Tournaments run too long

On Saturday Oct. 29, the Campolindo girls volleyball team swept through the Northgate Invitational undefeated without dropping a single game, taking out Liberty in the final. But what should have been an exciting match-up with the Lions, who are the two-time North Coast Section Division I champions, couldn’t live up to any type of expectation because both teams were just dead tired. I know this is the norm at tournaments, but there’s just something wrong with starting your day at 8 a.m. and ending it at nearly 10 p.m., all the while playing hard-nose, all-out volleyball in-between.

Why do tournaments run so long again? Here’s the obvious answer: Because no one can predict the speed at which games and matches will be played. But there’s something else that slows the pace down even more. Before every match, teams are inexplicably given time to run through their warm-up drills. Again and again. To which I say: WHAT FOR! Haven’t they been playing all day? Shouldn’t teams be warm already?

Early on in the day? Yes. After a long break? Maybe. After playing a three-game match? No.

I know volleyball enthusiasts might say it’s necessary, maybe even bring in a physical trainer-type to argue how going through the motions prevents injury. But it seems toward the end of these tournaments, teams and players warm-up just to say they did. A waste of time, if you ask me.


Throwing with a big lead

It puzzles me when a prep team with a 20-plus point lead late in the fourth quarter will throw the ball with their starting quarterback still playing. I haven’t seen this happen recently, but earlier in the season I saw it occur. I somewhat understand the reasoning if there are offensive backup players in the game, but there is definitely a sportsmanship angle to be considered. What do you think? Is it ever valid to throw the ball late in the fourth quarter with a 20-plus point lead and the starting quarterback still in the game



Like I said, it was my inner ear.

Ugh. The Football Gods were mighty unkind to the Dizzy in his not-so-triumphant return to the gridiron on Friday night. I went a miserable 1-4 on the night, nailing only my 3-point pick (San Leandro over San Ramon Valley).

Las Lomas failed to score an offensive touchdown in an ugly 16-7 loss to visiting Acalanes. There went my 5-pointer. Liberty jumped up and slapped the winning streak right out of Pittsburg for a 47-21 win in my 4-pointer. Encinal nipped El Cerrito 34-32 to spoil my 2-pointer, and Monte Vista hung in for a crucial 35-28 win over visiting Foothill in the 1.

My swing game is tomorrow, but I’m suddenly not feeling so confident.

Chace, meanwhile, went 5-for-6, hitting his 4, 3, 2, 1 and swing, to move into a healthy lead in the standings.

I guess I got a little rusty being off for two weeks…


FRIDAY FORECAST: Full speed ahead

And we’re baaaack! With the return of Dizzy, the Forecast is back in full swing this week. And not a moment too soon, as several games are on the schedule this Friday.
Not only do we have a great slate of games, but I actually have a real shot at picking up some points this week. So let’s get right to it.
(5) Pittsburg over Liberty: The Lions are often tough at home, but their offense is going to find the speed of the Pittsburg defense suffocating. Thanks for playing, collect your door prize.
(4) San Leandro over San Ramon Valley: It’s a scary thought (and nearly has me changing my pick) but I’m actually with Ben on this one — if this game was at SRV, the Wolves would have a good chance. But on the road against an offense (and a defense!) like San Leandro is going to be too much to handle.
(3) Encinal over El Cerrito: This is the game that could cost me. I know the Gauchos have been playing very well on offense lately, but I’m not sold on the defense. And I just have a feeling that the Jets are going to make a game of this one.
(2) Monte Vista over Foothill: The Mustangs looked a little lethargic in their win at Granada last week. MV coach Craig Bergman pointed to a bad week of practice. That’s not going to happen this week. Trust me. Foothill has owned MV (six wins in seven games), but the Mustangs are solid at home and have all the weapons to win this one.
(1) Acalanes over Las Lomas: Acalanes’ late collapse and double OT loss to Dublin last week was the worst thing that could have happened to the Knights. The Dons will come to Walnut Creek ticked off and fired up. Las Lomas will still walk away with the DFAL title, but they won’t clinch it this week.

Swing time: Deer Valley over Antioch —  The Wolverines have found new life, and the Panthers never really had one. But they’re trying. This game might be closer than people think, but DV still wins.


