East Bay Girls Volleyball Notebook

Here is the second week of the East Bay Girls Volleyball Notebook. We’re talking Deer Valley Tournament and getting to know Amador Valley’s Grace Vickers. Enjoy.

What would North Coast Section girls volleyball be without the Deer Valley Invitational?
The tournament has always been a great early season display of teams to watch for in the East Bay, and the 14th annual Wolverine Varsity Invitational will be no exception.
On Saturday Sep. 12, we will have an idea of the team’s to watch out for as the level of play promises to be very high.
Nine out of the 15 teams ranked in the Bay Area News Group’s East Bay Girls Volleyball Coaches Poll are going to be present including: Bishop O’Dowd (No. 1), Amador Valley (No. 3), Deer Valley (No. 4), San Ramon Valley (No. 6), Foothill (No. 7) Castro Valley (No. 9), Carondelet (No. 10), Albany (No. 11) and Acalanes (No. 15).
“Over the past few years we’ve been able to attract some of the better teams around,” Deer Valley coach Lou Panzella said. “We are the first big tournament in the area, and thankfully some of the best teams in NCS want to participate.”
Other East Bay teams taking part will be Concord, Liberty, Northgate and St. Patrick-St. Vincent. There will also be a few out of area teams that are very good which include Maria Carrillo-Petaluma, Presentation-San Jose and Sacred Heart Cathedral-San Francisco.
Carrillo won the NCS DivisionII title and reached the NorCal semi-finals, Presentation reached the Central Coast Section’s Division II quarterfinals before running into eventual champ Archbishop Mitty and Sacred Heart was the CCS Division III champion.
“Each year the tournament seems to get more balanced with no clear cut favorite,” Panzella said. “Last year when seeding I really felt anyone of at least 10 different teams had a real shot at winning. Seeding has become increasingly difficult, as witnessed by last year’s final with Deer Valley and Granada. Both teams came out of the same pool.”
Granada, the defending champion, won’t be in the tournament this year. Panzella is regretful that the Matadors will not be as a communication error is responsible for keeping them out.
It still promises to be a very competitive tournament and even some good teams are going to struggle. Once the tournament gets into the quarterfinals and the semifinals, expect intense volleyball with a playoff atmosphere.
“This year there will be a very, very good team that will come in and go 1-4 or 0-5 on the day, but will still be a very high quality team,” Panzella said. “I don’t think we have any really weak teams. But the real reason our tournament has been good is because we have great local teams, with outstanding coaches who return year after year. They make the tournament work.”
The tournament will get underway at 8:30 a.m., with finals scheduled for around 7:00 p.m. There will be a $5 entry fee, with $2 of every fee being donated to the American Diabetes Association.


The rankings will stay the same this week. We’ll have an update next week when most teams have started playing.

1. Bishop O’Dowd
2. Miramonte
3. Amador Valley
4. Deer Valley
5. Campolindo
6. San Ramon Valley
7. Foothill
8. Granada
9. Castro Valley
10. Carondelet
11. Albany
12. Las Lomas
13. California
14. Monte Vista
15. Acalanes

Others receiving votes: Northgate, Piedmont, St. Mary’s, Mission San Jose, Berean Christian, Liberty, Logan.

Q&A with Grace Vickers

We are going to continue to get to know our East Bay volleyball players. Last week, we did a question and answer segment with Miramonte’s Juliana Stivanicevic, and this week we are pleased to get more acquainted with Grace Vickers, the standout middle of the Amador Valley volleyball team.

How did you get into volleyball?

Grace: Well, the first time I tried out for volleyball was in sixth grade. A lot of people told me that I should play because I was so tall. I have always been the tallest in my class. All the way back to elementary school I would always be in the very back row in the middle for class pictures. I tried out for the Harvest Park Middle School team. I’m guessing I was pretty terrible, but my height and background in sports really helped me out. But when I really started to focus solely on volleyball was freshman year. I cut out all my other sports. No more swimming, soccer, or softball, just my one love, volleyball.

What is the goal for Amador Valley this year and do you guys have a team that could make a run at an NCS title?

Grace: This year we are looking to build from what we did last year. Our season just started, so I’m not going to make any promises, but I will say one thing: we are solid. I feel like usually on high level teams there are always a couple girls who are just not as strong as the rest of the team, but let me tell you, that is not the case this year. We have so much depth, all the way to the JV team. We have twelve girls on the team and we can play legitimate six on six scrimmages at practice. We are all committed to working hard at practice and during training to play as long as we can this season. Coach (Rich Cortez) always says that “we want to be playing in December.”

What is your favorite part about being someone who gets to control the middle of the net?

Grace: I would have to say my favorite part of being middle is getting to hit quick sets. A lot of people that try middle absolutely despise it, but I love it. Sometimes it’s frustrating not getting to play the whole game, just because that is how rotations work, but this is how I look at it: whenever I’m in I need to do twice as much work because I’m only in half the time.

When do you know that you have a certain person’s number on the court?

Grace: Well there are a number of things that go into where I decide to hit it. I figure out at the beginning of the game if the opposite middle blocker is quick, smart with her hands on the block and if she even gets up to block every time. Then if I am successfully getting past the middle blocker I usually try to hit away from the libero. That’s kind of a cliché way to determine where to hit, but that girl is in a different color jersey for a reason; she’s the best passer on the team. But, to really answer your question, if there is a girl who is just having a bad night, I’m going to go after her, no question about it.

What are some of your favorite hobbies?

Grace: Volleyball takes up a fair amount of my time, however when I’m not on the court, I really love reading. One of my favorite authors at the moment is Dan Brown. I just finished reading “Digital Fortress” and the whole time I was reading it I couldn’t put it down. I also love music. I don’t really have time for an instrument, but I like discovering bands. Sometimes I just search around iTunes and look for bands and artists that intrigue me. I’m a huge fan of vocals and acoustic music.

What is your best sport other than volleyball?

Grace: Back in the day I used to be a pretty good soccer player. I played goalie. I guess I’ve just grown up blocking balls.

What do you like to rock on the iPod to get you pumped up for a match?

Grace: My best friend Jamie Douglas and I play club together. Before every match we rock out to Don’t Be So Hard by The Audition. We get really into it, fake drums and microphones and everything. It’s pretty hilarious actually. But during high school, when Jamie isn’t around I usually head for 3OH!3. They are definitely a great band to get pumped to.

For questions, comments, to report scores, update standings or add players to the watch list, please email Matt Smith at mhsmith78@gmail.com.

Matt Smith