Sunday, September 11, 2005

Deer Valley Sept. 2005 (volleyball)

At the beginning of the day, all the buzz was about Stephanie Browne, the 6'5" Monte Vista junior who transferred from Springfield, Ohio.  The other talk was about Michael Brown, a guy who has exactly the same qualifications to be a high school volleyball coach as he did to be the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). I have it on good authority that the President plans to replace him with Bobby Brown. of Being Bobby Brown, to make it clear that does indeed care about poor black people. Aparently, Kanye West managed to say that he wasn't interested. In the meantime, the Secretary of State went to her native Alabama to show hurricane victims the new Ferragamos she bought in New York City at the exact moment their homes were being destroyed. As Tom Delay said to two children whose mailing address is now section C row 9, Astrodome in Texas, "This is kind of fun in its way isn't it?"  After all if this had been a baseball game, they'd be paying eighty dollars just to sit there for a couple hours to watch Terry Puhl and Art Howe.  Instead, they hang out in the 8th Wonder of the World, oddly they stopped calling it that after New Orleans built the Superdome, and listen to pitches from army recruiters who just happen to have great jobs for them and having Barbara Bush tell them that they’re better off.  Please understand, that I also think it's quite possible that various state and local officials also screwed up here.  It's just that none of them told me exactly four years ago today to vote for them because they'd keep my family and me safe.

Yes, it is odd to be on one side of the country enjoying the pleasures of watching your kid play high school volleyball while another section of your country is filled with refugees.  As we climbed into the car at six in the morning, I told myself that life goes on.  In the meantime, we figure out how those of us who are more fortunate might help those who might have been us. New Orleans was identified as a top 3 likely disaster site in the US.  San Francisco was also in the top 3, though I can't remember if that was for possible earthquakes or for having been 49er fans last year.  Volleydad's initial relief plan was this.  I would look on one of J Tawa's lists from last year and find the names of the best volleyball players in the Gulf Coast area then invite the families of any kids who don't play my daughter's position to come live with us until their eligibility ends.  Mrs. Boris unfortunately doesn't approve of my taking advantage of the suffering of others.  As she put it, "How would you like it if the President say had used 9/11 to exploit in the midterm elections? You'd be angry.  Especially,if he did things like appointed a bunch of hacks to work in the Department of Homeland Security which he actually opposed or if he refused to testify to the 9/11 commission which he also opposed, or if he never actually caught Osama Bin Laden and shot Pat Tillman instead then let the army lie about it."

I tried to disagree with Mrs. Boris, "Do you have to be so political?" I asked her.  "I was just talking about volleyball.  Next you'll tell me that the price of gas has something to do with the politics of the Middle East.  If gas is six dollars a gallon and it becomes an issue to drive to all these tournaments, we'll just give up groceries or health insurance or soemthing."

We did carpool to Deer Valley as did most of the parents.  When we got there, we also   learned that one dollar from each three dollar admission to the tournament had been designated for Katrina relief victims who had better than a 9'6" vertical. I'm kidding about the 9'6" vertical thing.  It was a nice touch on the part of a tournament that I thought was very well run.  Deer Valley is physically one of the nicest high schools in California.  It has tennis courts, a gorgeous Olympic sized pool, two full gyms with dividers in between to eliminate ball on problems, and polished hardwood floors.  Just in front of the gym, there are big color pictures of the Abernathy sisters, Deer Valley volley alums who went to Cal and Arizona.  There's even a Burger King right next to this school for 3500 students which is like putting a casino next to a senior center.  

    The tournament itself was 16 teams starting with 4 team pool play and then an 8 team playoff for championship and consolation.  My daughter's team was seeded sixth in a field that field that included last year's D3 Norcal champs, Sacred Heart Cathedral, Carondolet, Northgate, and Liberty.  My daughter's high school team had a down year last year and I honestly wasn't sure what to expect this season. Last year, when she was a freshman, she had set a goal for herself of making the team and my wife and I did the helicopter parent by hovering near tryouts and the early practices.  This year, we backed off, not even coming near the gym during tryouts and barely watching practices.  In other words, we've been considerably saner.  One effect though was that we had no idea what to expect of this first tournament.

    I did take advantage of the fact that her team didn't play in the first match to wander the tournament a little.  There were actually two 6'4" plus players in the tournament and both were quite good.  Granada had one who I think plays for Players during the Club season.  In the other gym, Stephanie Browne's Monte Vista team was playing Liberty.  It was immediately clear that Browne is a very good player.  She handles the ball surprisingly well, she's a very good consistent hitter though not a lights out hitter yet (at least when I saw her, she was actually getting dug fairly consistently), and is clearly going to give some college coach a lot to brag about.  The Granada player is also good, though has a ways to go as a hitter.  

