September 29, 2008
Volleyball for Dummies, Vol. 3: Lingo

Aided by a dominant showing from the United States in Beijing last month, volleyball is rising in popularity across the United States but Sacramento has always been a hotbed for the sport, especially for high school talent. Over the next several weeks, The Bee's Prep Blog will bring you a series of informational posts about the game, how it's played and its nuances.

If you have ever played or coached competitive volleyball, this will be review. But if your niece, grandson, neighbor, BFF or any other significant other plays and you've been too afraid to ask what's going on, this is for you.

Now we know the rules, and who goes where and why. Let's brush up on the lingo now, shall we?

Pass: Contacting the ball as a means to get it to another player or over the net. This is usually done with both arms extended in front of a player forming a solid platform with which to direct the ball, however, an overhand pass is also possible. When you hear coaches or players complain about (or praise) their team's passing, it usually means the first contact after a serve.

Set: An overhand pass done with the fingertips to direct the ball at an attacking player.

Nice hands:
When the setter (or another player) sets the ball cleanly, with minimal spin, and accurately to a spot in which an attacker can hit it.

Spike: An overhand striking motion, done in mid-air in order to potentially score a point.

Kill: A successful, point-scoring spike.

Dig: A spike that is kept off the floor during a rally.

Nice up: An exceptionally directed dig that the setter does not have to move very far to play.

Pancake: A dig done in such a way that a player slaps the floor just before the ball hits it, popping it back up in the air high enough for another player to hit it over.

Ace: A serve that is troublesome for the receiving team that it is unable to return.

Floater: A serve that is hit in such a way that it does not spin -- like a knuckleball in baseball -- and thus "floats" erratically through the air making it very difficult to pass.

Tool: When the attacking player on the outside or the right side hits off the block intending the ball to fall out of bounds, thus scoring a point.

Free ball: A ball that is passed, or struck overhead, on the third contact. You'll frequently hear players shout "Free ball!" or "Trouble!" when this happens.

On-two: When the setter attempts to put the ball over the net on second contact. This is also called "dumping" or "dinking."

Tip: When an attacking player does not swing, but rather makes slight contact with the ball, intending for it land in between the block and the defense.

Pipe: A set intended for a back row player, they sometimes catch the opposing defense off-guard.

Back row attack: When a player leaves their feet to attack the ball in front of the 10-foot-line while they are in the back row.

Side out: A change of possession. Also, a very cheesy volleyball movie starring C. Thomas Howell made in 1990.

Rally scoring:
Scoring format in which a point is awarded on every serve. The standard scoring system at all levels of play, but up until early in this decade it was only possible to score a point on your team's serve. This resulted in long games as teams could simply side out back and forth with no points being scored. Many international, collegiate and high school records during this era still stand because the length of matches was longer.

September 28, 2008
NU's Jantz a hit among Week 3 football Prep Stars

Here are some more standout high school football results from Week 3:
• Broughan Jantz completed six of 10 passes for 139 yards and three touchdowns; Jason Slade rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries; and Juan Espinosa intercepted a pass, recovered an errant fumble and forced an interception in Nevada Union's 51-0 win over Chavez.
• Zach Graves had 180 yards rushing and three touchdowns and Nick Law had 10 tackles, caught a six-yard touchdown pass and kicked five PATs in Whitney's 35-6 win over Valley.
• Cameron Bennett caught seven passes for 107 yards and a touchdown and had 10 tackles and a fumble recovery in Rio Linda's 26-13 loss to Concord.
• Keenen Williams rushed for 147 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries in Laguna Creek's 23-6 loss to Pleasant Grove.
• Daniel Rodriguez had 10 tackles, a fumble recovery and a sack in Elk Grove's 36-17 win over Inderkum.
• Kyle Allen completed 16 of 25 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for a score in Vacaville Christian's 26-21 win over Winters.
• Miles Freeman rushed for 108 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries and completed five of seven passes for 104 yards and three touchdowns in Burbank's 40-6 win over Riordan of San Francisco.

September 28, 2008
Dominican Republic visit left lasting impression on Bella Vista baseball coach

Bill Richardson could be described as a baseball diehard, but the Bella Vista High baseball coach says his love for the sport is nothing like what he saw during a visit to the Texas Rangers' baseball academy in the Dominican Republic last year.

"You see baseball players with pure passion," Richardson said. "It shocked me a little bit. For these players, it's baseball 24/7."

Richardson has been managing a Rangers' rookie league team in Arizona this summer but will soon return to the Dominican Republic, where major-league teams scour the baseball-mad country for a future Pedro Martinez or a potential Albert Pujols.

