Volleyjunkies share many traits with what is charitably known in
our PC age as "speculative fiction enthusiasts." The latter used to
be called "sci fi buffs" and/or "trekkies" before they organized into
large enough, and hence dangerous/profitable enough, groups for
society to coin a euphemism. Both sets organize a good fraction of
their social activities around their obsession. Both write volumes on
what they see. Both are cognizant of technical minutiae that amaze
insiders. And both groups engender a sort of befuddled acceptance
from those insiders, who are simultaneously grateful for the loyal
support and slightly scared by the depth of that commitment.
The first weekend in February brought several good matches to the Los
Angeles area. Enough so to cause many of the aforementioned junkies
to converge and confer for the occasions.
Beach d. $atanfjord
15-11, 15-13, 15-7
$U: Griffith, Youngberg, Palacios, Gardner, Zhang, Witt
Beach: Seiffert, Polster, Faber, Mason, Jackson, Prosser
G1: The Cardinal run a surprising offense in which Gardner is at
opposite and in which Witt and Palacios are the outsides. Prior to
the season, most fans had assumed that Palacios, Skacel, or some other
passing wizard would anchor the opposite position and allow the two
future Team USA thugs to fire at will. A big question mark was what
Ruben Nieves would do in the middle with the departure of Whitehurst
Zhang and Youngberg played reasonably well as newcomers to the
lineup. $atanfjord continues to run a very amusing offense in which
the quicks are expected to attack on both sides of the setter,
especially in transition. In addition, the pie gives rotations when
both Witt and Gardner are in the front or back rows. This allows for
some clever combos which even few men's teams attempt.
Beach bled points in R2, Cardinal in R3. Up 9-7, Zhang made an
aggressive move on a ball blocked towards the sidelines. He slid and
crashed into a glass/plastic sideline banner adverti***t, shattering
it, and cutting himself severely. He was taken off the court, play
was suspended for several minutes, and Jeremy Bart came into take his
place. Beach put the lefstide block closer to the antenna, and
started scoring against the disrupted lineup.
G2: Bart stayed in for Zhang. Some erratic play by Polster gave the
visitors large leads. Shortly thereafter, $U returned the favor with
unforced errors and having their big backrow attackers dug. Prosser
and Seiffert were effective on serve, Seiffert especially with a
By contrast, the Beach middle attack was not quite as sparkling as it
usually is, especially with Prosser. Word had it that both he and
Seiffert were under the weather. It also looked like Seiffert was
getting the ball a little late to the Big Wookiee, causing him to
shorten his swing. Neil Mason played well at opposite, hitting a hard
flat ball intelligently against the block.
G3: The Cardinal R2 and R3 collapsed. The attack, which had favored
middle and rightside backrow, went more to the left after loading the
right with combos. The block did not bite on this and was effective
in slowing it down enough to score ten points out of fif*** in those
Beach d. UOP
15-9, 16-17, 15-8, 15-7
Arriving slightly late to the party, I did not take shot charts.
For some odd reason, I need to complete a prematch ritual of watching
warmups, preparing forms, and writing preliminary information. Weird.
UOP has a good bit of talent on its roster. Senior setter Dan Fisher
is a rangy 6'6" and has good hands. He started at Hawaii, transferred
to CSUN, and went to UOP during those dark few months when the Matador
men's volleyball program was nixed. Dillmore and Jenson were
unstoppable and unheralded Dylan Herrick came in off the bench to play
exceedingly well in relief of Dan Hoefer. Vladimir (Vlade') Andric
was off his game and looked tired/sick.
Beach did not look particularly good in the win. The match was moved
from 7:30pm to 2:30pm to accomodate basketball and both sides looked
like the few hours of rest may have made a difference.
Prosser put up good numbers although the timing with the setter once
again did not resemble previous outings. It seemed to me that
Seiffert was dropping his hands a little on the jumpset, setting from
lower down than he normally does. This fraction of a second kept The
Wookiee's shots in the high subsonic regime.
UOP dominated at the net, outblocking Beach 16 to 8. Beach gave up
several points in a rown in G2 as hitters tried to make manly shots
hit the floor untouched by human blocks. The result was balls falling
just out of bounds. The Tigers would then return the favor, giving
the slightly more experienced home team the clinching run of points.
Beach middle blocker Matt Taras came off the bench to play well. He
is a quick defender although not an overpowering attacker yet. Kind
of an inverse of UCLA's Dan Farmer.
You Want a War? I'll Give You a War...
This match ended around 5pm and I was getting ready to go to USC for
the evening festivities when I stopped off at a Long Beach burrito
joint for a light meal. Who should I meet there but The Darklord,
Marv Vader, and an up-and-coming young MPSF assistant(tm), the latter
not from Pepperdine. We exchanged pleasantries over food and drink
when The Darklord inquired if I was going to watch the BYU/LMU match.
I informed him that Aaron Batula would be taking care of that while I
watched $U/USC and attended the return of Gabe Gardner to his old
I was then informed that the $U/USC match had also been moved back in
time and was completed. Some mention was made of an $U sweep in which
the Trojans never got above five points.
Now, I had heard nothing about a change in time. I was surprised that
I had not been notified by Ruben Nieves at the previous night's match
nor received any intimation of this from Pat Powers, both of whom I
think would have said something. I inquired further. "What do you mean that
it was the same situation as Beach/UOP?" (for they said it was) "USC
plays in the North Gym, there should be no conflict with basketball."
