On the Court with Jason Tanaka
July 29, 2007
After a crazy week of practice, we were finally set for the High Performance tournament which started on Sunday. Jill and I were very excited about our USA Select Gold team.
We had a nice breakfast at the Embassy Suites before heading off to the convention center for our 1 p.m. match against the Iowa Region Youth team. Our Gold and Silver teams were going to compete in the Youth National division. The red team moved up two age groups to the International Junior division and the White and Blue squads played in the International Youth division. As a staff, our goal was to win a medal for every team.
I was real nervous and excited to play our first match under the international rules. This meant that we could only have a total of six substitutions for each game played and once a substitute came out of the game they were finished for that one game, but not for the match.
There were some interesting protocols in the international match involving the head coach. They are the only person that can stand up off the bench and they even have a designated seat on the bench which is the first chair closest to the scorers table.
The match started off slow but we were able to come away with the win, 25-15, 25-16, 25-17. The best part for me was being able to get all of our players in the match.
We played again later that night against the Youth Lake Shore region and picked up another victory 25-19, 25-17, 25-14 to finish the day 2-0.
On Monday, we played two more matches. Our first match of the day was against the Youth Gulf Coast, which we won 25-10, 25-12, 25-19. In game two, we faced the pool's number-one seed, the Aloha team.
They played great defense and had some tough serves. In game one, the Aloha team showed that they had a good team plan as they won the first game 25-20. Jill and I talked about adjustments we had to make in picking up the role shots and making sure we served tougher. The adjustments we made enabled us to win the next two games, 25-21, 25-15. I was afraid there might be a little let down after winning game three.
In game four we battled back and forth with our team eventually grabbing a 22-21 lead, when one of the Aloha players came down grabbing her knee. Because she was injured and they didn't have any other players to substitute, the referees told us that the game and match had to be forfeited. We asked about the exceptional substitution but because we were playing under the international rules that substitution could not be made. The Aloha team had a libero remaining and we agreed to just play out the match with the understanding that we had won the match. We scored the next three points to win the match. Jill and I didn't tell our players that we had already been declared the winners, because we wanted them to battle to the end and they did which made us very proud. After two days of competition, we were 4-0.
Tuesday we had our last pool match against the Carolina Blue Youth team. Jill and I decided that we wanted to rest some of the players that had been playing a lot and get the other players some more experience. While resting most of the team, we were still able to win the match 25-17, 25-16, 25-23, making us 5-0 in pool play and ensured our spot in the semi-finals.
To determine what our seed in the semi's would be we played against the Youth Florida Blue team. We played a great match and came away with the win, 25-11, 25-18, 25-17. The win gave us the first seed and matched us up against our select group's Silver team in the semi-finals, as they too won their crossover match against the Aloha team.
Wednesday's match-up with our silver team was a battle from the word go. Both teams had the advantage of having played each other over the final four days of our training. We got off to a slow start and found ourselves down 11-2 in game one. We fought back to tie the game at 25. We made a couple of errors allowing the Silver team to take game one, 27-25.
Again, we made some adjustments and we won game the next two games 25-9, 25-10. Game four went the way of the Silver team as they won 25-20. We knew we needed to make some adjustments for game five and Jill and I agreed that we would spin our rotations to make different match ups. We used the adjustments to win the game 15-9. The win put us in the finals against the Youth Ohio Valley Region team and the Silver team in the bronze medal match.
What was even more exciting was all five of our select teams were in medal matches.
Thursday's gold medal match was set for 10 a.m. I was a little concerned about having to play such an early match, but I had faith in the team. All of our player's parents in the stands were wearing cones on their heads with red, white, and blue streamers.
We fell behind early in the match and could never recover. We didn't look like the team from the night before and ended up losing our last match 18-25, 19-25, 22-25. It was disappointing for everyone, but we had to remind ourselves that we were playing up in an age group.
Despite not winning the gold medal, I was really proud of what our players did. I really enjoyed working with them as well as Jill Pearson. It was fun to get to know the athletes and I am excited to see what their future holds.
I would like to thank the whole USA Select staff for making my experience an awesome one. Kevin Hambly, Charlene Johnson-Tagaloa, Rod Wilde, Louella Lovely, Robyn Romansky, Addie Hauschild, Todd Dagenais, Matt Botsford, and Jill Pearson did a great job making the camp successful.
This was a great experience and I am looking forward to being able to continue working with the USA program.
We are just two short weeks away from opening up fall camp for the upcoming 2007 season at TCU. We are real excited and can't wait to get under way. Hope to see you at the gym this season.
Think Purple and GO FROGS!