Since 1958, the tiny Caribbean nation, with a population of about 9 million, has sent more than 440 players to the majors. It also produces a quarter of all players in the U.S. minor leagues.

Because of the country's poverty, most kids hone their skills playing street games.

September 27, 2008
Inderkum benefited from playing Elk Grove, so beware D-III field

There can't be many teams more athletic, versatile and flat aggressive as Inderkum.

It's a credit to coach Terry Stark, who has built a winner at one of the region's newest high schools, including a 10-victory season in 2007.

Inderkum wanted a gauge game and got it against Division I power Elk Grove. The D-III Tigers were up for the challenge and at times moved the ball easily with the wing-T. But ultimately, Inderkum met a defense that made enough stops and a team that had plenty of big-play performers.

Still, it's not a total loss. Inderkum players walked away with heads held high. They know they're for real now.

And it makes for a deep D-III field now with Inderkum, Del Campo, Casa Roble and defending D-III section champion Rodriguez.

"I expect Inderkum to be the favorite,'' Elk Grove coach Chris Nixon said. "They're loaded."

Said Herd do-all talent Brandon Soohoo, "That's a very good team. They play hard, they have athletes and they play with good sportsmanship."


September 27, 2008
Herd has makings of another fabulous team


Really, do programs like Elk Grove take many seasons off?

Hardly.

The No. 4 Thundering Herd impressed in their 36-17 triumph of No. 17 Inderkum. First-year coach Chris Nixon and a talented staff that includes veteran hold-over coaches in Charlie Beall, Wayne Dinwiddie and Mike Costa has Elk Grove looking balanced, defensive-minded and focused.

Elk Grove scored on big plays, including Brandon Soohoo's nifty 83-yard kickoff return, they had offensive balance with quarterback Zach Miller and runners such as Bryce Harper, and they defended an explosive Inderkum wing-T offense behind anchors Kevin Chapin, Daniel Rondez, Tyler Langenberg and Luke Copp.

The Herd is 3-0. Not bad for a program that returned one starter from a 12-1 team.

Del Oro looms, then Pleasant Grove, then a tough league schedule.

So far, so good, leaving Nixon to say, wide-eyed, that he was "ecstatic" with the start.

September 27, 2008
Pacers roll on, and kudos to Grant administrators for coming clean


As expected, Grant didn't break stride. Hardly broke a sweat, either.

The Pacers, reeling from the news that seven teammates were suspended for a violation of school rules (we don't know the details but it was not assault or theft), pounded Oak Ridge 34-7.

Top-ranked Grant has two leaders in which to count on in putting the suspension issue behind - coach Mike Alberghini and quarterback Kipeli Koniseti. It's bold thinking now, but it's not a stretch in the slightest to sugges that Grant could run the table from here in the regular season, meaning a victory over Burbank. And the playoffs? Looming could be a potential showdown-for-the ages with No. 2 Granite Bay. Of course, it's week-by-week process from here.

One other thing: Readers commenting on The Bee news story detailing the suspension suggested that I was gutless for not mentioning the names of the players. No need, and it's policy not to do so for student-athletes under the age of 18.

And some wrote that The Bee should be ashamed for even writing the story, as it embarrassed the players, the team and the community. Wrong again. The Guilty 7 did that on their own. It was their responsibility to behave like campus and sport leaders. It is our responsibility to report the news.

On that note, Alberghini and Grant principal Craig Murray are to be commended for talking about the issue, for being strong in their comments and for ensuring accountability. A good many coaches and administrators in the region flat refuse to work with the media when something negative happens.

They want only the feel-good stuff. Sorry, folks. t goes both ways. News is news.

September 27, 2008
A look at some early season football surprises

Several schools that have struggled on the football field in recent years are enjoying nice, early season turnarounds.

Center High in Antelope is off to a 3-0 start after pounding Natomas 42-12 last night. Dylan Crabtree turned in one of the night's most impressive performances in rushing for 258 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries.

The three wins match the Cougars' total from last year.

During the offseason, Digol J'Beily won a successful grievance to retake the job that he resigned from in 2006, following a previously turbulent head-coaching tenure. He replaced John Paul, who didn't take kindly to being forced out after one season.

Woodcreek and Encina, both winless last year, are 2-1, as is Florin, a team that struggled to a 1-9 finish in 2007.

Coach Mike Morales' Panthers won a surprising one-sided 47-3 decision over Cordova, a team that beat Florin 14-6 last season. It was the second impressive performance in a row for the Panthers, who defeated Sacramento 40-19 last week.

Woodcreek lost its season opener to No. 5 Casa Roble, extending its losing streak to 11 games. But last week the Timberwolves beat Placer in overtime to give second-year coach John Hildebrand his first varsity win, then topped a pretty fair Bear River squad 38-28 last night.

