Sunday, September 29, 2013

A varied redundancy

Every championship, no matter the similarity in outcome, has its own characteristics. Every championship, no matter the similarities in the path to get there, has its own unique joys. For some reason, though we have done this now five times in a row and beat the same team the last three, this one was very satisfying - and a lot of fun. Maybe it was because the girls bounced back after a really rough stretch in the second set. Maybe it was just the enjoyment of watching a tough-minded come through yet again in the clutch. Perhaps it's appreciation of sustained excellence. Whatever it was, the reaction of the people involved, especially the parents, was as if this was the first one.

Well, maybe the second.

Let my try to give you some perspective: the first championship team had my daughter on the roster. You know, the married one with the college degree who is currently working for a large CPA firm and is in the process of purchasing a house. Faith Rohn was a sophomore. In high school. Coach Carr hadn't thought about retiring. Well, not seriously anyway.

Now for some statistics. In the last five tournaments, the Patriots are 42-0. In sets, their record is 84-4. This was the first year in the streak that CCS lost more than one set. Points? 1,945 to 1,048.  The Patriots have defeated twenty-seven different teams since they last lost. The team that they beat the most times? A tie between Indy Silver Lightning and Crossroads Crusaders, five times each. In addition to the three championship games, the Patriots defeated them in pool play in 2009 and 2010. They were 19-0 against teams from Indiana, 18-0 against teams from Illinois and 5-0 against teams from Michigan. Homeschool teams were victims 22 times and schools, 20. Overall the Patriots are on a 59-set winning streak. The last time they lost in pool play was in 2008 and it was the first pool play game of the tournament.

The tournament this year seemed to be more of a case of the haves and the have-nots. In my estimation there were three elite teams, four teams a notch below, and then mediocrity at best. I do my best in seeding, but with little information available about a lot of the teams and not knowing the level of competition, it can be a guessing game. Thankfully this year the three top teams were in different pools and the other four were spread around. In our pool, we had one of the second-tier teams: newcomer Christ the King, a homeschool team from Ann Arbor, MI. We cruised through the first six sets, giving up a total of 25 points. CTK was our fourth pool game. As the competition was several steps up from the earlier games, it took the girls a little while to get acclimated. They struggled with serve receive and defense in general as the Jaguars took an 8-7 lead. The Patriots righted themselves behind good hitting from Ally, Faith and Mandi, outscoring CTK 14-5 the rest of the way for a 21-13 win. Game two couldn't have been more different. Kills, aces and blocks proliferated as CCS took the game to the Jaguars, storming out to a 15-1 lead. A rare LGFS ensued, however, with the Patriots committing several error while the two big hitters from CTK regained their rhythm and put several kills down. However, at 19-10, two hits of theirs found the net and the Patriots were 8-0 in pool play. In the last pool play match of the night, the Patriots (of Calumet Christian) dominated the Patriots (of Rivertown Christian), 21-9, 21-8.

Late Saturday we found out who the bracket opener opponent would be: Indy Silver Lightning. Their young but very talented setter had gotten hurt in bracket play and the coach said that should would not be playing on Saturday. He was wrong. Their full squad would be facing us after they had defeated Heritage Hall in the first round (CCS had a bye.) Our difficulty in blocking and digging allowed the Silver Lightning to hang around, only trailing 16-13 after an ace. That was the last time it was close. Our hitting, blocking and serving picked up and the girls finished 9-1 to close out game one, 25-14. Game two followed the pattern against CTK, with the Patriots flying out to a 15-4 lead, Serve receive was again a struggle, but the game was never in doubt and the Patriots closed out the quarterfinal win, 25-17.

Fort Wayne Black, one of the three elite teams there would be our semifinal opponent, after they dispatched Heritage Christian in a very well played, exciting three-set match. Early on, our blocking was strong while Ally and Faith did some damage at the net, and the Patriots opened up an 18-10 lead. FW got their hitting going at this point and eventually pulled to within four at 22-18. Their own serving errors stopped their momentum, as the last one gave the set to CCS at 25-19. The Falcons really started pounding the ball and blocking much better in the second set. The game was even at 7 when we muffed a set and then they stuffed us twice. Shortly thereafter they ran off some kills and pulled ahead 16-10. Their serving woes kept us in the game as they kept killing their own momentum with serves into the net. CCS just couldn't get their game together. Coming out of a timeout, the team let a ball drop between them which put them down 20-13. Lauren and Faith each had a kill and a block down the stretch, but it wasn't enough as the Falcons finished with yet another kill and won game two 25-19. Game three started out with Ally crushing the ball and the Patriots moving out to a 5-1 lead. The Falcons never challenged and the game ended kill, Ally; kill, Faith; kill, Ally. 15-7 Patriots and on to the finals.

Surprise, surprise. Our old friends the Crossroads Crusaders. Big, powerful but a little uneven Crossroads Crusaders. The only team non-public school team that we play regularly that gives a tough game. As mentioned in the Facebook post, they have one girl already committed to Nebraska and have won the national homeschool volleyball tournament two years running. Ally came out on fire. Two kills and two blocks in the first six points to give the Patriots the early 4-2 lead. They made some errors and we got kills from Mandi and Faith as the lead grew to 10-5. The big hits, as we knew they would, started coming from the powerful Crusaders and the pulled to with two at 11-9. The lead was three at 15-12 when Crossroads started teeing off again. Four kills by their #3 and another from the back row by #21 and Crossroads led 17-16. They led 21-18 when Ally teed off on a couple and a couple of theirs went into the net. The second one of those put CCS up 23-22 which Ally followed with a back row kill. Faith stepped up with a kill from the middle to finish off the comeback, 25-22. Game two went kind of the same way. Their two big hitters were crushing the ball, which Ally was matching nearly hit-for-hit. Lauren scored a kill which tied the game at 13, but that was the last time we would be ahead or tied in that set. After getting back to with one at 17-16 with back row kill by Ally, The Patriot wouldn't score again. Our blocking broke down as did our serve receive as the Crusaders ran off eight straight points to take the set, 25-16 and the momentum. Ally stepped though in game three. Her stuff blocks, kills and aces totaled six as CCS opened up a 10-3 lead and it looked like the Patriots would cruise in game three as they did in the semis. Uncharacteristic errors plus smart ball placement on kills and dinks by Crossroads enable them to score six straight to get to within one. A dink kill by Mandi slowed them down, but a hit past the back line followed by a kill by #3 tied it up. Faith scored on a kill, but their #21 responded with two kills take the lead. Ally scored from the back row to tie it again. A most inopportune serve into the net gave the Crusaders the lead again. Ally tied it up, but then a ball into the net gave Crossroads the game point. Ally found the floor with a kill to give CCS life, then did it again to give CCS the game point. Their #3 tied it up at 16 with a back row kill. With Ally in the back row and Faith on the bench, Lauren stepped up. Two straight middle hit kills, the second deflecting off a defender and then falling in a slow arc toward the Crusader bench with defenders vainly chasing. The ball hit the floor and the Patriots were champions once again.

And it never gets old.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Nothing lasts forever though sometimes it seems like it does and oftentimes feels like it should...

...and there is my longest post title ever.

