Girls Volleyball is here!

For the past 11 years, Deer Valley High School girls volleyball coach Lou Panzella has put together the Wolverine Invitiatonal, which many just call the Deer Valley tournament.

Panzella, the volleyball guru that he is, tries to use pinpoint accuracy when seeding this tournament. Usually he goes by last year’s finish and overall record. Most of the time he’s right on the money.

But this year things will be a lot tougher.

“Honestly, there’s like 10 to 12 teams that could win this tournament,” Panzella said.

And there is the problem he faces. How do you rank these teams? Is it by record, reputation, potential?

I’m happy all I have to do as a journalist, and you as a fan, is show up and watch.

Here are few candidates anyway:

Foothill won the Deer Valley tournament last season and reached the Division I state championship match. Sounds like a clear-cut choice for the top seed, right? Well, yea, sort of.

But consider this: Despite being coached by Dusty Collins (one of the best in the biz), the Falcons still lost stud setter Christy Payne and middle blocker Felicia Willoughby. Both are playing collegiately at St. Mary’s and Virginia Tech, respectively. So outside of perhaps Betsy Sedlak, the Falcons reamain unproven.

Another team to watch is Campolindo, which did not attend this tournament last season because they were out participtaing in a national tourney in Las Vegas. Of course, the Cougars have gone down in history as the first East Bay team to ever win a state championship. Campolindo won the Division III state championship in 2006 but also lost the majority of its starters, with middle blocker Paula Inzerillo as the lone returner with any real playing time. So the big question is where do the Cougars go from here, having reached the zenith of their sport the season before? With a fairly young squad, we’ll see if the Cougars live up to their reputation of “they don’t rebuild, they reload.”

Other big names attending this weekend are Sacred Heart Cathedral-San Francisco and Maria Carrillo-Santa Rosa, two schools that are perennially in postseason contention, and could find their way to the final.

Add local powers in Carondelet and San Ramon Valley into the mix and Panzella has his work cut out for him.

That’s not even mentioning Deer Valley. The Wolverines won the Bay Valley Athletic League and reached the NCS Division I championship match. They also took a hit, losing outside hitter Kendra Rowland and defensive gem Laura Riley.

The caliber of teams entered points to how popular a preseason destination the tournament has become. And with talents Sophia Dunworth (Amador Valley) and Jana Poole (Albany) expected to be in attendance, it should be a good day for volleyball.

“Last year we had a great tournament in terms of balance,” Panzella said. “That’s what you want, you want a lot of balance, a lot of good teams playing and that’s what we got.”

Without a clear-cut favorite, this tournament is up for grabs.

— Ricardo Sanchez Jr.


n When: Saturday, Sept. 8
n Where: Deer Valley High School, North and South gyms.
n Time: 8:30 a.m., first match; Championship, 6:30 p.m. approx.
n Tickets: Adults $3; snack bar available
n Teams participating: Albany, Amador Valley, Antioch, Campolindo, Carondelet, Castro Valley, Concord, Deer Valley, Foothill, Granada, Liberty, Maria Carillo-Santa Rosa, Northgate, Sacred Heart Cathedral-San Francisco, San Ramon Valley, St. Patrick-St. Vincent.