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Dhahabu End-of-Season Party!

The hallway of the Columbus Convention Center following Regionals never seemed to be the appropriate place to express a season’s worth of goodbyes. After rising at o-dark thirty, traveling to Columbus and then playing 6 matches (14 games) in 11 hours; folks are mainly focused on a safe ride home and some rest prior to the upcoming workweek. That is one reason why Team Dhahabu chose to conduct one more Thursday evening “practice” in the form of an end-of-season party.

With the season in our rear view mirror the party gave the Dhahabu players, coaches and parents an opportunity to reflect on the season and say some goodbyes in a relaxed environment. It also enabled the respective families to gather and renew some friendships that have emerged from attending the various tournaments and team functions. Although the weather did not really cooperate, the severe storms of the previous evening did stay away. A little rain did not deter the team as all the players were able to participate and all families were well represented. An outstanding turnout!

One great thing about juniors volleyball is that players learn that some of those players from other high schools are not all evil. The friendships that develop during the juniors season make the fall school season a little more interesting when some of the rivals across the net are previous teammates. The friendships were evident as the Dhahabu gathered for this season-ending event.

The Dhahabu had a great year both on the court and off as players made significant progress individually and competed well as a team. The party celebrated the players’ efforts and enabled appropriate closure for the season. Below are a few closing pictures. Throughout the year we provided the players a “thought for the tournament” so it seems appropriate to end with the following thought for the future.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

 

Every party must have a cake!

Authentic players' autographs

No caption required --- picture says a 1000 words!

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Team Dhahabu waving to their adoring crowd of followers.

Regionals — the final tournament of the season for the Dhahabu. Quite a sight to see 50 courts of volleyball in action at the Columbus Convention Center! We played in the 15 American Division where the top 16 teams in the Region were seeded into four pools making up the Gold and Silver Brackets. Obviously, with only the top 16 teams entered in the Gold and Silver Brackets, the competition was extremely fierce with every match hotly contested. But first I must digress. Anyone who has been involved with youth volleyball knows the importance of “ball control” — the ability to keep the ball from hitting the floor, while at the same time controlling the ball enough to transition into an offense and effectively setting and attacking without errors. The Dhahabu have consistently had good ball control throughout this season and a big part of that has been the play of two outstanding defensive specialists (DSs).

The evening prior to Regionals I received a call from the mother of one of the DSs informing me that her daughter had a severely broken nose as a result of a swimming accident. So in addition to her physical pain she would have to miss our last tournament. A severe blow to her and to our team but we still had an experienced defensive specialist to fulfill the libero role. Then the morning of Regionals the mother of the remaining DS called to inform me her daughter had a bad case of food poisoning and could not make the tournament. After that call I considered turning off my phone to avoid further bad news. Instead, I spent the early morning ride to Columbus contemplating revamped lineups.

Needless to say the players, after being convinced that I was not teasing them, were in somewhat of a shock at the last second loss of these two players. We just figured players would have to adjust to some new roles and press ahead. I am proud to say they did just that. When I asked a player to switch into the libero jersey and play a position she had never done before she did not hesitate. Other players stepped up as well as they played in positions outside their comfort zone. Pool play did not always go smoothly but we did have some fine play and many good rallies. Unfortunately it only takes a couple of defensive breakdowns to sway the tide in close matches. We ended up losing 5 games by two points each during pool play, finishing fourth in our pool and moving on to the Silver Bracket playoffs.

The revamped lineup seemed to gain new life in the playoffs, playing with greater consistency, confidence, and energy. After defeating East Cleveland Navy in the quarterfinals the Dhahabu’s opponent in the semifinals was Team Atlantis, a team we had lost to in the Gold playoffs at Sports Express earlier in the season. This time the outcome was different as we split the first two games before prevailing in the third, 15-13. Moving on to the finals we met Southwest White, the number one ranked team in the Region, who we had lost to in the semis of Presidents’ Cup. We essentially were running on empty at this point, having played 6 tough matches with a reduced squad and few subs. We lost in two games to finish second in Silver. A long but productive day. Sadly, the two players had to miss our last tournament but on the plus side it did provide new opportunities for the remaining players.