Encina snapped a 21-game losing streak with a 60-50 win over North Hills Christian Sept. 18, then followed last night with 36-26 win over Cristo Rey, a second-year varsity program without seniors.

A BATTLE TO THE WIRE - Roseville and Franklin were expected to be two of the area's stronger teams this season. But on Friday night, the Tigers and Wildcats fought like their names in a bid to avoid being winless after three weeks.

Roseville won 28-27 on quarterback Mike Moreno's 22-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Zack Davis with 17 seconds left to play.

But the real hero was junior kicker Zach Tapia, who made all four PATs.

TOP PERFORMER - Deshaun Ellison completed 11 of 19 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns; rushed for 84 yards on 11 carries and had three interceptions in Hiram Johnson's 22-16 win over Bear Creek. It was the the first win for new Warriors coach John Fleming.

UNBEATENS GALORE - The Capital Athletic League is looking impressive these days. Casa Roble, Del Campo and Bella Vista are all 3-0 and Rio Americano can join them with a win over visiting River Valley this afternoon.

September 26, 2008
Coach Z: A legend for the ages

The prep sporting world - and education in general - lost a golden leader today.

Tom Zunino, affectionately known as "Z" after a snarling and storied football coaching career at Vacaville High School, died after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 71.

Zunino was as loyal to his program and driven to succeed as he was stout and sturdy. He was the epitome of a football coach, a throw back in every since: Hard boiled, gritty and a believer that fundamentals, a running game and defense produces a winner. He was also a charmer deep down, a favorite for players who years after competing for him would stop by his coaching office or his home for a visit.

Zunino steered the Bulldogs for 37 years, and he was the athletic director for 35. He was the head coach from 1961 to 1997, and his teams posted 26 winning seasons, 14 conference championships and 215 victories.

Vacaville's field was named after him several years ago, and he cracked, "I thought you had to be great to get that sort of honor." My good friends Matt Mills and Tim Roe would often say that a big part of the appeal to watching a Bulldogs game over the years was to catch "Z" in action.

Zunino was dusted off and coaxed out of retirement by Vacaville coach Mike Papadopoulos earlier this decade, and "Z's" defense was paramount in beating Elk Grove in the 2007 City Championship, thus paving the way to the team's first Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship and a 13-1 season.

After that City title triumph against the 12-0 Thundering Herd, Bulldogs players hailed "Z" as the X-factor for their success. Typical old coach, rubbing his sore back, he downplayed it, telling me, "Ahhh, these kids. They're the real winners."

No, coach. In the end, you were the ultimate winner.

September 26, 2008
Grant football hit with suspensions, but blow to overall pride? Never

In the midst of what was shaping up to be another banner season, the Grant football team took a public relations hit today when news broke that seven players for The Bee's No. 2 ranked team have been suspended indefinitely for violating school policy.

But one thing about Grant and these Pacers.

Don't expect this speed bump to slow the machine down a bit. More than any program I have observed over the years, Grant seems to really be inspired by adversity. Losses on the field, losses among family and friends to death. Doesn't matter. Grant won three Division I championships with 12-2 teams. The losses served to inspire, the motto being, "We're not angry until we have a cause."

Grant has a cause now.

The Pacers are angry at their teammates for letting them down, for making news for all the wrong reasons, for fanning any flames of any notion that the Pacers can't police themselves (in truth, Grant is no different than most any other school with teenage problems and pressures and making foolish mistakes).

My prediction?

Grant rolls right along. The Pacers rally from here and clobber teams on Friday night as a way to vent. And should those suspended players return, they'll face the next wrath. First it was their coach - Mike Alberghini - then their families. Now it'll be their teammates.

September 26, 2008
This Grant bunch faster than undefeated '06 section champs

With No. 2 Grant (3-0) knocking off two out-of-state powers the past two weeks in Alta of Utah and Highland of Idaho, it's inevitable that this season's team is already being compared to the 2006 group that went 13-0 and won the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship.

Some would argue that that team might have been the best in Northern California that season, although De La Salle of Concord was selected over the Pacers to play in the first CIF D-I state bowl game.

"We may be a little bit faster than that team, although that one was probably a bit more physical," Alberghini said. "We have the cast to be a good team this year and play deep into the season."

But Alberghini is a little concerned about a potential letdown now that the Pacers start area play for the first time tonight against visiting Oak Ridge (0-2).

Last season the Trojans gave the Pacers a battle before falling 28-22. And in Grant's unbeaten season, Oak Ridge led most of the first half before losing 28-17.