Girls tennis league championships

Next week, each of the region’s girls tennis leagues hold their respective singles and doubles championships. On the line are berths to the North Coast Section championships. League champions automatically qualify for the NCS tournament.

Monday and Tuesday, the Alameda Contra Costa Athletic League championships take place at Alameda High School. Last year, Alameda and Berkeley were the lone representatives in the singles and doubles finals. That could be the case again this year, but also watch for Pinole Valley’s Laura King, the Spartans No. 1 player.

Tuesday and Wednesday, the Bay Shore Athletic League championships are at the Harbor Bay Club in Alameda. Piedmont’s Mary Ann Kao, who is left handed, might be able to win the singles title playing right handed. However, there is some intrigue as to who she will meet in the championship match. Teammate Ann Crangle is a contender, but she may opt to play doubles. St. Patrick-St. Vincent sophomore Kristie Biascan may be the second best player in the league. She has only one league loss this season, and that was against Kao. St. Mary’s Christyn Richardson is also a viable candidate. She beat Crangle this week.

The four-day East Bay Athletic League championships start Wednesday at the Pleasanton Tennis Park. There’s no doubt Monte Vista has the best team, but that’s not relevent here. Returning singles champ Kerri Kummer of Foothill is only a sophomore. However, she was beaten earlier this season by Monte Vista’s Mia Giovanetti. Kummer did get revenge recently against Giovanetti. Returning doubles champs Megan Kummer and Lauren Guerdat play Nos. 2 and 3 singles, respectively, for Foothill. However, like last year, they could be teamed up for doubles. If so, Kummer and Guerdat will be hard to beat.

The Diablo Foothill Athletic League championships are Thursday, Friday and maybe Saturday at St. Mary’s College. Dublin’s Lorena Gonzalez, who is the two-time All-Times tennis player of the year, is the favorite to win the crown again. However, she should get some strong competition from Campolindo’s Ellie Faulkner and Miramonte’s Shawdee Rouhafza. Faulkner and Rouhafza have beaten each other this season, which would make for an interesting match if they face off in the tournament. If the championships are not decided on Friday, they will wrap up on Saturday.

Friday and Saturday, the Bay Valley Athletic League championships are at Freedom High School. Carondelet easily won the team title and sophomore Noelle Eades is the favorite to win the singles crown. As a freshman, Eades won it as the Cougars No. 3 player. The top two players, Laurel Montagne and Danielle Chess, teamed up to win the doubles championship. They graduated and Eades moved up to the No. 1 spot this year … with good reason.

Who do you think will emerge as league champions?



Curtis’ Forecast

You have to love this time of year. It’s getting a little colder at night, Hallowe’en and Thanksgiving are just around the corner and most prep football teams are thinking about what it’ll take to get into the North Coast Section playoffs. With that in mind, let’s get to the Forecasting.

(5) Pittsburg over Liberty: The Lions know that a win over Pitt would significantly increase their chances of getting into the NCS 4A bracket. No offense, but if Romont Taylor can put up well over 100 yards against De La Salle, he likely won’t have much trouble doing the same against Liberty.

(4) San Leandro over San Ramon Valley: The Pirates haven’t been tested lately, having outscored their last three opponents 2,604-0 (or something like that). And despite it not being a league game, San Leandro still has plenty to play for. If they win and close out the season unbeaten, the Pirates can make a case for being the one of the top three seeds in the NCS 4A playoffs. If they lose, they may be seeded behind other EBAL teams such as Cal, Monte Vista and Amador Valley. San Ramon Valley also has its backs to the wall, but its defense will have to come together quickly to have a chance.

(3) Las Lomas over Acalanes: Watch for this one to be a defensive battle. To have a chance, Acalanes must force Las Lomas into second-and-long and third-and-long situations. Getting some pressure on QB Jordan Kerl wouldn’t hurt, either. But at the end of the day, Acalanes will have trouble moving the ball against a very good Las Lomas front seven. Just like the Miramonte game, the Knights will only need about 20 points to pull this one out.

(2) El Cerrito over Encinal: This may be a must-win for the Gauchos if they want to finish above .500, considering Pinole Valley and Berkeley are their final two opponents. Encinal has won three straight, but the combined records of those three teams is 6-15.