    As I stood on the sideline eavesdropping, every other conversation seemed to be about Monte Vista's big time leftside hitter.  She's deserving of the attention, but one of the ironies is that Liberty won the match reasonably easily.  Monte Vista finished third in its own pool and wound up 10th in the tournament, which doesn't mean they won't have a great season once all the pieces come together.  I don't blame anyone for this, but the sad thing about prep volleyball talk is that it's like the commodities exchange.  So much of the attention is speculative that there's a tendency to ignore the actual matches and the teams and players winning them.  The single most entertaining team to watch at the tournament was Sacred Heart, which might have had one player who could claim to be anything close to six feet tall. Sacred Heart is one of those teams that digs anything and everything and for whom points never end.  They have a great libero, who actually may be taller than one of their middles though that middle suddenly gets a whole lot taller when she actually hits the ball, a smart quick setter, and at least a few arms on the team from the left and middle. In other words, Sacred Heart is a team with a bunch of fine players whose names generally don't get whispered in awe in gyms, on volleyboards, or those endless lists.  Of course, I don’t know any of their names. Grrrr…. Because no one says them much.

I point out that high school football and basketball aren't as much like this.  Yes, a big deal is made of Mcdonald's All American types, but if some boy scores 63 points in a basketball game, people tend to pay attention and it makes the papers even if he's 5'10" and not especially quick.  People in Indiana would probably remember Steve Alford even if he didn't go on to play for Bobby Knight and even I remember Damon Bailey and I've only been to Indiana once in my life. Even people who don’t post as BJ, remember Rick Mount.  Slow guys from Indiana even have their own movie, Hoosiers.  We honestly don't know who's going to be like Booby, the star runnng back in Friday Night Lights, maybe it would be okay to celebrate athletes for what they're doing now rather than for what they maybe might be able to do in 6 years.  That can be fun too.

Many years ago, our older one played in a state final match against Bishop Montgomery.  Hedder Illustre, a 5'5" leftside had 30 kills in the 5 game match.  Katie Oslovsky who was a 6'3" junior who went on to great success at USC also played a big role in the win.  Today, everyone would be talking about Katie Oslovsky and the fact that she was a certain fab 50 or whatever.  At the time, Illustre was named MVP of the final and Oslovsky didn't quite make the all tournament team.  The article in the LA Times talked about Illustre. She had her day in the sun and deserved it.  Today it would be Oslovsky makes case as big time hitter, Illustre also had 30 kills and she'll probably have to be a DS in college and isn't even among the top 100 prospects in the country, so who cares.

My daughter's team had its first match against Foothill, the 4th and bottom seed in the pool.  Foothill was one of those odd high school teams with four to five really tall players and three or four players who are extremely small.  Foothill took an early lead as their middles put balls right through spots where blockers normally put their hands up.  Midway through the first game Foothill had a 16-14 lead.  One of the newcomers on my daughter's team then ran off 8 straight points from the service line including three aces.  After that, Foothill struggled and lost in 2.   I then walked back in and saw a completely transformed Foothill team give Carondelet, the second seed in the tournament a huge scare.  The second game was 31-30 Foothill and the level of play was very high as the Foothill hitters found their zone against a smaller Carondelet team.

In the other gym, Acalanes , coached by former St. Mary’s player and Foothill alum Meg Hauser, which came in as the fourth seed in its pool beat Castro Valley, Liberty, and Monte Vista.  Sacred Heart, which had already somewhat amazingly played 8 matches this season, swept through a pool that had an athletic Deer Valley team and James Logan.  
One of the best things about the tournament was that the competition was very even bottom to top.  In the four pools, there were two three way ties.  Albany which finished well back in this tournament beat Carondelet just two days earlier.  

My daughter’s school had a very tough three game match with a well balanced Granada team with another big front line, then lost in three to Carondelet  after they adjusted by triple blocking the leftside.  Carondelet does  a bit of everything well.  I like their middle, 22, and they showed poise in tight matches throughout the day.  In the playoffs, we watched Sacred Heart basically toy with San Ramon with a defense so tight that the ball looked like it was on a yo yo string.  My daughter’s team was reffing and this display left them  awestruck.  

Acalanes was a medium-sized team with a good left handed jump server and very steady defense.  They’ve long been a regular presence in the NCS D3 playoffs.  This is one of their better teams and they made their way through a very tough morning pool.  My daughter’s team felt lucky to win the match in 3 and essentially better the number 6 seed they had at the beginning of the day.

One of the most fascinating things about volleyball is that it’s all about matchups sometimes.  Sacred Heart had looked indestructible all through the day, but my daughter’s team found itself up 15-13 in the first game.  That seemed to convince them that they didn’t have to be awestruck.  Their coach had asked them the simple question before the match, “How bad do you want this?”  and the team responded.  Before I forget, I should mention that I got some of the info for this from, a nifty high school sports site that would be even better if more of us sent them scores and rosters.  I’d even know more of the player names.  They sent a writer/photographer to cover the tournament and he even had some nice things to say about my daughter and her team. which made Mrs. Boris and I glow the whole hour forty five minute drive home.  