"It took us a half to wake up against Oak Ridge," Alberghini said. "So we have to guard against that and be ready to play every week. We have to treat every team the same."

That likely will mean long afternoons and evenings again for Metro Conference foes Sacramento, Rosemont, Kennedy, McClatchy and Hiram Johnson.

Even though Grant does not have a star running back as in most seasons, the foursome of seniors Melvin Lamb (31 for 232 yards) and Howard Warren (31 for 217) and juniors Devontae Butler (23 for 219) and Antonio Bumpers (12 for 75) is proving deep and effective.

"I'm really starting to like our running backs," Alberghini said. "All four of them have the potential to do good things on any given day."

Take Bumpers, for instance. In Saturday's 35-28 win over Alta, Bumpers, the team's primary blocker, had three nice runs at critical times, including a 10-yard touchdown.

"He's such a good blocker," Alberghini said. "But we're going to find ways to get him the ball, too."

***
Grant's junior varsity football team's two-year unbeaten string came to an end Saturday with a 23-20 loss to Alta.

But there should be an asterisk attached.

The Utah team was composed mostly of juniors.

The California Interscholastic Federation doesn't allow juniors to play JV football.

September 26, 2008
Davis soccer coach bucks bid to move Jesuit match off pitch

Although it has the potential for a nice financial windfall, tonight's Jesuit at Davis soccer match won't be played in the football stadium.

Davis coach Ashley Yudin admits that Davis athletic administrators aren't happy with his decision to play on the Blue Devils lighted soccer pitch.

The Jesuit-Davis match usually draws a crowd of 1,000 or more but that could be even bigger tonight because the Marauders are ranked No. 1 and Davis No. 5 nationally by ESPN Rise.

With the fenced-in stadium, Davis could charge admission. Instead it will be free admission.

The Blue Devils' pitch is wider than the Davis football field. It also has lines for soccer.

"I know (administrators) would prefer us to be in the stadium," Yudin said. "But the community worked hard to get lights for our field. It's more amiable to soccer. It's the place you want to be playing for those who enjoy soccer."

Both Jesuit (12-0) and Davis (8-0) come into the match undefeated and both are playing well.

In a sweep last week of Delta Valley Conference rival Kennedy and two powerhouse teams in New Mexico, Jesuit midfielder Adam Jahn had six assists, Ra Alkebulan four goals and Austin Bravo three goals.

Jesuit coach Paul Rose says Nate Barr, Matt Linenberger, Patrick Reese, Matt Thayer and goalie Jake Feener have been standouts defensively.

Yudin says Davis' leaders have been midfielders Andisheh Bagheri, Luke Palmer and Nolan Helmus, central defender Jeff Strickland and emerging forward David Smith.

"We are going to have to play better on the flanks than we did last year," Yudin said. "Jesuit just whomped us last year. We were lucky to tie 1-1. I've told our players that if we allow them to do the same thing, we're going to be in big trouble."

As for Jahn, who Yudin has coached at the club level, there is no hard feelings that he is playing for the Blue Devils' main rival. Jahn played club ball for many years with the Davis players.

"He's a great kid, very hard working," Yudin said. "He's a beast at 6-foot-3, but extraordinarily gifted and very talented with the ball at his feet. I know our guys will be trying to give him fits."

September 26, 2008
Encina football goes for back-to-back wins

Encina has a chance to do something tonight it hasn't done in years, win back-to-back football games.

The Bulldogs (1-1) will play Cristo Rey (1-1), a private Catholic school in its second varsity season and without seniors, 7:30 p.m. at El Camino High School.

Encina snapped a 21-game losing streak on Sept. 18 by beating North Hills Christian 60-50.

At tonight's game, first-year coach Greg Roeszler, a former Encina quarterback in the early 1970s, will pay tribute to his old football coach Andy Braio, who will fly in for the ceremony.

Braio, who also coached the Bulldogs in baseball, is a member of the Sacramento State Hornets Baseball Hall of Fame.

September 25, 2008
CAL volleyball title will be hard-fought

The presence of another league team's entire coaching staff suggested that No. 12 Bella Vista's match with No. 15 Rio Americano had Capital Athletic League championship implications.

The intensity on the court confirmed it.

The Broncos staged a pair of comebacks to prevail 3-1 (29-27, 25-18, 22-25, 25-23) in Rio's own gym, striking the opening salvo in what promises to be a tight race for the CAL title.

"Tonight showed me a lot about my team," Bella Vista coach Troy Songer said. "When it came down to crunch time we pulled through and really stole some games."

The Broncos (11-3, 2-0 CAL) trailed 20-15 and staved off three Raiders game points to take an intense first set and finally prevailed on a kill from Melissa Bishop. Bishop finished with a match-high 12 kills.

