By Walter Villa
There is such a thing as being too good a host, and that, in essence, is what has happened to Las Vegas girls volleyball teams at the annual power-packed Durango Fall Classic.
No Nevada team has won the tournament, which returns to Las Vegas for the 17th year this Friday and Saturday.
Last year, the best finish for a Vegas-area school was by Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.), which came in 23rd in the 48-team tournament.
The other area teams were Centennial (Las Vegas, Nev.), which finished 36th; Green Valley (Henderson, Nev.) at 37th; Silverado (Las Vegas, Nev.) at 43rd; Coronado (Henderson, Nev.) at 45th; Shadow Ridge (Las Vegas, Nev.) at 46th; Foothill (Henderson, Nev.) at 47th; and host Durango (Las Vegas, Nev.), which finished in last place.
The best ever finish by a Vegas team was in 2003, when Durango placed fifth under coach Bob Kelly, who now serves only as tournament director.
“Usually a good Vegas team will finish between 17th and 32nd,” Kelly said. “They rarely get into championship contention.”
That’s OK, according to Bishop Gorman coach Ed Van Meetren, who said where you finish this week is not the only thing that matters.
“All we are looking to do is get better coming out of it,” said Van Meetren, who returns four starters from a 31-9 team that made the 2010 state semifinals.
Van Meetren said he is concerned about his team because his star setter, Kylee Chun, is recovering from a concussion and is questionable for the tournament.
Van Meetren said Green Valley is probably the top team in Vegas at the moment. The Gators return four starters from a 29-9 team that lost in the Class 4A state final for the second year in a row.
“They are well coached,” he said. “I just don’t know if they have enough size to compete against the big teams coming here.”
Among those “big teams” are 11 that are nationally ranked.
Among the other Vegas teams entered, Centennial returns five starters from a 29-8 club and Coronado has two starters back from a 28-6 squad.
Four other Vegas teams are entered in this year’s tournament: Bonanza, which went 15-10 a year ago; Shadow Ridge (17-16 in 2010); Foothill (13-18 last year); Durango (9-23 in 2010).
Hawaii team set for Vegas
While the Vegas teams are playing, virtually, in their backyards, Kamehameha (Honolulu, Hawaii) is making a 4,000-mile trip to compete against the elite field.
“It’s a great bonding trip for us,” said Kamehameha senior Chelsey Keoho, a 5-foot-2 libero who has committed to Colorado.
“I remember the first time I came here as a sophomore. I was a bit intimidated because the girls we played against were so tall and jumped higher. I remember all these big, tall seniors trying to kill me with the ball.”
Leigh Andrew recovering
Leigh Andrew, a 6-0 left side hitter at Cardinal Gibbons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), has missed the start of the season due to mononucleosis. But the North Carolina recruit is expected to return to action later this week.
In mid-August, Andrew said she started feeling tired “for no reason.” A blood test finally confirmed she had mono, and doctors told her to refrain from playing sports for one month or she’d be risking a ruptured spleen.
Andrew has made peace with her upcoming time on the sidelines.
“The positive is that this could have happened two months from now, which would have kept me from the playoffs,” she said. “At least this way, my goal is still on – winning state.”