Calumet Christian volleyball over the last four or five years exudes a certain sense of inevitability. Pretty much with the exception of Lafayette Central Catholic's tournament until this year and a few scattered regular season games, CCS wins. The sense becomes that because they have won, they will always win. Past becomes prologue and all that. So when they don't, when they don't win a tournament that they have won the last three years, it is a shock. I find myself shaking my head when thinking about what happened yesterday, as if to clear my mind of a thought, an impression that isn't quite right, not exactly accurate.

Yet there it is. CCS lost in a championship game.

Even when the Patriots were squeaking by Crossroads in the championship game of our tournament, or when we have to go to a second match to defeat Carroll Christian in the D1 championship at NACA, I each time had such a sense of inevitability that the Melinda would again be wondering to whom to give the trophy.

The strange thing about yesterday was that the girls were barely tested through the first seven sets that they played, including the first set against Kankakee Valley in the championship match. The most points they gave up to that point was seventeen. The average score was 25-13.3. They even led 14-9 in the second set against KV. Then the wheels came off. Let me quickly summarize how we got there.

There's not much creativity at KV, apparently. Same nine teams as last year. Same format. And ridiculously, the same teams in our pool as last year - Gavit and Hebron. Gavit was our first opponent and went down about as easily as they did at the Argos tournament. It was early, so our girls struggled to start, but at 12-10 the strung six points together to open up a comfortable lead which they turned into a 25-15 win. And as they have done may times already this year, after struggling early in game one, they opened up a big lead and then maintained it though the end of the 25-14 set two victory.

After a long break during which we enjoyed delicious chicken tacos (thank you Lisa!) we wandered over to the "auxiliary gym" - amazing what you can build when you have the power to tax. Hebron, former KV tournament opponent and future regular season opponent was our second pool play opponent. We have never had much trouble with them. We still have not had much trouble. Hebron did not make a lot of errors; the Patriots made almost none. There was no lull; the girls pushed the lead out to ten and then scored the last six to close out the 25-9 win. Game two was a mirror-image, as they scored the last four to close out the set and match win, 25-10.

Reseeding ensued, with the first place teams placed in one pool, out of which the champion would be determined. Griffith was the first opponent in the new pool configuration. We played Griffith last two years ago in this tournament when Griffith had a star player and were pretty good. They don't have that player anymore. They aren't very good. Better than Hebron, but not much. When Mandi scored her fourth ace, CCS led 8-0. Griffith called a time out after a "bump kill" by Ally (yes, that's for you Nathalie if you still read these) that made it 9-3. It didn't help. Calumet cruised to a  25-13 game one win. We got sloppy in the early part of game and Griffith picked up their offense. All that meant was that the game was close. The Patriots never trailed after going out in front 6-5, but the lead was only one several times and was only 17-15 when the girls took control. They served long, Faith got a kill, they fumbled a return, then Mandi and Faith stuff-blocked a kill attempt. Griffith scratched out a couple more points, but that was it and CCS was in the championship game.

Against KV. Again. For the fourth time in a row, it was KV vs. CCS for the championship of the KV invitational, as KV had also defeated Griffith. Each championship game had been competitive; the last two years the match went to three games. Each time, however, the host team always seemed to fold when the pressure was on. This year, they had a new coach, and I think that made a big difference. Strangely, the match started with one of the most one-sided sets between these two teams. Two kills by Ally and two kills by Mandi mixed in with KV hitting one into the net made a 5-4 game a 10-4 one. A series of dinks dropped for the Patriots and when KV hit one wide, the lead was up to 18-8. CCS maintained that lead and after the two teams exchanged serving errors, KV hit one long and the Patriots took game one handily, 25-15. There were no big runs in the second game, but the Patriots led early. KV caught up at 7, but the girls regained control. Faith put one down to give CCS that 14-9 lead. KV then scored five of the next six to pull within one. Calumet got the next two with a kill by Ally and a hitting error by KV, but KV followed this with two kills and an ace and tied it up. KV's two big hitters then strung together several hits that we could neither handle at the net nor the back line to lead by three. KV then served into the net and Faith and Ally and both got kills to tie it at 22. Two big blocks by KV ensued to put them on the brink and they didn't waste time, finishing us off with a big kill.

On to game three, where we beat KV the last two years (the first year was a two-game sweep). KV picked up where they left off, with several big hits. One of them came after what might have been the longest volley of the year in which we were involved, with big saves and digs by both teams. KV lead 5-2 when Ally strung together two kills and then teamed with Lauren to stuff a kill attempt to tie it up. Their #21, perhaps the best player we've seen this year (not on our team, of course). crushed one to break the tie. She and Ally traded kills, the teams traded errors and and then Faith scored on a solo block to tie it at 8. We hit one long, they stuffed us and then they dropped a serve right into the middle of the defense that no one could get a hand on. 11-8. Faith then book-ended kills around kill by KV to pull the Patriots to within 12-10. A Patriot hitting error was followed by a kill by Ally, but then they put one down to get to championship point. Ally delayed that for a moment with another kill, but just for a moment. KV scored with one more kill. We got a block on it but the ball fell on our side and that was it. KV had won for the first time in their own tournament since we have been attending. To use a phrase this Cubs fan knows very well, Wait 'til next year.

I was out of town this past weekend, so I wasn't able to attend the big matches on Friday and Saturday. Congrats to the girls for pulling out a big win against the two-time defending national homeschool champs, Crossroads Crusaders!!. It was a shame that the only place Lake Central could squeeze in a match against us into their schedule was at 10AM on the day after this match, but Coach has been trying to get them on our schedule and was not going to turn the opportunity, even if it wasn't an ideal time. It was tough to lose, but hopefully the Patriots can turn things around when they travel down to DeMotte on Tuesday to play Covenant Christian.

Monday, September 2, 2013

I knew I left this blog somewhere.....

So, where were we? Oh yes, we left off at the end of last season, so I guess it's time to pick things up again, since apparently another season has started. So here we go.

When we last saw the Calumet Christian Patriots, they were celebrating yet another national championship at NACA, I believe the third D1 championship in a row. This was the sixth tournament championship of the year - Argos, Kankakee Valley, Calumet, Quentin Road, ICST and NACA. So of course one of the goals for the new season will be to defend the championships. But wait - we weren't invited back to one of them. It must be KV, right? We had beaten them the last three years in the championship of their own tournament, they were a public school, their coach didn't like us much? Nope, not that one. Perhaps it was Argos, where the competition was pretty weak and we didn't really fit in there. Nope, wrong again. Well, maybe it was ICST, where we had had some differences with the people that ran it and maybe they got fed up with us pointing out some unfairness in the way the tournament was set up. Nope, not that one either. Quentin Road, a tournament that CCS had been in for many years, a tournament that was our favorite to go, one in which we had some epic battles on the court but got along with the people that ran it very well - yes, that one.

Most of you know what went on with that. Essentially it boiled down to that they didn't want us winning their tournament for the fifth year in a row. Whether or not that is a valid reason is debatable(shouldn't a team be able to defend their title? should excellence be punished?); the way they told us is not. We were told that they were scaling the tournament way down, lowering the level of play because their team was very young and inexperienced. And they told us this right before the season was to start. A few phone calls revealed that every other team was going to be returning, including the team that took one set from us and the one that challenged us in the final. We were lied to. And to not tell us until the season had started and it would be very difficult to schedule anything to replace it, that makes it even more sordid. So we won't be able to see the friends that we only see there, and sadly, the tradition of skipping up the entry road is abruptly ended.