We have our end of season team gathering later this week so there are things to do and preparations to be made. Although the season lasted 6 months, in many ways it seemed to fly by. We will say our appropriate goodbyes but the friendships and memories will remain. Below are some pics from the Regional Tournament.

Kristin K. (20) delivers the quick set to Melanie (15). If they haven't jumped yet they aren't going to block this one.

Allie (17) skies high for the back set. Melanie (blue) and Nicole (white) look on in admiration.

Our new libero, Nicole (white), delivers the pass as Allie (17) scrambles to get into the attack position.

Chloe (19) looks to the floor, which is where her blocks usually end up!

Megan (16) elevates to the max to ensure this ball is rejected.

The "Mel-ginator" (15) terminates yet another rally with her quick kill. Set offered up by Rachel VF (21).

Stoggie's (14) cannon-like attack is good for another point. Allie (17) waiting in case of a lucky block.

Our new libero, Nicole (white), instructs Allie (blue) on the finer points of passing a volleyball.

Team Dhahabu, in honor of their runner-up finish in the 15 American Silver Division, offer up the universal symbol for "WOW".

The last weekend of April had the Dayton Juniors 15 Dhahabu playing in the two day ACES Challenge Tournament. The Dhahabu team was one of 18 teams (4 pools) entered in the 16s Division. The field included 16 National, American and Regional teams from the Ohio Valley Region as well as some 16 Open and Club teams from the Pioneer Region. Our pool played at Northern Kentucky University on Saturday and we moved to the Midwest Hoops facility in Florence, KY for the playoffs on Sunday.

We started out strong in our first match of pool play against a tough Borderline 16-1 team. Down 19-24 in the first game the Dhahabu put together a furious comeback to win 27-25. Losing the second game we advanced to the third and deciding game, a close back and forth struggle that ended 13-15. The disappointment seemed to show as we came out flat and uninspired in the second match against the Cincy VBC 16-1 national team. We recovered to play them close the second game (23-25) but fell in two straight. Our final opponent in pool play was the host NKJV 16-2 team. The Dhahabu started slow but cranked up the intensity midway thru the first game. We played extremely well and were able to take the match in two games, giving us a third place finish and a trip to the Silver playoffs.

Our Silver quarterfinal opponent was Kenton VBC 16-1 and the Dhahabu came out on fire. Playing virtually error-free the players put all phases of the game together and took the match in two straight games, advancing the team into the semis. Here we ran up against a strong Team Z 16 Green team. Although the Dhahabu had some nice volleys sprinkled in, we could not sustain any runs. Although we did not give up long runs, Team Z continued to play excellent defense and converted their digs into good offensive swings, winning the match in two games.

The tournament was a good experience for the Dhahabu. We played up in age group and got to see and play against a lot of teams we had not seen at earlier tournaments. As it turned out, the two teams we lost to in our initial pool went to Gold and both made it through to the semis, tying for 3rd. The team we lost to in the Silver semis, Team Z Green, won the Silver after coming out of a pool that contained the teams that finished 1st and 2nd in Gold. So we were able to face some of the strongest teams in the tournament. We would be remiss if we didn’t note that the Dayton Juniors 16 Blue national team won the Gold. Congratulations to the young ladies and coaches of the 16 Blue team!

Prior to the tournament we took the time to celebrate Coach Stephani’s birthday following practice on Thursday (see picture below). Several players took the extra cupcakes home to “give to their brothers and sisters”, but I doubt they survived the ride home. Congratulations Steph on your birthday and your upcoming graduation!

The Dhahabu with Coach Steph on her birthday. They did a good job devouring the cupcakes but their singing leaves a lot to be desired.

Melanie (15) on the quick attack with set by Rachel VF (21). Stoggie (14) anticipating the point.

Nikki (13) with eyes on the ball and platform facing target! Kristin K. (20) lending encouragement.

Chloe (19) with the rejection.

Capping a furious comeback from a 19-24 deficit, Allie's (17) right arm recoils from her solo block for the final point in a 27-25 win. Melanie (15) about to celebrate.

Rachel VF (21) jump sets to save an errant pass. Melanie (15) waiting to see what to do next. Passer cropped out of picture to protect the guilty.

A skying Stoggie (14) finds a small window enabling her to attack down the line.

