What an amazing weekend for the 403 15U girls!  An early departure on Thursday, that required assembling at the airport at 4:30 in the morning, allowed us to get into San Jose early enough to spend the afternoon with John Dunning, head coach of the Stanford Women’s Volleyball team, and several of the players.  What an amazing experience to see and hear from such a legend and from these amazing women!  Stanford is a tremendous facility and our time there was well spent and culminated with a shopping trip to the bookstore for some Stanford swag!

Friday was spent in San Francisco and our day started out with a trip to THE ROCK! Our Alcatraz tour began with an informative hello from one of the National Park Rangers and an introduction to one of the last surviving inmates of the historic prison, Bill Baker.  We climbed the hill and did the fascinating audio tour of the Cellhouse, took several “cell-fies” with help from Coach Flo and his selfie stick, and enjoyed the view of the bay.  The weather was sunny and this was a fantastic start to our visit to San Francisco.

Upon return to the mainland, we strolled down to Pier 39 and enjoyed some ice cream, found the musical stairs, a pretty double-decker carousel, and of course sea lions in the harbor.  Some of the sea lions were hundreds of pounds and they barked and crowded onto the floating docks, providing some great entertainment.  The girls adopted several as their own as they watched and laughed.  They even found one that reminded them of Coach Corey.  We stopped in several interesting shops and had lunch at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. which had a very cool vibe and looked right out onto the water.  Interestingly, not many of the girls knew the story of Forrest Gump.  Might have to do something about that!

After lunch, we were off for a ride on the famed cable cars!  Whipping and dabbing along the way, the girls met lots of street entertainers and “friendly” seagulls and were happy to sing along with the music wafting through Fishermen’s Wharf.  So many things to see and do but alas we only had the one day.  As we embarked on our cable car journey, the girls waved and smiled and enjoyed the ride up the very steep, tree-lined streets of San Fran.  This turned out to be QUITE the adventure when the cable car we were on was required to activate its emergency brake, cutting short our journey a little earlier than planned!  The girls were resilient and after a fairly short walk into Union Square, we hopped on the F-Train to return to our vans and return to San Mateo.  The San Francisco Municipal Transportation employees were amazingly accommodating to our group so many thanks to them!

Saturday afternoon took us to Ocean Beach, but first the girls got to explore the Sutro Baths, remains of the world’s largest public indoor swimming pool privately owned by San Francisco Mayor Adolf Sutro and dating back to the 1800’s! There was lots to see and explore as the Pacific waves crashed into Seal Rocks and the sun began to set!   Heading down to the beach we passed by the majestic looking Cliff House to experience a California sunset on the water!  What else did the girls insist on doing?  They wanted to play some beach volleyball…of course.  No net, no problem!  They just played.  After several great photo opportunities we again returned to San Mateo for the night.

Sunday evening was an opportunity for the girls to dress up and go out for a Valentine’s Day dinner at Tomatino.  After what seemed to be endless dishes of pasta, and a lovely Valentine’s dessert, we returned to the hotel for a movie night and popcorn!  On the screen – Forrest Gump!  This was not an easy feat to accomplish but after purchasing the movie from iTunes (and a few cables later), we were able to get the TV in the hotel lobby to show the movie.  Gathered in like old friends, the girls watched the movie with great appreciation.  They learned a little bit about history, and life in general.

Did we mention that along the way the 15U 403 Selects girls were also playing in a pretty big US President’ s Day volleyball tournament?  Saturday marked our first day of competition.  The girls played well and were able to pull off 2 solid victories and a close loss to go 2-1 on Day One!  Playing everybody equal in six rotations certainly was not the norm.  The USA rules allow for 4 players to sub into one position, and have up to 18 unlimited substitutions, and to play with two liberos that can also serve.  We stood our ground and played our system our way with considerable success.

Sunday was Day Two of competition and had the girls playing some of the best volleyball they have played all year.  Again the 15U team went 2-1 against some really great US teams and vaulted up the rankings going into the 3rd playoff bracket showdown on Monday.  Unfortunately the girls fell short in the last match.  It appeared that our busy schedule had taken its toll, and they were tired.

Not focusing on outcomes, we truly accomplished our goal of the weekend– to bring the girls together and bond as a team.  They clearly did!  Watching them interact with each other both on and off the court, they became closer and more cohesive as the weekend progressed.  It was truly a weekend of positives.  They learned to communicate better, interacted on the court better and all around became a closer team.

Hats off to everyone that was involved in the planning of this California adventure!  An amazing experience for the girls was planned.  Coaches developed an incredible rapport with the team and were very proud of each and every girl!  Going forward, one cannot help but think that this experience will allow for so much growth.   The team has grown together and everyone is looking forward to where this journey will take us!  This season will certainly be very exciting to watch!