Anyway, on to the games. After an opening win over Community Baptist was accomplished without Ally, who tweaked her shoulder at camp and was kept out for precautionary reasons. The win probably could have been accomplished without the entire varsity team as the Patriots rolled 25-15, 25-12, 25-7. It was a good warmup for the first tournament of the year, at Argos High somewhere in the hinterlands of Indiana. We won easily last year and the same teams were back this year - us, Hammond Gavit, Goshen Blue Blazers and the host team. Gavit was our first and toughest opponent. The girls were completely out of sorts in the first set. Primarily due to their errors, the fell behind 12-3. Coach reluctantly put Ally in. Just her presence seemed to settle the team down. They caught them at 18 and roared past them on the way to 25-19 game win. They had no problem in the second and cruised to a 25-12 win, with Ally on the bench. Against the hosts in the second game they started slowly again but this time Coach did not put Ally in. At 17-17 they ran off five straight, then held off the Dragons in the 25-22 win. Again they had little trouble in the second game, winning 25-14. The last game against Goshen Blue Blazers was then for the win. Again they had the easier time in the second game, but this time the first game wasn't really ever in doubt. After CCS got out to a 12-8 lead, Goshen never got closer in the 25-19 win. The second was their easiest of the day - 25-11. 2013 trophy #1 was checked off the list.

The first real challenge of the year was the next game, against Merrillville. Ally's shoulder was feeling better and so she was in the starting lineup. Merrillville has always been very athletic but a little ragged in their play. This year their defense was vastly improved - just not improved enough. Game one went back and forth, with Calumet getting a small lead and the Pirates catching up. CCS eventually took a 23-20 lead and it looked like they would wrap it up. However the Pirates found the holes with a couple of dinks, and then after a CCS hitting error, pounded one down. Now the Patriots were looking at a deficit. Ally stopped their run with a kill, but then a very sharply cut kill by Merrillville was followed by a dink by CCS that dropped just wide and Merrillville, as they did last year, grabbed game one. The second game was even tighter. From the midpoint on, neither team had more than a two point lead. Eventually MHS want up 24-23, but Olivia crushed an overpass to tie it. Then it was error, CCS; kill, Ally, error CCS. But with Merrillville at game point again, Ally dinked it twice where they couldn't return it, then Faith made a big block and CCS won set two, 28-26. That seemed to get the Patriots settled. They led 6-5 in game three and never relinquished the lead, eventually taking game three, 25-19. That seemed to take the life out of the Pirates, and they made a lot of errors in the 25-12 game four clincher.

Last week the Patriots went out to Schaumburg and beat them without Ally again who was resting her shoulder. CCS did drop game one against the scrappy opponents, but won games two and three easily (Illinois plays best-of-three matches). The biggest news of the match was that Olivia hurt her knee. I wasn't at the game, but when I heard about it, it brought me back to 2009 when Kara broke her wrist in the first match of the year. Hopefully we will get good news in a couple of weeks and she can get back to playing again. Without both Ally and Olivia, the girls had a rematch against the Goshen Blue Blazers. The remaining players did well and managed to defeat the Blazers in three straight, although all of them were close - 26-24, 25-20, 25-23.

Saturday was the big day. Lafayette Central Catholic - the only tournament the Patriots have played in more than once that they haven't won, the tournament that provided the toughest competition they face all year. To set the scene, CCS is placed in by far the toughest pool (CCS, Andrean, the #4 team in Class 1A and a 4A team that beat us last year), no Olivia, and not sure at what percent Ally would be playing. Andrean would be first up. We had beaten the 59ers the last two years at this tournament. In 2011, they were one of those we defeated in sweeping pool play. Last year they were the only team we beat in pool play. We always like to beat Andrean because the NWI Times favors them and it helps our rankings. This time we faced them without Olivia, which then involved some rotation changes. This combined with the fact that it was an early morning match did not bode well for the Patriots. That foreboding was accurate. CCS did stay with them until, tied at 6, Andrean went on an 11-2 run, fueled by their good hitting and our general poor play. Andrean increased the lead gradually from there, eventually winning 25-13. It looked like the Patriots made the adjustment to Olivia's absence and did their usual turnaround from the first game doldrums they suffered from all year. They led 4-1, 6-3, 9-5 and then 13-6. We got stuck in a tough rotation for us in which we had trouble generating offense. Andrean scored six in a row. CCS pushed the lead back to five at 20-15, but then that tough rotation came around again. We couldn't generate much offense and they were hitting on all cylinders offensively. Ten straight points and the Patriots were done, 25-20, thus ending their chances to win the tournament. Or so I thought.

Loogootee, the #4 ranked team in 1A in Indiana, was up next. The closest we had gotten to winning this tournment was in 2011 when we lost in three to Loogootee in the championship. They had height; one of our middles was out. A steep, uphill climb, one would think. One would be wrong. When Loogootee wasn't hitting it into the net, they were shanking serve receives. Everyone was hitting and everyone was blocking and after a Mandi ace it was 18-6. Then they woke up. They got within two at 19-17, then within one when we went into the net on a block at 24-23. Faith finally ended the drama with a nice kill. The second game started like the first - Calumet eventually taking a 18-8 lead. No fading this time. Mandi finished this one with a kill, a 25-14 victory.

We then watched Andrean play Loogootee. It dawned on us that if Loogootee beat Andrean, those two teams and we would be 2-1 in pool play as long as we took care of business against West Lafayetee. Since there would be three-way tie, the head-to-head tiebreaker wouldn't be valid, so it would go to least points given up. Our hope then was that Loogootee would win in close games, preferably in three. We got our hope. Loogootee won in two, but Andrean scored more than twenty in both games. We quickly totaled the points to see how many we could give up yet still win the tie breaker. The number was 27. 28 and we tie, 27 and we go to the championship. 33 and we finish third in the pool.

West Lafayette, the weakest team in the pool, was our opponent. They made their share of errors, but we were playing well too. The lead gradually grew throughout the game, although when WL scored two in a row, we all held our breath. The lead was 12-4, 16-6, then 21-10. WL cooperated by putting three hits into the net over the next four points, the other coming on a kill by Ally. 25-10, and we could give up 17 in the second and still make to the championship game. The girls thought they would add drama in this game. The girls made several hitting errors and just looked like they thought they were already in. But after a dink kill by WL which gave them the lead, 9-8, Faith turned the momentum with a kill. This began a run of seven straight which turned into a 12-1 run. After one more WL score, Ally ended the 25-11 win with three blocks (one solo, two assists) and two kills. Points given up: 21. Place we would be playing for: 1st. We confirmed that with the tournament official (who was dealing with a whining Andrean coach) and then found out we would be playing the host team, #7 in 1A, Lafayette Central Catholic.