Kristin D's low platform prevents another spike from denting the floor.

Allie and Chloe (L-R) make life miserable for a left side attacker. Kristin K. (20) patrols for the dinks while Nikki (13) defends deep.

Ouch! Sometimes these things sting. Nicole (18) absorbing the sting and the libero Kristin D. offering sympathy.

Rachel VF (21) and Chloe (19) executing an extremely rare, and rarely effective, front-to-back tandom block. Megan (16) witness to the event.

The twins, Megan and Melanie, put up a great block in the face of a severe easterly wind. Allie (17) ready for the deflection.

Kristin K. (20) feeds Megan, I mean Melanie, in the middle.

"Hold still. I know I saw it crawling around in here earlier!" Stoggie, Rachel VF, and Allie (L-R)

Unique praying mantis one-armed dig by Kristin D. (12).

Team Dhahabu

Team Dhahabu headed south for the weekend of April 15-17, participating in the Jr Hi Neighbor Tournament in Asheville, North Carolina. Biltmore Volleyball Academy hosted over 150 teams for this event, which utilizes virtually every large middle school, high school, college and sports complex court in the greater Asheville area. The Dhahabu played at four courts located in a combined middle school and high school facility in Hendersonville, just south of Asheville.

We entered the 28 team 16s Division. The tournament initially seeds the teams into Open and Club level pools for the first round of play Saturday morning. Saturday afternoon the teams are once again placed in Open and Club level pools based on their finish in round one. Some teams move up to Open or down to Club level in this process. Team Dhahabu started in a four team Open level pool and initially had their way with the competition. However, after winning the first two matches we ran into a hot North Carolina Academy team. Although we lead 10-6 in the third game the Dhahabu could not finish and lost 15-13. That put us in second place, allowing us to advance to another Open level pool. Saturday afternoon we played the first two matches of the second pool and the Dhahabu took care of business, winning both matches and setting up a Sunday morning match for first place with the Biltmore Volleyball Academy 16 National team. The Dhahabu came to play and fought hard before falling in two close games 22-25 and 23-25.

Having finishing second in the second pool we were one of eight teams advancing to the single elimination 16 Open Gold playoffs. We played a first place team, River Valley, from another pool in the quarterfinals. The Dhahabu cranked up the intensity and swept them in two straight games. You could feel the momentum building as we warmed up for the semis against a very strong NYV 16 National team. The first game went back and forth with both teams slugging it out and the sideouts plentiful. Team Dhahabu, even after trying to conserve subs, ran out of substitutions as the game went into overtime. In a game that could have fallen either way the Dhahabu finally fell short 29-31. After digging a 0-5 hole to start game two the Dhahabu did not fold and finished strong before losing 21-25. Although a loss is never easy to stomach we left it all on the court and competed extremely well — finishing 3rd in the 16 Open Gold Playoffs.

The Jr Hi Neighbor Tournament has some unique traditions. During pool play the teams exchange friendship gifts prior to the start of each match. Team Dhahabu enjoyed this tradition, exchanging our buckeyes and club pin (see a previous post) for a variety of gifts. Another feature includes the fact that if teams are tied in match play within their pool, the ties are not broken on game percentage or point differential, but with 15 point playoff games. Therefore there is no “penalty” for going three games with anyone and no incentive to maximize your point spread. The hospitality is special also. Tournament staff and other teams went out of their way to make us feel welcome, one team even offering to share their team food spread with us when they noticed we had none. Given our seven hour trip home they relieved us of our refereeing responsibilities so we could get a head start home.

I am embarrassed to say a tournament rule, not a tournament tradition, caught the coach by surprise. Mid-way into our first game they notified us that the libero was not allowed to serve at this tournament, even though ours had already done so a couple of times. In what was a stroke of coaching genius (well, actually more like luck), we had added a sister of one of our players to the roster since she was coming along on the trip anyway. Given the libero rule she not only was a good teammate but she also contributed significantly to our team effort.