(1) Monte Vista over Foothill: I know the Mustangs typically struggle against the Falcons, but the boys from Danville will just find a way in this one. Foothill has played much better in recent weeks since the loss to Cal, but it is still not talented enough to compete with MV.

Swing time: College Park over Dublin. They’d let the grass grow for about a month if this game was at Dublin. But since it’s on the Astroturf at DVC, the Falcons will roll and keep their slim playoff chances alive.




One big tourney

It’s finally time for Northgate to defend its own turf. The Northgate/Acalanes/Las Lomas/Ygnacio Valley girls volleyball tournament kicks off Saturday at 8:30 a.m., and the competition is so fierce, things could get ugly. I hear they’re bringing in extra security, "just in case."

OK, girls vball is a pretty tame sport. A yell/growl into the net after a block or kill is about as confrontational as it gets.

But the field of 31 teams is stacked and includes last year’s North Coast Section champions in all five divisions (Liberty, Carondelet, Campolindo, Justin Siena-Napa), one state-champ (Division V Marin Academy-San Rafael) and 19 teams that made it to the NCS playoffs.

If the Broncos want to make it 3-for-3 with another tournament win (the trophies for the Wolverine Invitational and Castro Valley Invitational are sitting pretty somewhere in Bronco country), they’ll have their work cut out for them.

Here is the rest of the field: Acalanes, Albany, Alhambra, Amador Valley, Antioch, Berean Christian, California, Castro Valley, Chico, Clayton Valley, College Park, College Prep, Concord, Deer Valley, El Molino-Forrestville, Enterprise, James Logan, Kelsyville, Las Lomas, Maria Carrillo-Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Redwood-Larkspur, San Ramon Valley, St. Francis-Mountain View, Ygnacio Valley.

Even with the steep competition, Northgate coach Jim Changaris said Campolindo is the favorite coming in. But many will be playing their hearts out since playoff positioning is at stake. Wins or losses to certain teams can mean the difference between a No. 1 or No. 2 seed — or getting in at all, in some cases — at the NCS playoff seeding meetings next month.

Who do you think will survive this volleyball extravaganza?


New, non-dizzy Forecast

As Chace mentioned last week in this space, I’ve been on the DL with vertigo, which, I’m convinced, is the dumbest, most frustrating reason ever to have to miss out on football games. But the sad fact is I couldn’t walk from my bedroom to the living room without the world going all wonky on me, so there wasn’t much hope of me walking the sidelines.
But I’m back in action this week, and so is the forecast. One positive byproduct of the vertigo, in my opinion, is that if my picks are completely wrong, I can always blame my inner-ear. Right?
Anyway, on to this week’s games.

