Monday, February 28, 2011

Niners put up fight, lose to Trojans

by David Portney

Friday night in beautiful Southern California featured one of, if not the best match of the men’s season so far. It had the #1 USC Trojans traveling to Long Beach to take on the #6 49ers. It took five sets to decide, but USC came out on top (23-25, 25-20, 25-23, 23-25, 15-12) in front of a boisterous crowd of 1,218.

It was only the fourth time in 11 matches this season that the Trojans were extended beyond three sets and it was USC's first five-set victory of 2011.

The Trojans had a total of four players with double-digit kills as Tony Ciarelli (left) led the way with 17, Austin Zahn added 14, Tri Bourne had 13 and Murphy Troy finished with 12.

Long Beach State also had four players with double digit kills: Jim Baughman (right) – 21, Taylor Crabb – 16, Brad Hemmerling – 11, Ryan Meehan – 10.

The box score can be found HERE

We also have a special treat for today’s blog. A friend of mine and resident Southern California native Sam Dores (right) attended the match, and I figured it would be best if he put in his two cents instead of me, who’s 2,000 miles away.

Sam was raised in San Diego, attended UCLA for his undergrad and UC San Diego for his post-grad work. He currently is an Events Operations Coordinator at Long Beach State University, so it’s safe to say SoCal is in his blood.

Without further ado:

“Friday night’s game pitted the Long Beach State 49ers, who haven’t lost at home playing host to the USC Trojans, who have only lost once anywhere. It also reunited LBSU assistant coach John Hawks, with his former team and his highly ranked recruiting classes who have led USC to their top season. All of this led to the largest crowd of the season for the 49ers, and the crowd wasn’t disappointed with the five-set thriller. The crowd began filing in more than an hour before the game started and long lines at the ticket windows kept the crowd coming in long past the start of the first game. Cheers were loud for both teams after each point, especially with a strong USC fan base in attendance. The 49ers band and marketing department kept the crowd entertained with music between each point and the tense play throughout the entire match kept the players in angst and the fans on the edge of their seats.

The highlight of the night came between the second and third set when the 1991 Long Beach State National Championship Team took the court to a standing ovation from all the fans. That team featured two First-Team All-Americans and Coach of the Year, Ray Ratelle. Joining them was Alan Knipe who played on the ’91 team under Ratelle and later took over for him in 2001 as coach of the 49ers. Knipe is currently on leave from the school to coach the US National Team as it heads towards the 2012 Olympics in London. Even with the loss, it was an overall successful night for Long Beach State and all the fans who were witness to a roller coaster evening of thrills and disappointments.”

Well there you have it, thanks Sam! Your Pulitzer Prize is in the mail.

Hopefully now that he has his foot in the door of volleyblogging (can I take credit for that term, or has it been around awhile?), he can contribute more often to this blog as the AVCA spreads its tentacles to the west coast (or as Sam would say, the best coast).

Anyway, make sure you listen to “The Net Live” today (Monday) at 1:30 ET as the guys will certainly go deeper into this match.

Looking ahead to next weekend, as the late Keith Jackson would say “whoooooooaaaaaa, nellie” do we have quite a matchup. How does #1 vs. #2 sound? #1 USC returns home to take on #2 BYU for back-to-back MPSF matches on Friday (March 4) and Saturday (March 5). Former Trojan All-Americans and Olympians Dusty Dvorak and Celso Kalache will have their jerseys retired following the March 5th match.

Stay tuned as later today we’ll release the new AVCA poll!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Marquee weekend matchups

Looking for something fun to do this weekend? There are a few great matchups this weekend that could shake up the top-10:

2/25: #1 USC is at #6 Long Beach State. Certainly won’t be an easy game for the Trojans.

2/25: #8 UCLA is at #4 Stanford

2/26: #3 UC Santa Barbara heads up north to take on #4 and defending champs Stanford.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Finally getting the respect

by David Portney

When we think of Ohio State Athletics (particularly men's), we think of those red and silver football uniforms that take the field every fall Saturday. We also might think of their basketball squad, which was ranked #1 in the country for the majority of this year.

But how 'bout those six-foot men soaring high above the net instead of the rim? In the latest AVCA poll released yesterday, the Buckeyes moved up into the top-5 after completing a sweep of Ball State.

They are also the only team in the top-10 that is east of Utah where the BYU Cougars hold down the #2 spot. It's taken some time, but it looks like those men over 2,000 miles away from the SoCal hot bed that houses six teams in the top-10 are finally getting some respect.

In the 2011 season, they are 10-2, but those two losses came against then-No.3 Pepperdine in Malibu over a month and a half ago. If you've read any of my blogs recently, then you know how often I mention teams changing throughout the season, and that a team that starts a season one way changes as the season progresses.

Since their two losses, Ohio State has ripped off 10 wins in a row while dropping just four total sets. The only thing that is holding them back from potentially cracking the top-3 is something at this point they have no control over: schedule.

Their three ranked wins are against then-No. 13 Cal State Northridge, No. 7 UC Irvine and then-No.9 Penn State. While they are quality wins, they aren't really the heavy hitters (pun definitely intended) the poll voters will look at to grant them a top-3 ranking. With that being said, they are still one of the top teams in the nation.

Shawn Sangrey (left) leads the Ohio State offense with 4.19 kills/set and 19 serving aces.

John Klanac isn't far behind with 3.14 kills/set.


