Just like life; Northside’s volleyball playoff picture became complicated

I am ashamed to admit that volleyball is not my favorite sport. Much like tennis, I watch as the ball goes over the net, around the net, over the fence, and I become confused. During my confusion my ADHD takes over and before I know what happens I begin watching for flying squirrels and large dancing elephants.

However, tonight’s match up against the Lady Cougars from Clark and the Lady Panthers from O’Connor was not your regular volleyball match.

Both teams understood the stake of tonight’s game. If the Lady Panthers won, they would cinch the district championship a title that has eluded them the last two years.

The Lady Cougars knew their only way to share the district title or to grab the golden ring from others they would have to defeat the Lady Panthers. During the first round of district play the Lady Cougars and the Lady Panthers battled each other to a five game match before the Lady Panthers walked away with the win.

The Lady Panthers completed fifteen games without a loss. The Lady Cougars had only lost one in fifteen games.

The Lady Panthers commanded the first match. With hard hitting kills, and the players moving into position to set the ball for the return the Panther offense kept the volleys alive and points up on the board. The Panthers continued to control the net and the flow of the game.

The Lady Cougars refused to allow one set to disrupt their plans for the night. The combination of the height and determination of the Cougars encouraged Lady Momentum to change dance partners during the second match.

The Cougar libero, Mia Ybarra, stalked and pounced on the ball like an over energetic kitten with a catnip toy. She dove to the floor, she ran to the back of the court to return or set the ball for the hitters.

Kara McGhee provided height at the net that eventually wore down the defenders from O’Connor. Her quick hands sent the ball back over the net causing the Lady Panthers to fumble and the ball to fall along the net earning a point for the Lady Cougars.

The Lady Panthers saw limited play from Alyssa Tatsch. Tatsch tore her meniscus in her knee last year. Tatsch underwent surgery and rehabilitation that prevented her from playing in the first round of district play. Her return to the floor has added another player capable of producing kills on the floor.   Tonight, she was able to place her hits but as the evening wore on they became more forceful and fell out of bounds.

They say the Aggie Band uses a computer to create the marching routines for the band. The integrate turns and swings must be practiced with precision otherwise the trombones collide with the tubas, and the tubas smack the trumpets. Soon chaos reins on the field and much like a domino train the band members fall out, fall down, and the routine collapses.

Tonight, watching both teams I am convinced the Aggie Band is an amateur compared to the movements and shifts I watched on the volleyball court. Some players were twisted sideways, some would come from the back to cross over the front… I could not keep up. I truly felt my eyes cross at one time as I was watching the girls return a ball.

During the game I wanted to place a time limit on the volleys because I started to feel sorry for the athletes. I know they had to become tired as the ball flew around their head, over their shoulder and toward the ground like a hawk diving for a fish. The record had to be set tonight for the longest volleys and the most number of volleys in a game.

I wanted to take a nap, just to prepare myself for the last two matches. However, I knew that if I dozed off I would miss the excitement. Both schools’ fans screamed, danced, and cheered for their team.

As I watched the matches tonight, secretly I hoped it would go five matches. A district championship was on the line. This was not the NFL and a Super bowl game where the one team decimates the other. Two teams determined to win played this game. Two teams committed to a championship race battling each other for the victory.

I must admit one more shortcoming tonight. During the fourth set, when Clark held a large lead against the Panthers, I thought the match was over and so too was the game. What happened next speaks to the discipline and coaching of Yami Garcia. I know she has over 600 wins but the best have a bad night or an off night. I watched as the athletes from OC kept their composure and methodically returned balls, killed balls, and eventually overtook the lead. I would receive my wish as the Lady Panthers won the fourth set, 25-22.

The Lady Cougars would not be intimidated. They took the floor in the fifth match with one outcome expected—to win. The Lady Cougars placed their returns well, concentrated on defending the net, and leapt off their feet much like the Man of Steel trying to clear a tall building. Their superman efforts produced results and the win.

“Tonight, it came down to errors,” said Garcia. “I am not going to take anything away from Clark. They played amazing tonight. They played like I knew they could. Unfortunately we committed some errors late in the game and when you play a team like Clark, you cannot commit an error or they will beat you.”

With the victory, Clark succeeded in the creating a complicated play off picture. Brandeis, Brennan, Clark, and O’Connor have clinched playoff spots. Now what must be decided is the seeding for the playoffs.

Clark and O’Connor share identical records now. The game between Brandeis and O’Connor has implications now. If O’Connor loses one or both of the next two games they will become second seed provided Clark wins both of their last two games.

If O’Connor and Clark win both of their remaining two games they will remain tied with identical records. Since they split the head to head contest, they will remain tied. “O’Connor does not flip a coin. We play to win. We play to determine the district championship,” added Coach Garcia.

In other action Tuesday night The Lady Bears won against Stevens. Brandeis defeated Marshall. Scores were unavailable for the other Tuesday matches. 

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