Bishop's counterpart in the middle Santana Dill had five blocks to stifle a potent attack from Rio's twin towers of Jessica Adams (6-1) and Rachel Vartanian (6-0).

"It's kind of intimidating at first," Dill said. "But it doesn't really matter because height isn't a skill."

Bella Vista trailed early, but got 12 points off of Raiders errors to take the second set 25-18. Rio Americano missed 11 serves in the match including five in the third set, ironically the one that the Raiders won.

"We were missing way too many serves," Raiders coach John Grix said. "When you make errors like that you don't just lose one point, it's really a two-point swing."

The Raiders again found themselves ahead late, this time 22-20 in the fourth set, but errors and back-to-back blocks down the stretch from Bishop sealed a Bella Vista comeback. Bella Vista, however, did have to work for it, however as a lengthy rally played out on match point in which outside hitter Audreana Dill and libero Britni Nickell both laid out to save the point.

"I'm frustrated because I know that we can do better," Adams said. "That just comes through in practice."

September 25, 2008
Vacaville coach calls Laguna Creek line best 'we'll face'

Section football powerhouse Vacaville, which plays at top-ranked Granite Bay (2-0) Friday, is still reeling from how easily it was handled by Laguna Creek last week.

The Bulldogs (1-1), who rushed for 399 yards the week before, were held to 17 yards and the 14 points was the Bulldogs' lowest total since Nov. 8, 2002, according to the Vacaville Reporter.

"That's probably the best D-line we'll face all year," Vacaville head coach Mike Papadopoulos said. "They're a playoff-caliber team."

The ninth-ranked Cardinals (2-0) play No. 3 Pleasant Grove (2-0) Friday at Elk Grove High School.

September 25, 2008
Vista del Lago football takes on another challenging opponent

Some might call it crazy.

But for Vista del Lago football coach Chris Jones, it's all about getting better.

The first-year varsity program, with no seniors, will play at Central Catholic (1-1) of Modesto Friday, the Division V program that has a section-best 15 championships, including a D-III state bowl appearance last season.

The Raiders are the third of three powerhouses the Eagles are facing as they prepare for their maiden varsity season in the Sierra Valley Conference.

"We want to be a good football program, so we're taking a series of steps to prepare us for that," said Jones, who led Oak Ridge to three consecutive D-II section titles from 2002 to 2004. "That was the difference maker for us at Oak Ridge. We want to play people who are going to make us better."

Vista del Lago played well for a half in its season opener Sept. 12 against D-I defending section champion Napa before falling 29-9. But the Eagles took a step back seven days later in falling to defending Capital Athletic League champion Casa Roble 43-6 at Folsom High School.

"Napa and Casa Roble are two completely different teams in terms of style," Jones said. "But I definitely was disappointed. I don't think the guys competed as hard as they did against Napa."

The Eagles' offense was dominated at the line as Portland State-bound senior linebacker Jaycob Shoemaker led a Casa Roble onslaught that limited the Eagles to 19 rushing yards in 20 attempts.

But sophomore quarterback Anthony Mull, who replaced starter Landis Provencial in the second half, showed glimpses of potential.

He completed 9 of 17 passes for 94 yards and a last-play touchdown pass a week after completing only 3 of 12 passes for 44 yards with two interceptions against Napa.

September 25, 2008
Some belated recognition for football prep stars

Coaches sometimes get busy and don't compile their stats immediately after the game or they break down game film later in the week, so players who excelled don't get their accomplishments noted in our Sunday Prep Stars.

So here is an update of several players who had outstanding performances last Friday.

• Wide receiver Michael Henderson caught 18 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns in Sacramento's 40-19 loss to Florin.

• Running back-linebacker Jordan Williams rushed for 178 yards on 10 carries, had three catches for 75 yards and made 15 tackles in El Dorado's 40-27 loss to Ponderosa.

• Running back Kortez Lee rushed for 233 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries in Cordova's 31-14 win over El Camino. Quarterback Jerami Quillen completed 14 of 27 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns for the Eagles.

September 24, 2008
Observations: Is Del Oro going down?; Is Jesuit good or bad?; Rio Linda get it together

Here are this week's observations or, as some high school coaches like to refer to them, as "Bulletin Board" Material or just a bunch of blah, blah, blah.

• It appears Del Oro may be in trouble, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Golden Eagles surrendered 52 points in their last game, including 31 in the first half.
Granted, they lost eight starters to graduation, four of whom have gone on to play in college. Still, Casey Taylor coached teams typically play with more pride.