The opening game went very similarly to the first Loogootee game. Ally powered the team early, then Faith took over and the lead got up to 16-10. Their tough little (5'6"? 5'7"?) lefthanded sophomore hitter started pounding the ball and our play got a little uneven. Eventually the Knights caught the Patriots at 23. Again Faith came through. First a kill, then a nice block with Ally gave the girls the game 1 win, 25-23. We fell behind 4-1 as they came out firing. The Patriots pulled even, then stayed even with LCC to the set's midpoint. Their power game was working well, and after a block and kill they pushed their lead to 21-16. A Faith kill (sound familiar? sound like 2011?) put one down, but that was it for the Patriots. LCC finished the 25-17 game two win with two kills. Game three, which would be to fifteen, started poorly. Ally opened then scoring, but LCC answered with two kills, then a serve dropped between two CCS defenders. Another defensive lapse let to another ace. 5-1, LCC. Ally blocked a kill attempt, the got the same treatment from LCC's blockers. Ally put one down, then after a scramble we went into the net. Ally dinked one to the floor, they hit into the net, then Ally scored from the back row. Grace then stuff-blocked a Knight kill attempt and it was tied at seven. The down ref then made a call on the next point after consulting with the up ref that LCC went into the net, but the Knights answered with a nice cross-court kill. We hit one into the net; they served one into the net. They got a kill that hit our block and dropped staight down on our side. A Patriot dink attempt went wide. Faith put one down, then their #6 crushed one. At 12-10, our kill attempt got stuffed;13-10. We caught a break when then served into the net. Ally killed one to bring CCS to within one. They matched that kill to get to championship point, 14-12. Yet another Faith kill put that off for one more point. Then inexplicably they attempted a slide, which I don't think they tried that more than once or twice all match. It went into the net and the game was tied again. Lauren found a hole just over the block down the line. The final point, memorialized in video on Facebook, most of you have seen. A nice save by Cassie to pull the ball out of the net was hit hard by Ally. The middle defender got a hand on it but it went up behind and the the right of her. The attempt to chase it down was futile and the CCS Patriots were the champions of the 2013 LCC Invitational, something none of the great teams of the last four years were able to do.































Thursday, November 22, 2012

A most unexpected championship

Wasn't this supposed to be the year which we looked back fondly on the past two years, enjoying the memories of 2010 and 2011 (and perhaps 2009), while we watched the 2012 version struggle with the schedule which was upgraded for the powerhouse of the last year or two or three? Sure, we knew they were going to be good, but good like earlier teams, playing well, finishing in the top three or four of the tournaments in which we played, but not getting the first-place trpphy seemingly just for showing up. Not this.

What just happened here? Did we pass through some sort of time portal, transporting us back a year or two?

No. This was real. This was unexpected. This was great. This was very, very, very satisfying. About the only disappointment was that Heritage of Maryland wasn't there (see my last post).

Ladies and gentlemen, the three-time defending National Association of Christian Athletes Division 1 Volleyball National Champions, your Calumet Christian Patriots [wild applause].

Before the national tournament, there was also this little thing called the ICST state tournament that also occurred since I last posted. And, unfortunately, it was a little thing. It was nice to win, but the girls were never really tested in the four matches that led to the championship. That trophy is pretty cool, though. I have in prior years blogged about the crazy and sometimes unfair structure of this tournament. Some things have been cleared up, but the schedule is still problematic. That, and the huge difference in ability between the top teams and the bottom. The result of that was a cakewalk in Calumet's first game on Friday night. Indianopolis Lighthouse is a new charter school and their team was very poor. CCS won that one 25-4, 25-7. Next up was Granger, very early the next day. Our JV team played and beat Granger during the season, and the 25-11, 25-12 victory was expected. Several hours later (I sure hope the girls weren't too tired), it was Horizon, the hosts in the semis. They were better than what they looked like in the quarters, but the Patriots still won comfortably, 25-15, 25-17, 25-15. Finally, at 6:00 the championship game took place. Indy Silver Lightning, who the Patriots had defeated in the semifinals of the Calumet Invitational was the opponent. They had won a tough five-set victory over Heritage to get there. Not that they should have been tired as the final was many hours after the semis (did I mention that already?). Lots of dead time between matches. Anyway, they didn't put up much of a fight and CCS handled them pretty easily, 25-12, 25-18, 25-14, and the girls got another of those cool trophies shaped like a volleyball.

On to the big one. NACA. Dayton, Tennessee. Nine hours in the van and there we were, back on the mountain. As it has been the last two years, teams seeded to their division by play within their three-team pool. First place meant Division 1, second Division 2 and third division 3. Calumet had no trouble beating both of their pool opponents, perhaps too little trouble. After dispatching "The Rock" 25-12, 25-8, the girls had to play West Florida. Baptist. Little confusing as the West Florida Christian team last year was quite good. This was a different school, quite different. After winning the first 25-4, the girls got a little goofy and won the second 25-11. This made a big difference in the seeding, as the seeding within the divisions was determined by point differential After getting over some perceived unfairness in that system, we accepted it and tried to figure out where we would end up. Since NACA didn't post the scores, we didn't know where we would end up. When we finished the seeding was announced. We were third. We were disappointed, especially when we found out that Hearts for Jesus was the first-round opponent for the third seed. Chatting with the coach of the second seeded team right after the seedings were announced, we found out that we had the same differential. We talked to the tournament organizers who rechecked their numbers. Sure enough, they had made an error. This meant that we had to do a coin toss. We scrounged up the AD of the other team to witness the toss, and we won. Second seed. Much better. Aaron Academy would be our first round opponent.

Thursday at 10:30 we faced Aaron, a homeschool team from Tennessee. From conversations their people had with Coach Carr, it sounded like they thought they were very good. Maybe they are. Just not as good as Calumet. I'm sure they hadn't seen anyone like Ally, who was dominant in this match. She had eighteen kills, mostly big hits but some dinks. Aaron made their share of error, and after staying with the Patriots for a while in the first set, never challenged. Three straight kills by Ally in the second set closed out a 25-15, 25-14 victory for CCS.

Interspersed with the volleyball was some soccer-watching. CCS's soccer team was also at NACA and the girls supported the boys every chance they could. In addition, the girls followed the Hearts for Jesus soccer team, who defeated Calumet and pool play and would go on to win their seventh Divison 1 championship in the last eight years. This would pay off for the girls later on. Read on to find out how.

At 2:00 we faced Hearts. We lost to Hearts three years ago (who won the tournament that year) and defeated them in the championship two years ago when the Patriots won their first D1 crown. They were tough again this year. Just not tough enough. To be fair, our girls really stepped it up in this match, playing their best volleyball in a few weeks, and defeated Hearts 25-17, 25-17. Both games were close early with the Patriots slowly pulling away late. Ally had another huge game, scoring nineteen kills, but she got a lot of support from her teammates. That put the girls into the finals of the winner's bracket, Carroll Christian.

Carroll didn't look that strong in the game in which we scouted them, and played below that level in our match, which took place 12:30 Friday afternoon. They didn't make a lot of mistakes, but couldn't handle our hitting or our serving. We eased out to a 9-3 lead in the first set and sort of held that advantage throughout, eventually winning 25-16. The girls dominated in the second set, even to the point of having a LGFS. They led at one point 22-7, but then gave up six straight points due mainly to sloppy play - a classic LGFS. Ally got the team back on track with two kills and a net violation by Carroll ended it at 25-13.