At this point, the up-and-coming young MPSF assistant(tm) who I will
not name (but whose initials are Jason Bilbruck) chimed (or was it
chirped) something about it not being a venue issue but a lack of game
management staff to go around. I smelled a rat and inquired if I was
being gaslighted. At which point, The Darklord laughingly confessed
What perfidy. Trying to throw me off the track is one thing, but,
conscripting an up-and-coming young MPSF assistant(tm) whose name will
not be mentioned (but whose initials are Jason Bilbruck) into the
enveloping tentacles of the Dark Side of the Force is truly not
We met later at the Crow's Nest in the North Gym where I formally
declared my intent to wreak revenge. And, to the up-and-coming young
MPSF assistant(tm) whose name will not be mentioned (but whose
initials are Jason Bilbruck,) I offer a true lesson from history:
Although those at the top usually answer for their crimes, it is their
underlings who suffer worst the spray of industrial strength whup-ass.
USC d. $atanfjord
15-11, 12-15, 15-13, 15-11
The pies: $atanfjord: Same as vs. Beach but Bart plays in place of
USC: Suxho, Julian, Rawi the Younger, Billings, Fairfield, Rawi
Aaron Batula and I decided to split up and offer Team Coverage of the
Saturday night action. He took BYU/LMU to see Millar and Antonetti
and has offered his usual spot-on analysis. It was another convention
in the mezzanine as Vader, Stork, Wilde, Preston, and
tuacyMawnwnbm(bwiaJason Bilbruck,) got down with their bad selves. I note
parenthetically that while Bruin coaches show up at these things, no
one ever sits with them.
This was one of the burstiest matches I have seen in men's vb. It is
not common for both teams to score lots of points in a row and usually
not in the same rotations. There is usually some sort of matchup game
going on between the assistants that prevents this sort of thing.
But, it did happen.
G1: Palacios and Gardner served effectively and allowed transition
scoring opportunities midgame. Billings and Fairfield were similarly
good. USC had a 256 alignment (rightside guy one-off from the
antenna, middle and leftside bunched) and it worked. The backrow dug
some serious Gardner heat out of the backrow. Andy Witt, who is
becoming a dead ringer for Lt. Commander Worf, was again off his game.
Interestingly enough, the Card R6, which has both Gardner and Witt
backrow sided out pretty well. In that alignment, they have 6'5"
Griffith on the dump, Youngberg on the 1/b1, Palacios coming behind
him on the X or swinging outside, Gardner on the A, Witt on the D, and
occasionally one of those guys coming in for a Pipe as opposed to an
outside set. That's a lot for any block to contend with.
G2: Cardinal again score well with Gardner at the line, Julian
counters vs. R2. $atanfjord runs up 8-3 and USC comes back, causing
Klein to come in for Witt at 9-7. Suxho is everywhere, making good
plays and not letting a lot hit the floor. I think USC has the most
firepower at outside hitter of the teams I have yet seen. Youngsters do
get erratic though, 14-9 $U -> 14-12, Billings hits out for game.
G3: Knopp comes in for Rawi the Younger as Jeremy Bart had plenty of
Candygrams awaiting the emerging Trojan Mongo. Three thermonuclear aces
by Gardner, 5-1. Rawi the Elder has good luck against the
aforementioned R6. Block spreads out a little bit more, D error, A
blocked, ace, b1 error, 5-5.
Later, against R5, block spreads out further, USC goes from 7-9 to
7-13. And gives up 9-13 to 11-13 on three hitting errors is a row.
Gardner clamps Billings, Knopp errs twice quick. Cardinal Death
Ro (R4) gives up game on a floater ace.
G4: With visitors up 4-3, Suxho makes two great plays in a row:
Takes a dug ball on no approach, skied, and as the young people
say, freakin' buried it for 4-4. Then, foot-dug a Gardner blast down
the line, sent it back over the net, allowing the frontrow to block
Palacios in transition. It stayed close until 9-9 when it looked like
Ruben's boys simply and unfortunately ran out of gas.
Long Beach is winning matches without having solidified its lineup.
Lots of guys are coming off of various illnesses and consistency has
been a problem. If The Big Wookiee (Prosser) can develop a backrow
shot, he could become a major force.
USC has the most physically exothermic set of hitters to come down the
road in a while. They are also temperamentally that way. If they
can avoid getting trapped by the mind games of other teams, they'll
continue to be pretty damn good.
$atanfjord is the U.S.S. Defiant of the Mountain-Pacific Star Fleet.
(http://SportToday.org/~jfazar/misc/overguned.wav) and showed itself
prone to the pitfalls thereof
With Witt's targeting scanners out-of-kilter, it falls upon Gardner to
pick up the slack. Regrettably, he's operating with a shunt on his
port nacelle power-coupling which is affecting his ability to engage
higher warp on command. In short,
The Card pass pretty well for a team with that much size. They will
need to do so because with new middles, they will have to rely on
spreading the opposing block. They still enjoy a great deal of
m***support on the road. Lots of the red in North Gym belonged to
parents and friends.
For the spectator, it was a relaxing and fun weekend with lots of good
shoptalk exchanged before, during, and after matches. Is it obsessive
to be so particular? Maybe. It is eerie when people have one major
hobby that consumes so much of their lives. But, that's not me. I
don't have a problem. I can quit anytime I want to.
Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, UCLA