Tonight the five teams hoping to reach the playoffs will face a difficult test in the district race. The first begins at 5:30 at Northside Gym. Clark and Brandeis will face each other in a grudge match. During round one Clark was able to defeat the Lady Broncos in three matches.
Clark brings height to the net and the defensive specialist (Libero) is known to dive onto the floor, run into the wall and stands to keep the volley alive and give her teammates the opportunity to win. Clark is one starter down as one of the “twin trees” is missing from the lineup with an injury. She is expected to make it back on the floor before the district season concludes.
Clark also only has four seniors doing duty on the floor. So many of the players including the Libero are young but are playing as if they have been seasoned veterans along side the seniors for four years.
Brandeis also brings in some tough personnel to the game. First is Emily DeWalt. She is possibly the best recruit in volleyball right now. Her size makes her intimidating; her determination makes her almost unconquerable.
Although Brandeis has lost two games in district (Clark, and O’Connor) none were easy blowouts and if you watch Emily play the outcome remained in question most of the match. She is a setter but if the opportunity arises she will spike the ball across the net, she will dance across the floor as if she was a candidate on Dancing with the Stars to assist her teammates and confuse the opponent.
I have watched Emily dive to the deck floor faster than a fighter pilot in war to save the volley.
The Libero for Brandies (Courtney Clark) is another player quick on her feet. Watching her and Dewalt complete the tango on the Bronco side of the net is almost as breath taking as Astaire and Rogers dancing a number together.
Clark like her opponent for Clark across the net is no stranger to diving onto the floor, running into wall, or the laps of spectators sitting too close to keep the ball alive.
The Lady Broncos also bring a young squad onto the floor. With only two seniors on the team, some wonder where Coach Williams receives help in leadership. She receives it from her young players like No. 18 Selby Draker and No. 3 Shadee Briggs. Each of these players has been known to play well above the sophomoric level. You can hope that these two will make “rookie” mistakes. If you are waiting for that to happen, you can employee the cliché’ “Wish in one hand, and spit in the other.” I can guarantee your hand will be one large mess before nightfall.
Coach Williams has instilled discipline and patience into each of her players. They will not allow small mistakes to create angst and let frustration add to the opponent’s points on the board.
If you want to see extreme athleticism, choreographed moves (much like dancing) and hard determination travel to the Northside gym for the 5:30 Clark-Brandeis match up but keep your running shoes on for the 6:30 match will prove to be just as exciting in the Harlan Gym.
O’Connor and Brennan will face each other on the court tonight at 6:30 pm at Harlan Gym. Brennan is sitting fourth in the district tied with Warren. If Brennan walks out of the gym tonight with a victory, Brandeis should lose to Clark, and Warren defeats Taft we will have a three-way tie for fourth place in the district. This is familiar territory for Northside.
Currently, Warren and Brennan are tied for fourth place with identical records 7-4. If Brennan loses to O’Connor and Warren defeats Taft then Warren will have the advantage over Brennan.
Northside volleyball offers more twists and surprises than the Bachelor, Desperate Housewives, and Family Feud combined.
This year, O’Connor volleyball has fought hard to find themselves the number one seed in the district. Tonight, begins the first strong challenge to this position, as they will face Brennan. Last time the two teams met, it took five matches to determine the winner.
O’Connor brings in a seasoned team, who has learned through four years of tough play how to fight for a victory. Two years ago as the fourth ranked team in the district the Lady Panthers clawed their way into the regional finals. The regional finals was the first game the Panthers allowed the pressure of success and stout competition to affect their game. So like a piece of fine porcelain. These young ladies have been placed in the hottest kiln, shaped, fired, and glazed into almost perfection. Early in the preseason, the Lady Panthers knocked off the Lady Rattlers from Reagan.
They remain steadfast to work diligently to fight each round. I watched as they quickly took the first round against Brandeis and then lose the second match. They returned to the floor unflappable and systematically placed their shots and guarded the net to take back the third match. They refused to allow Lady momentum to change dance partners in the fourth set to finish off the Lady Broncos.
Much like Charlie’s Angels the trio of Aspen, Allison, and Chinelo provide coverage and an offensive power that helps control the tempo of the game.
Much like Coach Williams, Coach Garcia remains a calming force on the sidelines. She is no stranger to conflict and victory as she earned her 600th victory this year. With a glance, or stomp of the foot she controls her girls’ tempo and composure on the floor.
Brennan cannot be dismissed. This volleyball team is in the middle of a rebuilding year including welcoming a new head coach. Last year’s head coach took the position at Harlan, and the assistant decided to step up into the hot seat.
Watching Brennan play I become confused thinking I am in a softball game. The Libero Makenna Hanssen slides along the floor like she is sliding into second base. Her energy continues to build up the team and encourages them to play hard even when the tide has turned against her team.
The Lady Bears also have some height that is intimidating on the floor. The seniors are trying to find their rhythm and when they are successful the ball flies over the net like scud missile.
The game at Harlan will prove to be a grudge match, as the Lady Bears owe the Lady Panthers for the first round loss. What is to be determined will it take five matches to crown a winner?
Taft and Warren will also provide excitement. Warren is hoping to maintain or even increase its lead over the Lady Bears for the playoff race. The Lady Warriors took district leader O’Connor to four matches, and Brandeis to four matches.
Warren is trying to focus on patience and keeping frustration from derailing the progress the team has made.
Warren used three matches to dispatch the Lady Raiders in the first round. The rematch is scheduled for 5:30 today at Paul Taylor Field House.
The Lady Rams face Jay at 7:30 in Paul Taylor Field House. The Lady Rams are hoping to improve on defense and offense during the second round so they can find themselves in contention for the last play off spot.
Stevens and Holmes will finish the night of volleyball off at Northside Gym. They are scheduled for a 7pm start. Both teams share a 2-9 record and are hoping that round two will offer a change for the teams.
For images from tonight’s games you can log onto http://valknutphotography.zenfolio.com/f204906162