Here's a video recap of their match against Quincy:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Pandamonium at Pepperdine

by David Portney

Well, it wasn’t long ago I was singing the praises of USC about not how many matches they might lose, but how many sets. Entering Friday’s matchup with #11 Pepperdine, the men of Troy were a perfect 6-0 having only dropped two sets the entire season. However, that number would change to five after they walked out of Malibu.

It was a five-set thriller (25-23, 20-25, 23-25, 25-16, 17-15) as Maurice Torres led the way with 17 kills and a match-high four aces. The last time Pepperdine upset a #1 seed, was Feb. 5 of last year when they knocked off Cal State Northridge. Funny enough, the Waves were the #11 seed when they accomplished that.

With the new AVCA poll being announced today, does this mean USC could be dropped out of the top spot? My guess would be not likely. Sure it’s a loss to a team out of the top-10, but Pepperdine is an extremely tough place to play. It’s a relatively small venue, and with a packed stands in can get extremely loud and raucous. The Trojans should not slump their shoulders for losing to an excellent Pepperdine team on the road.

We’ll see how many, if any, spots Pepperdine moves up in the poll, but having a signature win like this could certainly help them come seeding time for the tournament.

It was also a historic game for another reason. Senior outside hitter Cory Riecks got his 1,000th career kill with his fifth kill in the third set. He is just the 16th player in Waves history to accomplish the feat.

Here's more from Cory Riecks dating back to his sophomore year...


Friday, February 11, 2011

The AVCA and GoDaddy.com

by Kathy DeBoer

Sunday night I’m watching the Super Bowl like most of the rest of the United States, and because I don’t really care who wins, I’m breaking for refreshments during the game so I don’t miss any of the commercials. Some were great, others tacky, some stupid, a couple funny, but the progressively raunchy GoDaddy.com commercials were downright offensive:Click HERE to see one of the 2011 GoDaddy Super Bowl commercials.

Not having any idea, even after watching the commercials, what the company sold, I asked one of my employees the next day. He told me GoDaddy sells internet domain names. When I mentioned how sexist I thought the commercials were, he said that regardless of their offensiveness, they had to be working because GoDaddy had been using the attractive-scantily-clad-women-being-prompted-by-nerdy-men-to-take-off-even-more-clothes shtick for several years.

The commercials made me feel invisible and ignored or, at the very least, dismissed.

Suppressing my personal anxiety, I tried to think about the GoDaddy strategy from a business perspective. Clearly, the demographics of GoDaddy’s buyers must skew so overwhelmingly toward men that they were willing to alienate any women who were watching the game.

So what does this have to do with the AVCA? Actually, a lot. I am struck much more than I want to be by how often we, the AVCA, ignore and/or dismiss men’s and boy’s volleyball. Unlike the GoDaddy advertisers, it is not intentional, and certainly not a business strategy, but like GoDaddy, it is based on the makeup of our users. 90% of our membership is coaching women and girls.

A recent example is the title I selected for our Spring Webinar Series: Optimizing the Off-Season (http://www.avca.org/education-resources/coaching-education/webinars/). It’s not a bad title and will be a great set of programs. But, if you are coaching college men or high school boys right now, and are in-season, it would be easy to feel invisible and ignored, or at the very least, dismissed.

Don’t get me wrong, we need to offer programming year-round that is relevant, engaging, and educational to our membership. However, somehow we need to do that without marginalizing other segments.

I have this bias that someone who knows what it’s like to be dismissed, someone who just got mad about GoDaddy.com’s commercials, should be more attuned to these things. This makes avoidable mistakes even more of an irritant to me.

I am proud to be the Executive Director of a coaches association that serves both genders. I love it that the men’s season is opposite the women’s so we, as an association, can participate in awards programs and attend championships for both genders. I’m thrilled that the 89th NCAA Championship is men’s DIII Volleyball, which, if you haven’t seen it, is a great version of our game.

No one called us out on the ‘off-season’ – ‘in-season’ incongruity. Thankfully, during the season, coaches are too busy to worry about the AVCA’s self-inflicted wounds.

Having said that, you shouldn’t have to ‘call us out’ to get accountability. We will do better.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hugh McCutcheon to be joining the "Land of 10,000 Lakes"

by David Portney

As I’m sure a lot of you have heard by now, Hugh McCutcheon has accepted the University of Minnesota women’s head coach position. McCutcheon, who has served as either the U.S. Women’s or U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team Head Coach since 2005, will stay on as USA’s head coach until a mutually agreed upon time before joining Gopher nation on a full-time basis.

This is obviously big news in the world of USA volleyball, and the country’s loss will certainly be Minnesota’s gain.

“I am honored and excited to coach the women’s volleyball program at the University of Minnesota,” McCutcheon said. “This is a wonderful opportunity, both personally and professionally, and I hope we can continue the (Minnesota) team’s strong history of success. It is and continues to be an honor and privilege to coach the U.S. Women’s National Team.”

I had the privilege of meeting Hugh at the AVCA Convention in Kansas City, and there was no questioning his passion for the game. I was in the room when he was addressing the NCAA Division 1 All-Americans, and by looking at the faces of the All-Americans I could tell there was a great deal of respect for him. It is that passion coupled with the respect that potential recruits and current Gophers will have that makes this hire a great one.

Congratulations Hugh, and good luck as you move on to the collegiate ranks…Team USA will certainly miss you.