As usual, there was a lot of behind the scenes activity outside of the volleyball court. The hotel, the Country Inn and Suites, was excellent and extremely accommodating — starting breakfast early for our team and responding to our special needs. Our parents were very supportive while also finding time to socialize and enjoy themselves in the process.  A local barbeque site was located and several parents ordered the food and delivered it to our hotel breakfast area for a Saturday evening feast. Play finished early enough on Saturday that the team found time following dinner to head downtown to the French Broad Chocolate Lounge for a unique experience. If you haven’t been to downtown Asheville on a Saturday night it is a busy and somewhat eclectic place. Sunday provided gorgeous weather, 70s and sunny, and following completion of play we got an early start home. A long but very productive weekend as Team Dhahabu played hard, competed well and had some fun along the way!

Kristin D. exchanging friendship gifts with a River Valley player.

Left side attack by Stoggie; Allie and Melanie providing coverage in the unlikely event of Stoggie being blocked.

Nicole (18) and Chloe (19) with the block and scary faces.

Megan passing with Nicole (18) and Nikki (13) looking on in admiration.

Melanie middle hit; Nicole, Kristin K., and Kristin D. backing her up.

Stoggie keeps her eye on the ball.

Chloe with the roof; Kristin K. (20) and Kristin D. (12) ready just in case the attacker gets lucky.

Nikki zeroing in; Meg, Stoggie and Allie looking on.

A knight to remember!

Kristin D. absorbs yet another spike.

Megan (16) and Melanie (15) put up a "twin" block with Kristin K. (20) anticipating the dink.

Our fans relaxing between games.

Kellie D. passing; Stoggie (14) & Coach offering moral support.

Synchronized passing by Kristin K. and Nikki.

Wall by Melanie (15) and Allie (17), hair by Sassoon.

The Dhahabu following Saturdays feast.

Rachel VF (21) sets the quick to Melanie, sister Megan (16) thinking "Set me".

The Dhahabu with their handiwork.


Our upcoming tournament, the Jr Hi Neighbor in Asheville NC, has a long standing tradition of the players trading gifts at the net prior to each match during pool play. The type of gift varies widely, sometimes related to something unique to their team or perhaps their home area. The nature of the gift is not as important as the concept of competitive rivals exchanging tokens of friendship prior to the competition. Gifts from the Dhahabu will reflect our volleyball club and our home state — the Buckeye State. We have chosen to exchange a small gift box containing a couple of chocolate and peanut butter buckeyes and a Dayton Jrs Volleyball pin.

This past Sunday, prior to practice, the players gathered and assembled the gift boxes with buckeyes, stickers, and our club pin. The Dhahabu looked like a well oiled machine and their assembly line cranked out 110 boxes of buckeyes in no time at all. As with most things the team does, they had some fun along the way. The pictures below reflect the activity. The buckeyes left over when the boxes ran out were quickly consumed despite the impending practice. Fortunately the buckeyes did not appear to impact practice performance as play was very spirited.

The Buckeyes!

The Assembly Line - (L-R) Kristin D., Nicolette, Nicole, Chloe, Stoggie

Kristin D. on the left and Melanie with the icy stare.

(L-R) Rachel VF, Kristin K., Megan and Melanie hard at work.

Allie (L) and Stoggie (R) inserting buckeyes.

"Man Hands" Megan trying to figure out "How do I get these things in this little box?"

Allie being Allie.

The finished product!

 

April 2nd and 3rd found us in Parma at the 24-team American Challenge. This two-day tournament consisted of two rounds of pool play followed by the playoffs. Although not playing up to their usual standards during the initial pool, team Dhahabu still managed to advance forward into the top four pools for round two. The team picked up their play significantly on Sunday but the spectators were treated to some wild swings in the level of play; outstanding volleyball with stretches of dry spells too. In our first match on Sunday we played the number one ranked team in the region, a team we had lost to at Presidents’ Cup in two games. This match went three, with game two seeing the Dhahabu come back from a 21-24 deficit to win 27-25. Unfortunately, the third game rally ended in a 15-11 loss.

G-luck, G-luck, G-luck ...

