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17 Red "Express" Finishes Second in 18 Open

A Coach's Perspective

It is Monday morning, the day after another volleyball tournament. It is the time I usually evaluate how my players performed and reflect on the decisions I made.

Last week when I saw that we were playing in the 18 Open tournament I wondered how my team would react. I know some would say, "Why play in 18 Open when you have never won a 17 Open tournament?" Is this how my girls would react? And, if they did, would they play that way?

During last Tuesday's practice I addressed the issue: I reminded them that volleyball is a testing ground for life and that it is all about setting goals and challenging yourself. Going into yesterday's tournament we set the goal of winning at least two matches in our pool to make it into the Gold. Then we would reevaluate our situation from there.

Sunday came and we had to play Outback Elite. We destroyed them in the first game and I felt great. I pictured us playing 18 Red in the finals. . . Then game 2 came and we lost pretty badly. What was I thinking? Did we want to play today? Had my team bought what I've been selling all season? After all, I did tell them that we would go to Nationals and it didn't happen. Game 3 came and my team put the hammer down. They played great and we won.

Next, I watched Matchpoint 18-1 Red play. WOW! They were awesome. We would have our hands full with them. They played solid defense, ran one of the quickest offences I have ever seen, and had two players who I was told, have already signed to play at Ohio State. So to reach our goal of playing in gold, we would have to beat Kaepa Buckeye VBC. We were pretty evenly matched but would have to stop a good middle. I thought we could do it but we would have to play well. We lost in game 1 and were down in game 2 when I knew our goal was going to be out of reach soon if things didn't change. My team turned it around and had a fabulous come back to win game 2 and go on to win game 3.

Matchpoint was next and although we played with them, they won. We had reached our goal of being in the Gold and would now have to play Borderline 18 Red in the semi's. We had a small team meeting and discussed all the reasons why we should win, needed to win, and wanted to win. Like a script from a Hollywood movie, my girls played their hearts out and won the first game. Then, to add some drama, we lose the second. Could they pull out the third? Did they want to? I knew we could beat anybody when all of the pieces are together. We have a saying that in game 3 it is a "race to 8" and then beat 'em on the other side. When we switched sides, the score was 8-0 in our favor. We would go on to defeat 18 Red and lose to Matchpoint again in the finals. I was proud of "My team".

But this piece isn't so much about our tournament yesterday as it is about "my team." You see, the truth is we don't have the greatest talent in the world. We are not loaded with a ton of guns in every position. What we are loaded with is heart and dedication. "My team." I have girls on my team like Stephanie Adams who will not leave practice or a match without a new bruise or floor burn. Girls like Darcie Lowe who does not get a lot of glory on right side but will get a kill when it IS crunch time. Michelle Metzler, who drives 45 minutes to practice from Lawrenceburg and is one of the toughest tall players I have ever coached. This is one 6' girl who is not afraid to go to the floor. Kelly Koons who has a serve that is one of the toughest in volleyball. I have a pair of unselfish players in Sarah Grimme and Tara Dehnam. Sarah, a true middle, unselfishly played left side when I need her to. Tara or "T", is another unselfish player who has had to play it all; setter, outside, right, left back, etc. . . Our youngster in the bunch, Beth Parker whom I would say is my Most-Improved player this season, lives and dies every point. Sara Heider, our steady all-around player. This girl will run through a wall for you. Finally, there is our setter, Bekah Self. Our team would not have any success if it weren't for our quarterback. Heart and dedication that's what they have. We have come a million miles this season with heart and dedication. I'm proud of "My team".

For additional information, contact Gene Williams, Coach