The 403 Selects met with formidable opponents at the President’s Day Tournament in San Jose. The girls battled through the tournament with the help of their coaches, coming out with an understanding of the importance of playing aggressively and locking in their coaches feedback. The girls demonstrated determination and perseverance as they experienced an elevated skill level and new offensive obstacles throughout the weekend.

Day One – Power Pools

403’s first match of the tournament (vs. Beach Vibes) saw the girls shaking out their nerves and working on court awareness. They demonstrated a solid serving comeback and although they lost Set 1 21-25, they played with vigour and excitement. In Set 2, they were down 8-13, coaches called a timeout and they came back with awesome rallies and powerful hits. Although they lost 18-25, they seemed to have some momentum building. Although the girls showed defensive skills, they battled with court awareness and serving. Match 2 vs. SF Elite was a difficult match for The Selects. Losing consecutively 11-25 and 10-25 was a tough one for the team and coaches. The 15U athletes struggled with serves and passes.  Their coaches debriefed with them following the disappointing match, giving the girls areas to improve on while simultaneously celebrating their successes. The positive talk must have worked because the girls brought their ‘A’ game to the court vs. Xceleration. Although they lost Set 1 23-25, they exhibited tough, consistent defence and raised the level of the game. They had some great passes and hits. Unfortunately, they could not win Set 2 sealing another match loss. Finishing fourth in their pool was a tough first day but enough to give them the grit and determination to Day 2.

Day Two – Qualifying Pools

The girls woke to a chilly morning in San Jose. When we walked into the South Hall and saw spectators with blankets wrapped around them, we knew it was going to be a cold day. In spite of the cold, the girls had a wonderful second day. The first match of the day would see 403 up against Legends. The Selects were determined to up their game and you could see the determination on their faces as they walked onto the court. The court itself brought its own set of challenges as one side faced a block of doors which brought in a difficult reflection that bounced off the court. The athletes didn’t let that slow them down though. They lost the first set 20-25 but won the second set 25-19, bringing on a dance from Coach Flo. Spectators saw outstanding plays, perfect sets and kills. With their energy and determination back, the Selects went on to Set 3, with multiple time outs called at 8-10, 11-11 and 14-14. With better on-court communication, the girls triumphed with a much-needed win of 16-14. Match 2 vs. UC Elite brought fierce competition but the girls stayed focussed and steady to win Set 1 25-23. Continuing on, 403s lost both Set 2 18-25 and Set 3 18-20. Spectators saw some great rallies throughout the Match and Set 3 was a nail-biter with such a tight score of 18-20. Match 3 vs. Silver Slate (SSVC) was exciting with the 15Us demonstrating great defence, digs, deep hits and powerful serves. They won Set 1 25-23, lost Set 2 25-17 and sadly lost Set 3 8-15. There were some amazing sets, hits and blocks. Many of the teams they met up with this weekend hit to the back of the court making it difficult for 403 to adjust their play to pick up.

Day 3 – Playoffs

Monday brought us warm weather and playing back in the San Jose Convention Centre. The spectator seating was amazing, allowing parents courtside seats for each match. Feeling a great energy, the girls worked hard in what would be their only match of the day. With energy and determination, they started off strong locking in the first point. They became more confident as the match continued eventually winning 25-15. Set 2 wasn’t as successful though and in spite of the coaches calling a time out at 11-18, they could not recover and eventually lost 13-25. Set 3 left the spectators exhausted from cheering. The Selects started strong quickly taking the lead 5-0. They lost a bit of momentum though and were soon tied at 6-6. Both teams wanted the win knowing that was the only way they would be playing after this. There were some tremendous blocks and hits moving the score steadily along to 11-12. Despite calling a time out, 403 could not get their footing back and sadly lost 11-15, ending their day and tournament play.

Final Thoughts

The President’s Day tournament allowed the 403 Selects to experience a high level of play. The girls demonstrated exceptional sportsmanship all weekend. The team rallied around each other to either share a success or encourage each other for improvement. There was a lot of team building with the girls touring Stanford University, experiencing downtown San Jose, exploring the beach and boardwalk at Santa Cruz and Pier 39 in San Francisco. Although they did not finish as they had hoped, parents and coaches saw our athletes building relationships, both with their teammates and coaches, soaking in first time experiences and growing their skills as athletes and travellers. The games brought the team closer together but the experiences their coaches provided will no doubt build the culture of the team. One comment overheard by a parent as we left San Francisco was, “this was the best day of my life”.

Many thanks to 403 Selects Club and the volunteers that made this possible. Thank you to Homewood Suites by Hilton for our accommodations and San Jose Convention Centre for hosting us.  Finally, a huge thank you to our coaches, Flo and Santi, for making this such a great experience for both the athletes and parents. They provided constructive, specific feedback for improvement all the while keeping the athletes’ spirits high. They organized additional activities from their athletes’ interest point making each day full of memories for the kids. Visiting Stanford University following our arrival, Santa Cruz and San Francisco were the highlight to each of the girls days. Not only did the coaches walk around checking in on their athletes, they also took time to visit with the parents as well, a sometimes difficult task during busy tournament weekends. A special thank you to Coach Santi for joining us even though this isn’t your primary team.