The Chicago Cubs baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Banks had a great attitude about life and was well known for his expression “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame… Let’s play two!” Our team seemed to adopt his expression and modify it slightly for volleyball. The Dhahabu expression is “It’s a beautiful day for a volleyball game … Let’s play three!” Our last four matches of the tournament all went to three games. The last match of our second pool went right down to the wire. If we were to win the 3rd game of that last match we would be in a three-way tie for second place and, based on tiebreakers, would take sole possession of second place in the pool and proceed to the Gold Playoffs. Despite some good play, we lost by a score of 15-12 and fell to fourth in our pool and a trip to the Bronze Playoffs. Although the placement might not reflect it, the coaches noted continued player improvement in several key areas.

Rachel VF (21) sets a back slide to Chloe (19), Allie (17) and Kristin D. (12) admire the kill

As is often the case in tournament volleyball, a very few points during key stretches make a huge difference in the outcome. It can be a tough lesson to learn but a good one. My dad was a high school principal and a basketball coach. He often told me “If you don’t find yourself losing at some point in time, then you are not learning!”  If he was still around to ask how we did this past weekend I would smile and tell him we learned a lot!

Allie (17) with the right side attack, set by Kristin K. (20) with Chloe (19) covering

Special thanks goes to Sandy Van Fleet for obtaining Saturday night dinner reservations at Trattoria Roman Garden in the Little Italy section of Cleveland. It was great food (warning — the portions are huge) and a wonderful time with the players, parents and coaches. Me, being cheap by nature, thought it was also nice to get my portion of the meal paid for as my wife and I celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary that evening. Now, on to a couple of weeks of practice prior to our next outing, the Jr. Hi Neighbor tournament in Asheville, NC.

Dig by Nikki (13), Kristin D. (12) applauding

 

Quick attack by Melanie (15), set from Kristin K. (20), pass by Nikki (13)

 

Megan with the spike, Nicole (18) and Rachel S. (14) coming in to cover

 

Left side swing by Rachel S. (14)

 

Nicole (18) attacking from the right side

 

Kristin D. (12) absorbing a spike; surrounded by Melanie (15), Nikki (13) and Rachel S. (14)

Big hairy block by Allie (near) and Melanie (far)

 

(L to R) Megan, Allie, Rachel S., and Kristin K. pose at dinner

 

On March 20th Team Dhahabu played in the “Dig or Die” Tournament held at the South Metro Sports Facility in Centerville, Ohio. This was a 16 Regional Tournament and sixteen teams were entered. The tournament was highly competitive with four of the top ten ranked 15 American teams within the Ohio Valley Region participating, along with four of the top ten ranked 16 Regional teams.

Team Dhahabu went undefeated in pool play although it was not without a struggle. We encountered significant deficits in several games and found ourselves expending a lot of energy clawing our way back into those games. Our lack of ball control contributed to us not running many sets to our middles and right sides, forcing us to rely too much on our left side attackers. To the team’s credit, they did overcome the adversity and consistently came through during key stretches of play. The Dhahabu played exceptionally well the last match of pool play to propel the team into the Gold playoffs.

Our Gold quarterfinal opponent was Kaepa Buckeye 16 Black Elite, the Ohio Valley Region’s number one ranked 16 Regional team. The momentum from the last pool play match carried over as the Dhahabu continued their fine play with key contributions from all the players. Tough serving, good floor defense, and a great free ball offense propelled the Dhahabu to a nice victory. Moving on to the semis, the team encountered a tough Team Atlantis team. The additional effort we expended earlier in pool play seemed to take its toll as we did not execute crisply, fell behind and could not turn it around — resulting in a third place finish in the Gold. It was a strong tournament and the Dhahabu players continued to improve and develop as a team. A special shout out to Linda Seitter for taking the time to provide tournament pictures. The Dhahabu will return to tournament action April 2-3 at the twenty-four team 15 American Challenge in Parma, Ohio.

Chloe (19) blocking; Kristin K. (20), Nikki (13) and Kristin D. (12) with a view of the rejection

Megan on the attack, Nikki and Allie providing coverage

Dual block by Melanie (15) and Rachel S. (14); Kristin D. (12) and Nikki (13) prepared to dig

Melanie's quick attack off Rachel's set; Kristin D. (12) and Allie (17) admiring the kill

Swing by Allie, Nikki (13) and Rachel S. (14) covering

Joust by Melanie; Kristin K. (20) and Nicole (18) anticipating the result

Chloe out of the middle, Kristin D. (12) providing moral support