Things better improve quickly because the schedule doesn't get any easier. Del Oro has games against undefeated Enochs of Merced, Merced (ranked No. 17 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports) and perennial power Elk Grove coming up. The Golden Eagles could be 1-4 or 0-5 heading into their Sierra Foothill League opener against Granite Bay on Oct. 16.

• Is Jesuit good? Or is Jesuit bad? Right now, the Marauders are displaying a split personality. Which leads to this question: Which Jesuit team is going to show up on Saturday night against Christian Brothers in the Holy Bowl?

Will it be the lackluster one that got pounded 52-0 against St. Mary's of Stockton in Week 1? Or will it be the one that dominated Golden Valley of Merced 57-16 last week?

• Instead of the Rocklin Thunder, lets call the team in Placer County the Rocklin
Cummings. Why? Jackson Cummings has emerged as a BTP -- Big Time Performer. All the guy does is make plays. Or in Rocklin's case, score all of its points. Try a total of 55 in two games. That's seven touchdowns and eight extra points. Can he continue this production? Somebody has to step up because he can't do it alone.

• Is Nevada Union football back? That's debatable. However, the Miners proved they could win close games in crunch time (15-14 over Ponderosa and 35-28 over Rocklin). Missing from the Miners' record so far is a dominant performance over a quality opponent. Earning victories over hapless teams like Natomas and Franklin of Stockton in the upcoming weeks won't count. Beat a team like Chavez soundly this week may well prove the point.

• It's going to take a mighty defensive effort to stop Folsom because the Bulldogs have arguably the most explosive offense in the area. In two games, the Bulldogs have scored 99 points and racked up 961 yards of total offense. Not only do they feature quarterback David Graves, who threw for close to 290 yards and five touchdowns in a win over Oak Ridge last week, but the Bulldogs have a ton of other weapons, including a trio of sophomores in Tyler Trosin, Dano Graves, and Jordan Richards.

• And finally, let's hope Rio Linda can get its act together off the field like it has in victories over Roseville and Union Mine. Let's hope Rio Linda football players understand that playing the game is not a right, but a privilege.


September 23, 2008
Long distance travel

High school football isn't just a cozy little neighborhood thing any more.

It's all about ambitious scheduling and programs gauging themselves. And it's refreshing. You won't hear any complaint from local teams who spend hours on a bus, like Grant, Whitney, Colfax or Del Oro - each of whom treked some 12 hours to Idaho for season openers.

Grant opened the season in Santa Rosa, a tidy little ride of two hours. De La Salle, the super power in Concord, makes annual juants across the state and country now. Only the coaches grumble about it (what's the gripe, coaches? At least you don't have the old yellow clunker busses that produced plumes of blue smoke).

Teenagers live for travel. Makes them feel big time.

Now my friend Julie in the Bay? All travel, no football joy. She has a two-hour commute to work each morning at the crack of dawn (she can see newspapers being delivered at that hour) and then a two-hour cruise back home (she admires the sunset from her seat if the guy next to her on Bart isn't snoring too loud). She could use a football field to leg out on. But not much room to run amid the smorers.

September 22, 2008
Volleyball for Dummies, Vol. 2: Strategy

Aided by a dominant showing from the United States in Beijing last month, volleyball is rising in popularity across the United States but Sacramento has always been a hotbed for the sport, especially for high school talent. Over the next several weeks, The Bee's Prep Blog will bring you a series of informational posts about the game, how it's played and its nuances.

If you have ever played or coached competitive volleyball, this will be review. But if your niece, grandson, neighbor, BFF or any other significant other plays and you've been too afraid to ask what's going on, this is for you.

This week we focus on strategy.

I know what you're thinking: "I thought there were supposed to be three in the front row and three in the back row in volleyball."

You're half right.

The first observation of those whose only exposure to volleyball has been gym class is that the players line up in crazy formations that seem unnecessary. Actually it's very necessary.

The main difference between competitive volleyball and P.E. class is that every player on the court has a specific position with specific responsibilities and needs to get to their spot on every play. This way coaches can utilize different players' skill sets and talents to maximize the team's output. Simple economics, really.

So in a game in which players rotate around the court with every sideout (possession change) each player is only in ideal position once. That's why you'll see different groupings with each serve. Once the ball is served, any player can be anywhere except fro the libero - the player in a different colored shirt - who is allowed to play solely in the back row.

The rules governing rotation are simply that a back row player cannot lineup in front of a front row player, no player can lineup on to the right of the player immediately to the right of them in the rotation and vice versa for the left. Coaches will commonly lineup their teams in the following pattern: Setter, hitter, middle, setter, hitter, middle.