(5) Las Lomas over Acalanes: Las Lomas has four appearances in NCS title games, two NCS crowns and an overall record of 56-24-1 in coach Doug Longero’s 6-plus seasons at the helm.
But in all that time, the Knights have never won a league title. They came close in 2000, but lost one DFAL game to Miramonte, which finished league 9-0 for the title.
Oddly, the Knights also came very close in 1998, when Longero was an assistant to Ron Thompson, who is now the head coach at Acalanes. But the Ken-Dorsey-led Matadors trumped them that year as well.
Since leaving Las Lomas and taking the reins at Acalanes, Thompson has solved the Miramonte mystery, but has never beaten the Knights, a string that likely will continue this year.
The Knights can smell their first league crown, and can clinch a share of it with a win. Plus, they have a strong shot at the No. 1 seed in the North Coast Section 3A East Bay bracket if they win out. With that much at stake, I just don’t see them letting down.
(4) Pittsburg over Liberty: The Pirates’ only two losses this season have come against San Leandro in the season opener and De La Salle last week. In between, they rattled off five straight wins and put themselves in position to win their fourth straight outright BVAL title. A win over the Lions, who are in a little bit of disarray, would clinch it. Look for running back Romont Taylor to have a big night against a Liberty defense that has had trouble stopping the run.
(3) San Leandro over San Ramon Valley: Wolves coach Dave Kravitz knew entering the year that his team was going to go through some growing pains and take its lumps. Look out for some lumps this week. The Pirates and Monte Vista are the only two remaining unbeaten teams in the East Bay at 7-0, and San Leandro seems to have returned to its glory days of recent past. The Pirates are outscoring their opponents by an average of 45-5 (319-33) this year. And after a 3-0 start, the Wolves (4-3) have dropped three of their past four games. They’ve been in every game, losing those three games by a combined total of 10 points, but the stomach-punch aspects of last week’s 35-34 home loss to Amador Valley could carry over to this week. Playing in San Leandro against a team gearing up for a 10-0 regular season could just be too much for the Wolves.
(2) El Cerrito over Encinal: When the high-flying passing combination of Gauchos quarterback Don-Miguel Tutass and wideout Kaya Fitzgerald is clicking (like it is right now), it’s a tough thing to stop. Couple that with the hard running of JoElbert Dennis and Darnell Quinney, and you’ve got yourself a pretty potent offense. I don’t think the Jets, even if they are on a roll, are going to be able to stop El Cerrito in all of those phases.
(1) Foothill over Monte Vista: I know, I know, it seems like a crazy thing to pick the Falcons over the Mustangs. But Foothill coach Matt Sweeney is the only EBAL coach who has consistently been able to slow down the vaunted Monte Vista running attack in recent years. Plus, I predicted an EBAL title for California before the season started. A Foothill win would create a big knot at the top of the standings, and would open the door for my preseason pick to claim at least a share of the crown. Is it wrong that I’m allowing my predictions to be based on a mild rooting interest spawned by pride (and based on a shot-in-the-dark preseason pick)? Maybe. But they’re my picks. So nyah! If you think you can do better, go for it.
Swing away: Salesian over St. Elizabeth. The Chieftains (6-1, 3-0 BFL) can take a commanding lead in the Bay Football League standings with the win. And with junior running back Jahvid Best — who rushed for 149 yards and four touchdowns on 10 carries in last week’s shellacking of Berean Christian — back at full strength, the Mustangs aren’t going to be able to stop them.


FRIDAY FORECAST: Dizzying circumstances

For those wondering what happened to the Forecast last week, we have a perfectly good reason. Actually, for Bill, it’s not so good a reason.

Our esteemed football writer has been on the disabled list for the past few weeks after coming down with a case of vertigo. One wrong step and his head spins faster than Brad Lidge watching Albert Pujols’ 600-foot home run in Game 5 of the NLCS.

As much as I wanted to rack up a big lead in the point standings, it only seemed right that we put the Forecast on hiatus until Bill can return from the DL. It looks as though that is not going to happen before this Friday, however. So, in lieu of our competitive version of the Forecast, I thought I’d update the standings and ramble a little bit.

First of all the standings: Despite missing on just five total picks this season, I still trail by a point. To which I say, !@#$%@! If I didn’t know any better, I might say Bill’s illness was conveniently timed. And yet, I know better.

Here’s where we stand.

Bill 14-6 (+2 swing games) = 50 points

Chace 16-4 (+1) = 49

Ben 11-9 (+1) = 40

Curtis 11-4 (+1) = 37 (through three weeks)

So as we charge into Week 7, here’s a few random thoughts.

–There could be high potential for an upset at Acalanes this Friday. If the Dons start focusing too much on next week’s game at Las Lomas, a hungry Dublin just might swoop in and surprise them.

— Note to the defenses of Concord and Mt. Diablo, the next two opponents to face Alhambra: Get used to the name "Rutley", you will be reading it off the back of the No. 2 jersey quite often.

— And wouldn’t this be the perfect year for Pittsburg to finally upset De La Salle? The year nobody gave the Pirates a chance (including me).

Finally, just because we aren’t picking doesn’t mean you don’t have to. Feel like making a prediction, let’s hear it.


EBAL Showdown

Granada at Amador Valley, 6 p.m., Oct. 20

When the Amador Valley girls volley team lost its EBAL season opener to Granada on Sept. 29, the win came as a surprise because the defending league champs were playing inspired volleyball with a clutch win over perennial power Carondelet a week earlier.

The Matadors, who finished 5-7 last season in the EBAL, have backed up that win with wins over everyone except Foothill to sit atop the league standings with Amador Valley.

The Dons haven’t dropped a league-match since the Granada loss and are looking to take sole possession of first place. Will the upstart Matadors continue their winning ways and double up Amador Valley?