We figured to see West Carolina in the championship, but in the loser's bracket final, Carroll really stepped up their game and defeated the Trailblazer, which meant that we would see Carroll again, the time in the championship match. The gym was full, including the Hearts teams who Calumet had connected with and with supporting the Patriots. The match began a little after the scheduled time of 9PM. It looked like it would be a repeat of the afternoon game, as after an Amanda ace (wow, five words in a row beginning with "a" - whoops, back to the game) the Patriots led 19-13. Carroll started showing some guile, scoring several off of well-placed dinks and while they lost 25-20, they were playing much better. We led 11-5 in game two when the wheels started coming off.  A couple of errors by the Patriots followed by a dink kill and an ace by Carroll and they were back in the game. Their big hitter really started firing, our serve receive got a little shaky, and Carroll eventually pulled into the lead at 15-14. They were really firing and blocking at this point, while our blocking was generally late,  and shut down CCS, eventually winning the set 25-18. CCS again got the early lead. At 11-8, Carroll gave us some of our own medicine, pushing the ball to the corner twice in a row. They followed this with a dink and a big hit to give them the lead. A hitting error tied it up, but another dink followed by a stuff of Ally made it 14-12. They made an error but a CCS net violation caused by a bad pass ended the set and the match.

Since this was our first loss, it meant that these two teams would immediately play each other again, this time for the banner. The first set was close early, and was tied at 8. CCS then had two hitting errors and it looked like CCS might lose the momentum again. Olivia dinked the next won for a kill to pull the Patriots back to within one and Mandi followed with a kill to tie it. It stayed close until, at 13-13, as the announcer said, it seemed like Ally (and the team) said enough was enough and it was time to end it. Calumet scored ten of the next eleven points, seven on kills by Ally and an eighth on a block by Ally and Faith. Carroll made a little rally but Stephanie put one down to win the set 25-19. Calumet rode the momentum right into the second set. The breaks and the good play were going CCS's way. Olivia dropped in a saving bump for a point after the girls made a couple of amazing digs. Ally managed to get her finger on a shoot set that was a little off to tip in a dink kill. Eventually the girls went up 12-3 and it looked like Carroll was done. Not quite. Carroll scrapped and fought to trim the lead to five, 16-11, but that really was their last gasp. They put on in the net on a scamble, which was caused by Ally's well-placed push. After an Ally dink, Carroll crushed their last kill to make it 18-12. They gave the point back by putting the next serve into the net. Mandi's serve then fell in, Ally killed one, then stuffed their big hitter. Their attempt at a kill off an CCS overpass went into the net to make it 23-12. The inevitable was delayed a bit when the next serve attempt went long. On the next volley, Carroll was called for a back row attack and then, on championship point, Carroll's kill attempt went into the net and Calumet Christian School is now the three-time defending champion of NACA Division 1, only the second team ever to do that.

I can only shake my head. What an unexpected championship. What a deserved one.





Saturday, October 20, 2012

I haven't forgotten about this blog

Did you miss me?

I knew I hadn't posted on the blog in a while, but I didn't realize it has been almost three weeks. Yikes. To give you an idea of how long that is, the Patriots lost twice since I posted last. That is a long time.

I left off after summing up our tournament and the exciting run to the championship. The girls had a quick turn-around after the big victory with a game against Bishop Noll on the following Monday. Bishop Noll is a good-size IHSAA school with a pretty good volleyball team. I think the effects of the draining weekend showed in the first set. They had a hard time getting their offense going, which set up their big hitter. The score was even early, but BN got rolling behind their hitter, outscoring the Patriots 6-1 to take a 19-13 lead. As quickly as they got behind, CCS tied it up, scoring six straight by three kills by Ally and three unforced errors by BN. It stayed very close but at 25-25, Mandi put on down. BN followed with a kill attempt that went into the net and the nailbiter was Calumet's, 27-25. Set two was no contest, with the Patriots jumping out to a 8-1 lead and never looking back in the 25-8 victory. Set three, as predicted by Ted, was in between the first two. CCS had a small early lead, kept it and eventually secured the set and the match, winning 25-20.

Crossroad Crusaders came out to Lake Hills that Friday. We hadn't lost to them, but the last two years the games have been very competitive. Calumet beat them 25-22, 25-21 in the championship game of our tournament, which was the last time we faced them. In the first two sets, CCS had the lead late but couldn't hold it. In the first set the lead was 20-19.  Crossroads scored five of the next six. Ally kept us alive with a kill, but their big hitter crushed one to end it, 25-22. The lead late in set two was 22-20. Crossroads exploited the holes with dink kills as well as one big kill, and agains scored five of the next six, finishing the 25-23 set win with another dink. The Calumet serve received just fell apart in the third set. Crossroads also started going outside to their other hitter as we were having some success blocking their star, and we had trouble getting the block outside in time. We were in the game until at 12-12, but the Crusaders really got on a roll, outscoring the Patriots 10-1. Toward the end of the run our girls were really on their heels as they hit consecutive kill attempts into the net. Finally Olivia and Lee stopped the run with a block, which Ally and Olivia followed with kills and it was 22-16. But Crossroads scored twice, and then after two hitting errors, the star clinched it with a big kill and the girls had lost their first three-set sweep all year.

It may be uncharitable to say CCS went from the sublime to the ridiculous, to paraphrase Thomas Paine, but it fits so I'm sticking with it. I wasn't there, and the reports are that they were very nice girls, but the Gary West Side players were not very good and CCS rolled to an easy 25-8, 25-9, 25-4 victory on the following Monday. At least it was a workout before the Dayspring Classic, more commonly known as the Quentin Road tournament.

Ah yes, the QR tournament. After the requisite arm-in-arm skipping up the driveway (When did that start? Does anyone know?), the girls got down to business. I will summarize here because there was a lot of play to recap. Romeoville was the first opponent and they didn't last long, going down 25-4, 25-10. Another IACS team was up next, Berean of Rockford and they also went down with much of a fight, losing 25-9, 25-10. A couple of highlights: on one blast from Ally, the Berean player just ducked. I don't know if I blame her. Also, the girls felt confident enough to try some new stuff. Ally pounded one down on a slide. I don't know if Coach saw it - don't tell her! She thinks they're dangerous. Mandi also had a huge hit in this match. Grace gave us a good set to open the next pool play match. Grace stay right with the Patriots, pulling to within 21-19 on a kill. Two error followed by two kills by Ally ended their upset hopes and they went down somewhat weakly in the second, 25-9. Beth Haven of Michigan was the last pool play opponent. I was talking to one of the dads and found they had lost only one game before the tournament. They weren't bad, just not in Calumet's class and never threatened CCS, losing 25-14, 25-10. That made the fourth straight year of perfect pool play at QR by the Patriots, matching their record at their own tournament.