In this case, height mattered.  You can only free ball or hit from the back row so many times and six foot tall hitters do indeed have an advantage against smaller blockers.
Somehow, it only took two games, though it was two games of some very long points with Sacred Heart players going into the far corners of the gym for balls.  My daughter’s team won in two and it felt like the whole frustrating prior season when they started three sophomores and a freshman had melted away.

On the other court, Northgate won its first game with Carondelet 25-10 and Carondelet came right back to win a tight second game, with Northgate winning the third.  It was a good final.
Northgate was a d2 norcal semifinalist last year, losing to Mitty, and returned 11 seniors.

  Northgate has a gigantic team. no they don’t have anyone 6’4”, they have 15 players on varsity, and vociferous parents.  At one point, the player taking care of the score was on her cellphone during the match and the parents started yelling at her to put the phone down.  The teams were very evenly matched. Something that was probably true of 12 of the 16 teams.  Northgate has an excellent libero and a very steady group of hitters led by Karly Lathrop and Shana Flickinger.  There were probably more mistake points, net calls, etc. than in the semis, particularly for my daughter’s team.  At times, matches at the end of a long tournament are about pure desire.  At one point, Northgate’s player missed a serve receive opportunity it went straight back over her head.  An alert Northgate player dove behind the service line to save it and then yet another player freeballed it high and long to the other backline.  Two backrow players on the other side, possibly in shock that it hadn’t been an ace,  watched it land on the line,  Northgate won in a fairly easy third game.  In both the first and third games, missed serves at very bad times made big differences.  If anything won the match, it was Northgate’s steady, intelligent, backrow play.  At one point, it became clear that they would challenge serve by moving their 3 player backrow up six feet from the backline, essentially shrinking the court.  

     We drove home happy.  This is the four year anniversary of 9/11.  There are currently 140,000 American troops in Iraq, most are a year or two older than the girls playing in this tournament.  Roughly a hundred thousand families in the southeast are homeless.  For one day that went from 6 am to 11:15 pm, I was just grateful that volleyball goes on both for those players whose names everyone seems to know and the many excellent players whose names we never learn.


At 9/12/2005 11:02:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great accounting of the Deer Valley Tourney. Northgate actually has 15 on the roster they they play like 17. And in the cell phone incident it was all the parents not just the Northgate parents. THe ref finally handled it very well!

Keep up your great volleyball reporting.

At 9/12/2005 11:07:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I was on top of the bleachers videotaping so it well could have been both sets of parents and parents from other teams as well. Someone had told me it was 17 not 15, but in any case, there were a lot of players on that bench.

Many thanks for the comments and for taking the time to read this.

At 9/12/2005 12:07:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your daughter's team has an exceptional setter. She ran the court very well.

For the record, Meg (formerly Hauser) Herr was coaching Foothill as Dusty's wife just had a baby.

In another coincidence, Meg's brother Keegan was the Acalanes Head coach last year, until he landed a job with the new St Mary's vb coach.

At 9/12/2005 03:58:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I'll pass your very kind words about their setter on to her. I do see her from time to time and she even speaks to me when I catch her at just the right moment. The team has a lot of good players this year.
Thanks for the info on Megg Hauser Herr....but I"m still a little confused. the norcalprep site said she was coaching Acalanes, is she coaching Foothill, this year?

At 9/12/2005 05:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great reporting of the Deer Valley tournament--what's next for you?

At 9/12/2005 09:39:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chancelucky, you'll be happy to hear that Mr. Bush picked R. David Paulison as the new FEMA chief -- the gent who suggested we stock up on duct tape to save ourselves from terror attack.

I feel lots better.

At 9/12/2005 10:30:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Mr. Pogblog, thanks for the heads up about the new FEMA director. I like duct tape. I used it to keep my basketball shoes together for 2 months.

Anonymous, I think the next big volleyball article will be over at
Thanks for the compliment.

At 9/12/2005 11:07:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, who is the Acalanes coach, then?

At 9/13/2005 09:48:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

It's odd. I looked at the Acalanes web page for 2005 volleyball schedule. There's no coach listed. Eric Banisek is listed as the assistant. There seemed to be a young woman on the bench coaching the team.
In any case, they played great for a team w/out a coach :}

At 9/14/2005 08:32:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I beleive Erin is coaching the Acalanes varsity this year. She was the JV girl's coach last year as well as the boys varsity coach (I think).

Meg was the Dublin JV coach last year, but moved over to Foothill (her alma mater) when she got a teaching job there. She is the JV coach there and helping out Dusty with varsity.

At 9/14/2005 04:15:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Thanks for the update on Acalanes. So it was "Erin" not Eric...

yet another lesson in assuming the facts on the internet are the facts or are still the facts.

At 9/27/2005 09:04:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was wrong in my previous post. Eric is the varsity coach. Erin is the JV coach. Maybe by the end of the season I'll get it right!!

At 9/28/2005 01:29:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

thanks for the correction. I always get these reminders that just because it says so on the internet, it doesn't mean it's true for sure.


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