Teams can run a 6-2 (six attackers, two setters at any one time) or a 5-1 (five attackers, one setter at any one time) offensive set. In a 6-2, two setters are on the floor at the same time (one in the front row, one in the back) and the one in the back row will set until he or she reaches the front row and it switches over. Thus, before a play starts, any one of the six on the floor is a potential attacker. In a 5-1 the same setter sets all the way around, and cannot attack on the second contact (a common trick amongst setters) while in the back row.

Here's a breakdown of the usual suspects.

Position (where they line up): Skill profile.

Outside hitter (front and back left): Quick, agile and athletic. Must be able not only have the hops to hit in the front row, but also quickness to get in position to make digs in the back row.

Middle blocker (the middle, duh): Height, height and height. Your middle should be hard to hit over, through or around and thus must possess good jumping ability and lateral movement. It's uncommon for middles to play in the back row, mainly because their height makes it harder for them to get to balls in the back row.

Setter (front and back right): Must be one of the best conditioned on the floor, possess good hand/eye coordination and be a good decision maker. The setter ideally touches the ball on every play and thus has the most influence on the offensive output.

Rightside hitter (front right only): Same skill set as an outside hitter, though you may want a better blocker here, as they will be matched up on the other team's outside hitter.

Libero (middle back): Quick, agile and must be a good passer, they're the ones responsible for keeping the ball off the floor. Liberos almost always play the back row for middle blockers. A quick aside: The libero wears a different colored jersey because they can run on and off of the floor without formally substituting and thus not counting against the number of allowable substitutions during a set (18).

Now that we know what everybody does, let's start with offensive sets.

The setter can set an array of sets all over the court but by far the most effective is the "1" - a quick set just above the net to the middle. This gives the opposite middle (and the defense behind them) little reaction time, and means the attacking middle only has one person to hit around. Other effective sets are back sets to the rightside hitter (a "5"), a quick set to the outside (a "31") or a "slide" in which the middle will veer to the right behind the setter upon their approach and attack off of one foot (like a lay-up).

The problem with these is that it requires a heck of a lot to go right. The pass, set and timing between setter and attacker must be perfect.

If the pass or dig requires the setter to move too much in order to make a set, they usually push a high set in the direction of the outside hitter. If their momentum is taking them toward the back row, they may also set a "pipe" to a back row player (not the libero) who can leave their feet to attack as long as they take off behind the 10-foot line. A designed set to the outside is called a "4." You'll hear players shout these numbers if they want that set, and before the play, look for the setter to signal to their hitters via fingers to indicate what they plan to do.

From there, much like football, you can have a lot of fun with combinations. Like sending one player on an approach to draw a blocker, then setting the ball elsewhere, or just having someone follow the attacker and hit from the same place.

I could double the length of this entry by describing in detail blocking and defensive schemes (and maybe I will in the future). Basically the goal is to get a block up and for the players behind the blocker to take away any angle left available to the hitter. Obviously gaps in blocks are bad, as are ones that are too far from the net.

Your homework assignment for the week is to watch a match and, instead of following the ball, watch the team setting up to defend to see what they do - this is often quite fun. The schemes to defend a ball on the right or left side are just mirror images of each other, while the middle (if you use your imagination) usually resembles a five-pointed star.

Next week: Lingo.

September 21, 2008
Grant's Alberghini pleased with close victory over Utah power

Grant High School coach Mike Alberghini said Saturday night's 35-28 win over visiting Alta of Utah was fun for the fans but not for the coach.

But even though the outcome wasn't decided until Howard Warren's interception with seconds left, Alberghini is pleased with the progress the Pacers have made in their first three games.

"Those were two good football teams," Alberghini said of Alta and his Pacers. "I guarantee we will not play a better defense around. I wouldn't be surprised if they go back and win their state championship again."

In addition to reversing a one-sided loss to the Hawks (4-1) in Utah last season, the Pacers (3-0) also beat Idaho power Highland of Pocatello on its own turf at Holt Arena on the Idaho State campus in the Rocky Mountain Rumble Sept. 13 and North Coast Section power Montgomery Sept. 5 in Santa Rosa.

"I'm pleased with our progress," Alberghini said. "I think we've played fast and physical our first three games. And I couldn't have asked much more of us (Saturday). Our defense played magnificently."

Even though the Pacers intercepted Alta quarterback Ammon Olsen four times, Alberghini was more impressed with the 6-foot-4, 190-pound senior than with Stanford-bound Taysom Hill, the Highland quarterback Grant faced the week before.

Olsen completed 20 of 31 passes for 301 yards, had several balls dropped and three touchdowns called back on penalties. He also carried 22 times for 75 yards, if one tosses out his five sacks for minus 39 yards.