Saturday's first opponent in bracket play was the hosts, the Quentin Road Christian Eagles. As has been their pattern, the girls were sluggish in the (relatively) early morning match, but they methodically built leads in both sets and won both by the same score, 25-15. Our old friends, the Minutemen (Minutewomen?) of Calvary Academy out of Butler, PA was our next opponent. Six years ago they beat Calumet in the championship of this tournament. We had seen them once or twice since then, but they have never had a team since to compete with that one. This year was not an exception. They had one middle hitter that was very good and one that was pretty good, but they had a couple of fifth-graders that got significant playing time, who were in over their heads. Calvary committed a lot of errors to enable CCS to eventually build a 20-10 lead, and they cruised to a 25-16 set one win. Set two started similarly with Calumet going out to an 18-11 lead, but Calvary scored nine of ten to take the lead at 20-19. Olivia decided enough was enough, and she scored four kills in the Patriot six-point run to finish the set and match. Maranatha Baptist was our semifinal opponent. They were very tall and looked imposing. Calumet started very strongly, eventually going up 19-8 behind solid hitting from everyone. Maranatha made a little run, mainly because we had trouble with serve receive again. They got to with five, but Calumet scored the last four, the last on an ace from Ally to win set one 25-16. We committed more errors than usual to open set two - bad serves, hitting into the net, etc. - and could not pull away. At 12-12 Mandi scored two straight aces and it looked like the Patriots were back in control. An Olivia kill made it 20-16, but serve receive just fell apart again. Maranatha scored eight straight because of that and CCS hitting woes. They muffed one, but then the Patriots again couldn't handle a down ball, so we went to the third set. Maranatha's tall girls opened up hitting strong and a couple of hitting errors hurt CCS as well, but they were only down 7-6 when the Patriots really dialed up their intensity. A couple of Olivia aces contributed early in the run, then consecutive kills by Ally, Mandi, Faith and Stephanie ended it at 15-7, and the Patriots were in the finals again, for the seventh time in the last eight years. A chance to match the record in the Calumet tournament of four straight wins. Also a chance to become the first team to win four straight at QR ever in its 20-year history.

Nazareth Academy, a team from downstate Indiana would be the opponent. By this time, it wasn't a surprise, since we had watched most of the teams over the two days of the tournament. But if you would have told me before the tournament that Nazareth would have been our opponent in the finals, I would have asked you if the other teams had gotten food poisoning. In other words, they have not been very good in prior years, in fact, quite weak. This year they had two smaller girls that could really play. Their defense was solid and the fact that they had two go-to hitters separated them from most of the teams at the tournament. However, it was evident that they were not used to playing on such a big stage in front of so many people. The match started with four straight hitting errros by NA, three too long and one into the net. Ally tipped an overpass, then Nazareth put another ball into the net. Mandi then stuffed one. 7-0, CCS. Nazareth decided to try to settle down by dinking and it was effective. Later, following a huge Ally hit, we put one into the net and NA was within four at 11-7. They tried hitting again and it still wasn't working, as they hit three straight out at one point and CCS stretched out the lead to 18-8. Our girls started having some hitting troubles at this point, but NA couldn't take advantage. The score was 22-14 when Ally put two down. They did get a kill, but fittingly, they hit one out on set point, and CCS was one set from the championship. Both teams played better in the second, but as NA's hitting got better, so did our blocking. Olivia and Stephanie combined on a block to tie it up at 6. Two dink kills and an ace (serve receive issues again) and Nazareth led by three, but that was the last time they would lead. Kills by Ally and Olivia followed a serving and hitting error by Nazareth to give CCS the lead. We hit one long to let NA tie it up again. The lead was one or two until at 13-12 CCS, Nazareth's hitting woes returned, hitting two out. Ally followed with a kill to make the lead four. We hit one wide, but that was momentary glitch, because we followed it with a Faith kill, an ace by Mandi, and two kills by Ally, the second a thunderous one. (Thunderous - I don't think I ever used that term to describe a kill by her sister. So Ally's got that one on her.) After some back and forth play, Lee and Ally got kills to make it 24-16. We hit one out. Olivia then completed the championship run with a well-placed dink and CCS was champ for the fourth straight year (and fifth overall) of the Dayspring Classic.

Again, the Patriots follow a strong opponent with one at the other end of the spectrum. Last year the JV played Bowman Academy but this year the varsity had a hole in their schedule and so Coach scheduled the varsity to play. To use a favorite term of mine, Yikes. 25-3, 25-4, 25-7. Enough said.
The next four matches I was not able to attend. The first one was against Munster. Last year's match against Munster was the most frustrating of the year, not just because it was one of our two losses, but because we played about as poorly as we had all year and lost a close one. This year was different. Reports are that it was never in doubt, that Munster was the superior team and ended up taking the match 25-13, 25-16, 25-18. I'm especially sad I couldn't make the next one, as Coach told the girls played as good as they have all year, at least after the first set, and defeated Crossroads on their home court in five, 19-25, 25-22, 26-28, 25-22, 15-11. The next night was a trimatch with Goshen Blue Blazers and Heritage Christian. The girls won both in three straight, beating Goshen 25-16, 25-12, 25-15 and Heritage 25-10, 25-13, 26-24. Last night was the last home game and last regular-season match of the year. Before the match, seniors Stephanie and Lee were recognized and given flowers. The Chargers of Illinois Lutheran were the opponents. They were pretty strong last year, but lost many of their hitters and are in a little bit of a rebuilding year. The Patriots won pretty easily, even though they seemed a little sluggish at times. The significant element of this match was the number of blocks we had. I'm not absolutely sure, but this must have the most blocks we had in a match all year. The stats show we had eight which sounds about right. Everyone hit pretty well as well, and Illinois Lutheran had a lot of hitting errors. All three sets were pretty tight early - scores of 9-7 in the first, 9-8 in the second and 11-10 in the third - with CCS pulling away late.

44-5. Fifth straight year with forty or more wins and seventh in the last eight. I have been blessed to witness the last seven seasons For a volleyball fan to be a part of such a successful program, both in wins and losses and lives touched, it has been a real privilege.

Now we have a week off until the state tournament next weekend. Indy Silver Lightning looks to be the toughest potential opponent there. Then NACA. I hope we play Heritage of Maryland again. Here's why, from the Hagerstown Herald Mail:

"I am very proud of the whole team. They had to fight all the way through the tournament and they represented Washington County well,” Eagles coach Young-Sook Anderson said. “We were the newcomer, we’d never been there before, so nobody knew about us. All the coaches and parents there were shocked, they were all wondering where we were from. So it was neat because everybody was curious about us.”

“All the coaches came to me and told me Kara was the No. 1 player there,” Anderson said. “She mostly got defensive MVP because the offensive MVP went to a player on the winning team (Calumet), but she wasn’t as powerful as Kara.”

“The losers’ bracket tired our girls out because we had to play more games,” Anderson said. “Calumet had an easy road to the final, had to play less games and had more rest than us. They scouted us a lot, but we didn’t have the time to prepare for them.”


They seem to like sour grapes. Maybe we can give them some more :-)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Aunt Voula

I'll explain the title later.

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

That's an axiom that has become a cliche, but it describes this season, and particularly this past Calumet Regional Volleyball Invitational, to a T, to use another cliche.

