Several people today asked me if I was going to do a write up of Day 1 of the 2015 SLC Tournament. I hadn't intended to, but before I call it a night (it's technically already Saturday) I decided I'd pen some thoughts that have kept coming back to my mind. I'll try to be brief. This is rapid fire. No grammar rules here, so be on guard!
Match 1: Islanders/Lions
So, I don't pick Giplin on my SLC lists, primarily b/c she was 17th among all starting MB's in the SLC in blocks and blocks per set & what happens? She gets 10 blocks. That was ridiculous. And how about Morgan Carlson? (See Video link in other post). Are you kidding me? Hitting.500 and now you have her and Baresh to worry about? Plus, Gilpin is usually more offense than defense. If Corpus spreads the net on offense like that the rest of the tourney, then I don't see anyone beating them. Go look at the stats on the year. Baresh literally averages 10 k/10 dig per match and what does she get? 10/10 exactly.
Hey voters... Landry Bullock? Reward good players on low seeded teams? Have we heard this call here, oh, I don't know.. 1000 times. Bullock was lights out (18 kills) and she made my point of my All-SLC Tourney picks perfectly. Glad she's only a JR so we get to see that again. Just realized Monica Ramon had 20 digs in three sets. Nice.
Match 2: Cowgirls/Privateers
Holy moly Amber Fryer? What in the world was that? 14-1-23 (.565). I did NOT see that one coming at all. And, my pick for Newcomer of the Year, Bridget Justis got the most digs of anyone on Day 1 with 29. Seriously, how can you not like this McNeese team. They are so loose, so funny and clearly they are downright scary. That said, this match truly could have gone either way when you look back on the first three sets. If UNO gets one of those first two, then this would have gone 5 and then.. who knows. Good showing by the Privateers. They did not roll over - they represented themselves well and were in positions to win each of the first three sets. Dunn had a double double and we'll get to enjoy her and the other young UNO players for several years. They look like a tournament team again in the near future.
Match 3: 'Jacks/Huskies
Set 3 was a killer. What if we had pulled that set out? We had such problems in first sets this year that after we stormed back in Set 2, I wasn't worried a bit. In fact, until the very last points of Set 3, it seemed like matches I've seen all year long that we won in 4 or 5. That said, it was odd to see Walker and Allen so low in the stat counts. Justice finished with 6 blocks, but many of her 7 kills were in latter sets. To get 23 kills between Hanna and Coleman was nice, but our offensive formula was out of whack. It's unfortunate that Jacque was never really in sync, but I was glad to see OJ and Tori have good final matches of their career. It's always a hollow feeling after a tournament loss. Preparing to broadcast UCA/SHSU I kept looking over at our players just sitting in the stands stone-faced. I hate that. I know they hate losing more than me, but still.. I hate losing. Just empty feeling inside and you feel like you should "do something", but there is nothing to do. It's done and we lost. Stinks. I anticipate winning so much that it's an emotional letdown when we don't.. you know what I mean..it's the fan in me/you.
Honestly, I was concerned about us playing at a high-level three straight times, but I would have given you three-to-one odds we were going to win. I didn't expect us to lose in the first round at all. And as goofy as this might sound now (hindsight is 20/20), I told LA Lanford late Friday night that the low seed I expected to have the greatest chance of an upset was actually Southeastern La. Still, we had a good season. 20 more wins. We'll have Abby, HannaMac and (Fathead) Coleman on the outside next year. Plus, Walker might be the VERY early odds on favorite for Player of the Year, who knows? As always, I was proud to be part of another winning season. We'll be up near the top again with a few tweaks, changes and additions. Not too worried about our future -we'll cause trouble and be in the mix.
Meanwhile, Blair Gillard for President. I said it when I interviewed Armer and Wooten earlier in the year, I said it when I was breaking down the All-SLC picks, I said it to everyone that would listen to my incessant volleyball exuberance today, Blair Gillard is for realz. I'm going to be shocked out of my goard if she's not an All-SLC player the next two years. You could bottle that energy and sell it on Wall Street and I'd invest some of my retirement money in it. Just so fun. And, while we're at it.. another quiet day at the office for Jessica Wooten: 12 kills, 19 digs and five blocks in four sets. No big deal. Not flashy... just GOOD.
Match 4: Bearkats/Sugar Bears
Woah. Talk about hushing the home crowd. I'll be honest: All week I have been studying for the broadcasts and I have done my very best to put personal thoughts aside as I prepared and delivered content. These teams deserve the best coverage I can provide and I know I am still learning. Now, as a fan, I was hoping UCA would lose... just selfishly since we were on their side of the bracket. But, man, after that match, it was painful for me to watch Schnars and South get emotional. I didn't realize I would feel the way I did after that match. I was really hit by how honest their emotions were. I don't want to say I felt "sorry" for them. I mean, they don't need my pity.. they are great athletes. But, just to see the disappointment and such honest emotions was difficult for me to take in.. I had made up my mind I was going to try once again to talk with Schnars during this tournament after not being able to last year. But, after that..I had/have no place. I'll just write again how much I admire her play and how much this conference will miss her level of talent.
Sam Houston - The word I kept coming back to: RESULTS. They just got it done. Michelle Griffith didn't get any post-season honors. Ok. Again, she's a polarizing player for people to analyze. I've always liked her as a setter. Some folks I talk to want to talk about her negatives before her positives and I get it. But hey, RESULTS. 2nd to Nicholson in assists per set overall and in conference play and tonight she spread it around beautifully... 14 kills for Vaughn, 13 for White and 12 for Cunningham. I also thought Kilpatrick played well.. better than at other times I've watched her. To me, UCA's defense actually looked confused. Plus, there were tons of shots SHSU took where I thought: That scored???? UCA's front line was kept guessing and a lot of balls that I thought were going to be dug were not.
I have no idea what to think about HBU vs. SHSU tomorrow. None. Can either one of these teams really put together three matches in a row? I guess we'll find out.