As I walked into the gym at Louisiana School for the Deaf on Wednesday afternoon a volleyball whizzed past a nearby table and bounced off the wall.
Nothing says welcome to the McKinley Jamboree or to high school volleyball for 2014 quite like that. About six hours later it was over and the remaining four teams hurried out the gym, leaving the lights on and score sheets scattered on the scorer’s table.
In between there were snippets of volleyball excellence and interactions that define the sport for the unique entity it is.
Four teams rotated around the two-courts in one-hour intervals. Like all jamboees, the action fell behind because there is so much to squeeze into a short period of time.
First there was the underdog’s story with a twist. Broadmoor’s seven-member team fought its way to three victories, winning by narrow margins in the final two sets. One of those sets ended with the Bucs beating host McKinley 21-20.
One factor that always makes McKinley-Broadmoor match-ups special is the coaches. Broadmoor’s Maria Gonzalez played at McKinley for Brenda Simon before going on to play at SoutheasternLouisianaUniversity. Afterwards, Simon said she got what she expected and talked about the progression of her team.
“They (Broadmoor) are always scrappy,” Simon said. “They don’t give up. Considering I graduated five seniors – my whole group of attackers – I’m pleased.
“We pass the ball better than we did last year. Where we made mistakes was in executing our offense. We had three hitting errors right there at the end. We’ll get better.”
As expected, St. Joseph’s Academy was nearly flawless. The Redstickers’ JV and varsity teams swept their sets impressively. The crowd that gathered to watch the varsity was at times in awe.
Simon called SJA dominant. St. Michael the Archangel coach Rob Smith said he believes there’s a chance the defending Division I state champion Redstickers won’t drop a set this season. Another coach inquired about who is recruiting each of the SJA seniors after watching powerful hit after powerful hit.
It was good to see The Dunham School’s Donna Pixley back on the bench. She spent one season concentrating on athletic director’s duties and smiled broadly after her team posted two wins.
“The other part (athletic director’s duties) is work, this is fun,” Pixley said.
Yes it was.
I got the chance to congratulate new Zachary High Principal Joe LeBlanc on his new job at the McKinley Jamboree. LeBlanc and I first met each other more than 30 years ago when he was teaching in the Houma-Thibodeaux area and I was worked for a newspaper in that area.
We talked about Zachary and it’s coaches. LeBlanc mentioned the impressive way new ZHS basketball coach Kenny Almond got his physical education classes dressed out and whipped into shape. No surprise there.
LeBlanc also talked about his connection to the football coaching triangle the Broncos are part of. New ZHS football coach David Brewerton was an offensive lineman LeBlanc coached during his stint as an assistant coach at Catholic High.
Former Zachary coach Neil Weiner, who has taken over at Dunham, was a teammate and classmate of LeBlanc’s son at Catholic.
And what about Livonia’s Guy Mistretta, who left Dunham and is now at Livonia, the school Brewerton took to the Class 3A title game a year ago?
“Before I went to Catholic I was offensive coordinator at Redemptorist for one year and Guy was my quarterback,” LeBlanc said.
Rebels lose quarterback
West Monroe has lost quarterback Randall Belton for the second straight year with a torn ACL. The injury was confirmed Wednesday.
Belton tore the ACL in the same knee during the 2013 season. The junior is expected to miss the entire season.