I'll try to dig out from under this pile of cliches. What I mean by that is the Patriots turned over seven players from last year. Only two remain, Ally and Mandi, while the two top hitters, one of the setters, another top hitter and the libero are gone. But even with all the new players, the success continues. Tournaments CCS never would have dreamed of playing in, much less winning, five years ago but were captured by what we thought was a once-in-a-lifetime group of players the last couple of years are still owned by Calumet. Three weeks ago it was Kankakee Valley, and this past weekend the Patriots captured their own tournament for the fourth year in a row, defeated this the Crossroad Crusaders, the same opponent in last year's championship match (although this year they needed only two games.) Another "same" from last year was the last name of the MVP - Rohn.

Along with the change in the makeup of the team was the expectations. Last year, the year before, and possible the year before that, Calumet was the favorite. In 2010, the Patriots weren't even tested on their march to the trophy. In 2009, there was a little scare in the semis, but the finals were somewhat anticlimactic. Last year we thought we would roll, but the championship game was very tightly contested and we barely survived 15-13 in the third game. This year, to quote the title character, "We never think this could happen for you! Never! NEVER!" Well, maybe that is a little bit of an overstatement, but that came to mind as I was thinking about the events of this weekend, reflecting back about my thoughts during the offseason, before I saw what this team could become.

On Friday, the Patriots opened pool play against possible the weakest team in the tournament, the Kankakee Trinity Academy Eagles. Not much needs to be said about the most lopsided contest of the weekend, other than the Patriots won 21-3, 21-3. Next up was the Rivertown Patriots, a homeschool team from Grand Rapids, Michigan that used to be known as WMCAA. This one was much tougher - Rivertown ended up as the second seed out of our pool - and the girls struggled a little bit. Serve receive was a problem as it has been the last few games. CCS did get out to a 16-11 lead as their hitting and blocking was pretty good, but Rivertown scored three aces in a row, then after a Calumet hitting error, they got another ace to tie it up. A couple of Rivertown errors gave Calumet the lead again. The game ended on a block and then a kill by Ally, 21-17. Continued sloppy defensive play put CCS in an 11-5 hole to open the second the second set. An alarm of sorts must have gone off at this point, as we went on an eight-point run behind solid blocking, then after giving up a point, scored seven more in a row. They gave up another, but closed it out on a back row kill by Kaylie 21-13.

Fort Wayne Falcons White was our next opponent. Fort Wayne used to have two homeschool volleyball teams, the Falcons and the Angels, but the Angels disbanded and the Falcons got a lot of their players. They now have two teams, Black and White, essentially an A and a B team. The White teams is the B team. They were better than a lot of recent Angels teams, but not very strong. We started out slow again, as we did against Rivertown in the second set, but at 6-6, the girls went on a run again, this time 14-1. The offense was strong and everyone contributed. One point later we wrapped up set one, 21-8. The momentum and the offense continued into the second set as the Patriots ran out to a 10-1 lead. Our errors were the source of most of the points FW scored down the stretch, but the lead was never threatened in the 21-9 second set win. At 7:30 we faced Arthur-Okaw, a team we played several times last year. They lost their star from last year but were still pretty tough. I think they were a little intimidated by us as the committed a lot of hitting errors. In both sets we led 6-1 and they were both essentially over. The first set saw a lot of kills from Olivia, and the second was characterized by aces from Ally. The scores were 21-10 and 21-11. Somonauk Christian was our final opponent. They only had one loss coming in, but they must a played a weak schedule. Ally came out pounding it. At 11-2 we started making some errors, but a block by Olivia and Lee put the Patriots back on track, and they soon finished the 21-11 set win. The second set saw kills from all the hitters and a Cassie ace finished up the 21-10 second set win and the fourth straight year of perfect pool play.

Because of the success on Friday, the girls' Saturday schedule didn't begin until noon. Schaumburg, who hasn't seemed to play well against us at all the last few years were our first opponent, I'm sure to their regret. This match was not an exception. At 2-2 the Patriots scored with four straight kills. After a hitting error by Schaumburg, they called a timeout. The blocking team of Lee and Olivia stuffed one, then Ally found a hole and Lee put one down and it was 10-2. A little while later the blocking team stuffed another one for a 15-4 lead. SCS put together a mini-run of six out of seven points, but couldn't sustain the momentum, as they committed numerous hitting errors and the girls wrapped up the 25-14 win with an Ally kill. SCS kept it close early in set two. At 6-5, Olivia got a kill, Ally scored on a dink, and Olivia paired up with Stephanie for a block. Ally dialed it up here and the game was soon in hand. Olivia closed out the 25-12 quarterfinal win with kill and a nice dink.

We had heard that the Indy Silver Lightning were good, but weren't sure how good. They finished first in the their pool and beat a pretty tough Fort Wayne Falcons Black team in their semifinal, so they were pretty good. They were big and athletic, with several hitters. Ally came out on fire. She had five kills and a block in a 9-3 Patriot run to open the match. Indy called a time out to slow her down. It seemed to work. Indy scored six of the next eight to pull to within two. Then Indy bookended two net violations around kills by Ally (back row), Faith and Stephanie to break it open. After a Patriot receiving error, CCS scored five more in a row and it was a rout. Indy did get some kills later, but Stephanie finished the 25-16 with a kill. We struggled a bit to open up the second set, but it was more Indy good play rather than our poor play. Indy had four kill for their first four points, then we started having some hitting problems. An Indy ace gave them a 7-3 lead, which would prove to be their biggest lead of the match. They hit one out which Lee followed with an ace. Mandi put one down before Indy scored two of the next three. Ally took over here. Four kills plus a shared block with Mandi were part of a seven point run. Indy got their hitting going again which allowed them to get back to within one at 15-14. Ally grabbed the momentum back, and Mandi, Olivia and Faith kept it. Olivia had two kills and Mandi had one down the stretch. Faith's kill ended the 25-17 set win and a berth in the championship game.

Crossroads gave us all we could handle in our contests against us last year. They had one dominant player, so dominant that Division 1 schools are recruiting her even though she is only 16. One player that they didn't have was their savvy setter of last year. It didn't look like they had any one to replace her. However, it also looked like the big hitter, #7, was better and smarter than last year. After an opening prayer by Dan Obinger and the roster introductions the match began. Crossroads led 3-1 when Ally and Annika (#7) started trading kills. Three by Ally, three by Annika. Crossroads bracketed two hitting errors around two kills by Stephanie for four straight by Calumet. Olivia then absolutely rejected a big kill by Annika and CCS led 9-6. Errors were committed by each team. Olivia, Stephanie then Faith each scored on kills to make it 13-8. Calumet gave one up, then Ally and Annika went back at it. Back row kill by Annika. Back row kill by Ally. Kill by Annika. Dink kill by Ally. Kill by Annika. Block by Annika. Ally then dinked one out and Annika dinked one in to tie it. Kill by Ally. Kill by Ally. Kill by Annika. We had a hitting error, they had a serving error. They had two defensive breakdowns, then Ally scored two aces. Annika hit one out and the Patriots led 23-17. The Crusaders scored two in a row, the second on an Annika kill. A block by Olivia and Lee put Calumet one point away. Annika crushed one from the back row, then Crossroads scored on an ace Coach called a timeout. Crossroads then couldn't return a ball and the Patriots had game one, 25-22.

