matches in that particular Saturday pool were very competitive. Long Beach was an impressive all around offensive team. Gold Cal 15’s is a very athletic team with a solid left in 16 and a very entertaining setter in 5 who is one of these players who at first glance doesn’t look like she quite fits in because she’s very slight and not very tall, then every now and then she gets a ball to hit and she smokes it. In Prepvolleyball respect terms, the 15’s at Far Westerns were sort of unprepossessing, possibly because there are 3 national qualifiers on the same weekend. Yahoo was the one seed and it was 14th and Jammers, the other finalist, was down in Don Ho territory. I have no real idea what the national top 10 teams looks like, but the field and level of play in Reno were certainly respectable. I’d say that the very top might not have been on a par with last year’s 15’s, but any of the 3 teams who got bids in Reno this year certainly belong in any open field. I didn’t get to watch NorCo much though, which is too bad because I wanted to ask about all those dads who were wearing the yellow doo rags and looked like Cher’s friends from the movie Mask had all decided to watch the Norco/Colorado Performance match. I’ve mentioned Jammers in two other posts, but they were fluid enough that it doesn’t really matter who they beat or lose to. It was just fun to watch them play. Vision 15 is very much in that club’s playing tradition. Tall, well trained players, who don’t make a lot of mistakes on the court. Whenever #2 hit from the right there always seemed to be this flutter of something interesting is going to happen here.

I’ve said more than a few times that I’m not a fan of Reno. I should say, however, that I have come to like the facility. It’s big, clean, well lit, and there are lots of bathrooms. To the shopping center across the street, instead of threatening to tow every cheapskate parent who tries to save the 5 dollar/day parking at the convention center why not just offer parking to anyone who spends forty dollars at the center that day? One of the stores there is an actual supermarket and volleyball parents have been known to shop for items like bottled water, fruit, etc. For a town with so many pawn shops and check cashing stores, you’d think there’d be a way to turn a “problem” like that into an three day empowerment zone :}. The other thing I like is the music in the casino parking lots. I know it probably has subliminal messages in it like “play the slots some more, don’t go to your car quite yet,” but making the long walk to the car after a couple tough losses is hard enough, it’s nice to have something to distract me from the evil volleyball parent voices in my head. The other good thing about Reno is that some day soon, Constantine Maroulis will be playing the small casinos here and doing patter between songs about his friendship with Paula Abdul and how he still talks on the phone with Simon Cowell. After a relatively smooth first day, there was a lot of frustration with pool assignments, late announcements about crossover matches, etc. It’s getting so bad that Tom Delay was quoted saying something vaguely threatening about the NCVA. Rather than having NCVA send the House majority leader and lead fund raiser golfing in Scotland and front row seats for the London production of Rent, I would suggest NCVA consider the following.I know it’s not an easy job, but court assignments and the question of who plays who where are basically mathematical.(there’s a finite number of courts and a finite number of teams...which means that you don’t have to be Kurt Godel to solve it) My bigger problem with Reno and NCVA though is this. Reno is not in Northern California. I checked a map and Reno is actually in a state called Nevada, one time home of Howard Hughes and Greg Maddux. I know the City of Reno probably gave NCVA a great deal and as I said it’s a nice facililty, but asside from having more second hand smoke than any place west of the Carolinas, it’s not right to have these kinds of delays for kids who are still in school. For most NCVA families, Reno is a minimum of 4 hours away. The kids already miss school for all of Friday and if they're in an AM pool you choose between depriving them of sleep or considering leaving last period Thursday. When your daughter’s first match on Sunday starts officially at 2:30 PM and she potentially has three matches, somebody’s priorities are out of whack. Either get the court assignments cleaned up or have your own regional in a place that’s central to the region so the tournament doesn’t mess up two different school weeks. end part 1


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