Warning - this post has nothing to do with SBS, computers, or Microsoft. :-)

Those who work/live around me know that between the end of September and Thanksgiving I'm almost always on the move. Between work and the fall volleyball season I'm pretty much on the move from 8am - 8pm or later. So the playoff and tournament season at the end is always a bit of a relief. For one thing, you are usually guaranteed a good match, and it's nice to feel like the season is over and my free time is my own again (and my gf Prashanthi is very happy about this too).

I did want to say a bit about my trip to the WIAA State Volleyball Tournament in Yakima, WA this past week (Nov 12-13). This was my first trip to state (I have qualified in years past but have always had a commitment - last year was the launch of SBS 2003 (OK - 1 SBS reference) and the year prior I attended a friend's wedding in Hawaii. That was a tough choice - Yakima or Hawaii???)

So this year I was finally able to attend the 1A/2A tournament. First off, let me say that the tournament organizers and hosts in Yakima did a fantastic job. I had a free room at the Ramada with free wireless Internet (awesome), and they provided food all 3 nights I was there - the whole tournament ran like a swiss watch, and everyone was super friendly - I'd love to go again.

That said, for those of you who have never been to Yakima, there's not a whole lot going on in November. They do grow 80% of the world's hops (great for beer) and many wineries have their vineyards there (including Chateau Ste. Michelle), but in the winter it's cold and hazy as the air is inverted from the valley (ala LA). Fortunately I was spending most of my time in the Sundome.

Thursday night was the officials/coaches prep meeting. After going over the format/run of the event, we took a quick look through the courts to check out the layout and see our schedule for the first day.

Friday morning I scraped the ice off my car and arrived for my 9AM first round match. I was up - paired with Alan Hirayama, a National official from Spokane, and we had a great match. I had a little difficulty as it was a typical first round match, with one great and one mediocre setter, but we got through our match fairly quickly and I took my first break.

After that, I had two matches in a row, down and up. I was a little concerned about my down ref'ing - during the regular season I had mostly up ref'd, but I had gotten practice in during District playoffs and felt I did pretty well, with a couple of exceptions. It was a tight match, going 5 games. In the middle of game 3, I think, after a hit that went out, a player on the blocking team reached up and said she touched the ball after we all called it out. I'll give her kudos for honesty, but it put my partner and I in a bind - do we take the honesty call, and then have to deal with a potential conflict later, or stick with our call, and I get an irate coach on the "losing" side? After a brief consultation, we stuck with our call, and I tried to explain to the coach how in the long run this was a good thing.... right....

We get to Game 4, with the score 23-18, and at a fast play at the net right in front of me, I must have blinked, because I see the play, see the ball hit the floor, and all of a sudden everyone is yelling at me saying the attacker was in the net (and I mean everyone). I must have looked like a deer in headlights, because I had no idea what to do, and stared at my partner praying he would bail me out. Unfortunately, he didn't see it either, so we stuck with the call as is and I've got a lot people booing at me now (including the coach of the "losing" honesty call earlier, who is now down 2 games to 1 and is trying to force game 5). Move on, and fortunately it doesn't affect the outcome as the other team forces game 5, and then wins the match. Whew.

Our court is now behind thanks to our 5 game series, and I go up for the next immediate match. This ones also proceeds to go 5 games (I must be cursed). At this point we're 1.5 hours behind, and while I should have a break, we need to move right on to our reguarly scheduled match, where I'm down again.

This match was weird as a down ref. I'm looking at the receiving rotation (and their serve receive positioning is just weird). I see a clear out of rotation where a back row player is too far forward, and whistle it. My mechanics here are to immediately explain to the coach the positioning fault so they can correct it - my conversation goes something like this:

Me: Coach, #7 is back row and needs to be behind #1, who is front row.
Coach (looking at court): No -her opposite is #6.
Me (who had already checked this twice): Coach - that makes no sense. #6 is the libero, she can't be front row.
Coach (still arguing): No, it's 7 behind 6.
Me (getting frustrated): Coach, that can't be right, but it doesn't matter, she was in front of both of them.

OK, so putting that aside, a few points later same coach asks for a sub and sends up a player. I whistle, signal, and adminster the sub, and then a 2nd player comes up to sub.

Me: Coach, sorry, it's too late. She needs to come up at the same time.
Coach: But she had to wait for the libero to swap out!
Me: Coach, the subs have to be at the same time. Sorry.

So the players are trying to get right again and the coach grabs the player who should be back on the court and starts talking with her. I wait about 5-10 seconds and when it's clear it's not going to be quick, whistle for a team delay and adminster a time out. I couldn't understand what this coach was doing - I haven't had a single coach make this many mistakes in a single game all season, and we were at the state tournament!?

So we move on to game 3, and the same out of rotation occurs. Again I whistle it, and I must have been the only ref all season to catch this, because it was still difficult for the coach to get it (her players understood right away, as players are apt to do).

Fortunately we get through the rest of the match without too much hassle (weird coach's team wins), and I'm able to run up to grab dinner before heading home to collapse. I won't know Saturday assignments until Sat morning as our evaluations are compiled overnight.

Coming next, finale on Saturday.

Some links on tournament (sorry, no photos of us officials):
http://www.tourneytown.com/vball/volleymain.shtml