 Set two pickup where set one left off. A hitting error gave us the first point, then alternating kills by Ally and Annika, three by Annika and two by Ally made it 3-3. We messed up a return, then Ally scored on a kill then an ace. Annika blocked one before Stephanie got one down, then Ally from the back row, then Olivia. Lee completed the run with an ace and it was 9-5, CCS. Annika ended the run with a back row kill but Olivia followed this with a kill then an ace. Crossroads scored the next five, including a block and kill by Annika. They hit one out, then were called on a questionable carry on a dink attempt. They scored two kills in a row to tie it up again, which Ally answered with a spike and a dink. Annika dinked one in but they served out on the next point. We made two errors to make it tied again at 16, but then they served out again. We opened up a little room with a block by Olivia followed by an Ally ace, then a beautiful block by Olivia on Annika. Another hitting error was the last point in the five point streak. Crossroads ended the run with a downball that we partially blocked but fell on our side. We couldn't return the next serve,, then we were called on a some violation on what looked like a very nice dink kill by Olivia. 21-19, CCS. Ally pushed the lead back to three on a backrow kill, then the teams traded hitting errors. 23-20. Mandi got a nice kill to put the Patriots to within one of the championship, but Annika delayed things for a bit with a back row kill. On the next point, Annika raked the net on a kill attempt, and the championship was ours. Again.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Lots of games, mostly wins

Let's see, where did I leave off? Oh yes, the Covenant Christian match. That means I only have FIVE matches to cover here. Yes, five, as in five in five days. I guess Coach was preparing the team for our tournament. Or something. Anyway I will recap the matches briefly here.

Thursday was Hebron. I only saw the first two sets - more about that later. We had faced Hebron in the Kankakee Valley tournament, so we knew what we were up against, which was a mediocre defensive team that ran their offence through their middle hitters, neither of which was taller than 5'8". We tried to help out Hebron to start the game, committing numerous hitting errors. When we weren't hitting the ball into the net or out, we were pounding it down. They scored three of their first four points on our errors; we scored our first six points on kills, which came from Mandi, Olivia and Ally. The girls actually were behind early, 4-2, but then ran off eight straight and twelve of thirteen to blow the set open. In that sequence, three straight Patriot points came from Lee kills. A kill by Ally from the back row gave CCS an eleven point lead, then they scored the last four to take set one, 25-11. The Patriots fell behind again in the second set, scored four in a row to go ahead 7-4, but then made two errors to let Hebron back into it. Hebron then got their hitting game going and trailed only 15-14. That was short-lived as they hit the next two out. Mandi was the hitting star down the stretch as the Patriot scored the last seven to win set two, 25-16. Set three was after I left, but I can report that they won 25-13. I left watching a good team dominate in person to watch a bad performance (Bears) on television. Not sure how smart that was.

I did not travel to Lafayette to watch the girls play Faith. I have been to Lafayette more times than I care to remember over the last six years, and I knew Faith wasn't very good. Not anymore, anyway. 31-29.....smh.....grumble....grumble...oops, sorry, where was I? Oh yes, Faith. CCS won the match 25-16, 25-12, 25-14. Ally had twenty kills, Cassie had fifteen assists and Kaylie had ten digs.

I did travel to the remotest hinterlands of Indiana to watch the girls in the Tippecanoe Valley tournament. This was the first time we participated in this one, and it was a pretty good one. Our first opponent was Knox. Knox falls in the Times coverage area, so this was an important one. However, it was a relatively early one for our girls, especially coming on the heels of matches on Thursday and Friday. Those are my excuses and I'm sticking with them. Anyway, the girls couldn't quite get it down and went down to defeat 25-23, 25-20. I did not get there in time for the first set but did see the second. The Patriots led early. After a Kaylie ace made it 5-2, we committed a hitting error, a defensive error and served one into the net. All we need was a net violation and a setting error and we would have covered the bases. We continued to struggle as Knox got their hitting going, eventually taking a 9-7 lead. We fought back and consecutive kills by Faith put us back up by one. Knox hit several into the net and out; we took the lead. Knox started finding the court with both their hits and serves; Knox tied it up. A bit later an Olivia kill made it a three-point lead, but then we stopped being able to return their serves, which were very good. When we did get one up, it wasn't right to the setter. On the last three, we barely touched the ball. Three straight aces capped an eight point run by Knox and they had the victory and we no longer had a chance to win.

Next up was the host team, Tippecanoe Valley. Even though Mandi was sidelined with a twisted ankle, it didn't slow the Patriots a bit. The girls had their hitting, blocking and serving shoes on, and TV seemed to not know what hit them. Before you knew it, it was 13-3 CCS. We gradually increased the lead, mainly by aces, which we got from Ally, Olivia (2) and Kaylie. Since Mandi was out, Cassie was playing front row, and she finished the 25-12 set win with a kill. TV started hitting better in set two, and the set was close throughout. Two kills and an ace put TV up 7-3. They led 9-5 when they committed a serving error. Stephane followed with a kill, then Ally got one from the back row, and Faith also put one down to tie up the game. TV went ahead again by three and kept the lead until Ally and Lee had back-to-back kills to tie it up at 15, then an Ally ace gave the Patriots the lead. Back-and-forth it went from there. TV led for the last time at 19-18. CCS scored five straight. In that sequence was a nice double block from Ally and Faith, but the best point was the last one. It was a very long volley, highlighted by a fabulous no-look (at least that's how it appeared to me) save on a scramble at the net by Stephanie. She shot her arm out and slightly behind her as she was falling out of bounds and popped the ball right to a teammate. Eventually Ally finished it with a kill, but that was the defensive play of the year so far. After a TV kill, Ally got another kill and then a block to finish the set and match, 25-20.

Last up was Heritage of Monroeville, Indiana, sort of near Fort Wayne. They were very tall. It turned out they could hit, but maybe not quite as well as they looked like they could. Their defense was solid, but at this point the girls were warmed up and had gotten a little used to the new rotation without Mandi, who Coach held out as a precaution because of her turned ankle. Ally had three kills early, leading to a 5-2 advantage. A couple of hitting and one shanked pass gave Heritage the lead at 7-6. We then righted the ship and ripped off seven in a row, highlighted by back-to-back kills by Olivia. Heritage's height came into play as they got the offensive game going and they gradually got back into the game, finally tying it at 16. Heritage gave us the next two points on errors and we never trailed again. CCS had kills from Ally, Olivia, Kaylie and Stephanie, who got the last one to close out the 25-20 victory. Heritage really had trouble hitting to open the second set and CCS took advantage. An ace from Olivia gave the Patriots an 11-5 lead and it looked like a rout. The lead eventually grew to 17-9 as the girls blocked very well while Heritage made fewer errors. CCS still led 23-17 after Cassie tipped one to a hole. Heritage then scored six straight on four kills and two hitting errors by the Patriots (LGFS!). Stephanie stopped the bleeding with a well-placed dink, then Ally got a dink kill as well to end it and the Patriots had second place.

This week it's Westville there on Tuesday (I will not be there) and then the tournament on Friday and Saturday. We are the three-time defending champions of that tournament, but there are some powerhouses coming that will make it tough. Come on out and cheer on the girls and let's make it a fourpeat!!