"This kid is a good player," Alberghini said. "He did more things to hurt us than the other kid. The Highland kid is a good thrower, but this kid could run it and put us under a lot of pressure."

Alberghini thought his players did well keeping their focus, considering that many attended a memorial service earlier in the day for Monique D'Emonie McCauley, the 13-year-old sister of senior wide receiver-defensive back Darvin McCauley.

"Monie" as she was known, died Sept. 5 after a long illness, according to assistant coach Reggie Harris.

"That could have been a big distraction but it wasn't, even though that's a tough thing for young people to have to deal with," Alberghini said. "She had been ill for some time. But 13 is way too young to go."

September 20, 2008
Encina ends 21-game losing streak; Friday night football highlights

Greg Roeszler said it was an unbelievable way to end a 21-game losing streak.

The first-year Encina coach watched in amazement Thursday night as his Bulldogs (1-1) defeated North Hills Christian 60-50 in Vallejo.

"We spread it out and went wild," Roeszler said of his offense. "This just confirms to the kids that we are making progress and are headed in the right direction."

Senior quarterback A.J. Dawkins, a Cordova transfer, passed for 227 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 208 yards and three touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Brandon Amey had 120 receiving yards and a touchdown and also returned a kickoff 75 yards for a score.

Defensively, Duane Robinson, a 6-foot-5, 265-pound tackle, had 10 tackles and sophomore Tommy Hartway two interceptions.

The Bulldogs had a 20-point lead at one point in the fourth quarter but Roeszler said the Eagles scored two touchdowns in the last two minutes.

Encina's last win came on Nov. 11, 2005, 34-32, over San Juan. The Bulldogs went 1-9 that season, then had back-to-back 0-10 seasons in 2006 and 2007.

Friday's best game - Woodcreek 35, Placer 34 in overtime. James Nunley ran for 260 yards and three touchdowns and Mike Haley threw the winning touchdown pass to Nick Layton in overtime as the Timberwolves ended an 11-game losing streak.

Friday's biggest offensive shootout - Modesto Christian's 54-41 win over Capital Christian that featured 14 touchdowns. The Crusaders came into the game as Northern California's top-ranked Small School state bowl contender.

Friday's biggest surprise - No. 14 Laguna Creek topping Vacaville 33-14. We no longer rank Vacaville but the Bulldogs are No. 7 in Maxpreps.com's section poll while the Cardinals are listed at No. 39.

Friday's highlight reel performers - Folsom quarterback David Graves completed 22 of 29 passes for 284 yards and five touchdowns and also ran for a 44-yard touchdown in the Bulldogs' 46-22 win over Oak Ridge and Christian Brothers' Josh Tucker rushed for 328 yards and three touchdowns in a 40-25 win over San Joaquin Memorial in Fresno.

Are they really the best? - Sierra Foothill League coaches contend they have the best league top-to-bottom in the section but it isn't proving out after two weeks of preseason play. The SFL is a combined 5-6, with Del Oro to face a huge challenge tonight in visiting Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa, the current No. 1 NorCal Division III state bowl contender.

Here are results and highlights, some or all of which did not make the newspaper:

No. 13 Del Campo 38, Davis 0 in Carmichael - Ryan Dimino rushed for 133 yards and three touchdowns for the Cougars (2-0), and Eric Baker and Jaron Wilson had two interceptions.
Bear River 28, Calaveras 7 in Grass Valley - Quarterback Tanner Mathias was 12 for 19 for 204 passing yards and threw one touchdown for the Bruins.
Chico 20, Sheldon 19 in Chico - Quarterback Zach Leibold threw for 150 yards and two touchdowns on 8 for 23 passing for the Huskies.
Rio Linda 21, Union Mine 7 in El Dorado - Cameron Mikell ran for one touchdown and 119 yards for the Knights.

No. 5 Casa Roble 43, Vista del Lago 6 at Folsom High School
Vista del Lago (0-2) 0 0 0 6 - 6
Casa Roble (2-0) 27 9 7 0 - 43
CR - Satchwell 51 punt return (Bonette kick)
CR - Satchwell 29 run (Bonette kick)
CR - Baer 6 pass from Martinez (kick failed)
CR - Aubert 30 interception return (Bonette kick)
CR - Baer 27 pass from Martinez (Bonette kick)
CR - Safety. Quarterback tackled in end zone.
CR - Roth 1 run (Bonette kick)
VD - Jung 15 pass from Mull (no extra point attempt tried)

*Any top performers that we missed Friday night, please e-mail bpaterson@sacbee.com for our Prep Stars feature in Sunday's Bee.

September 20, 2008
Action Jackson in Rocklin


Jackson Cummings Rocklin is only a junior, but he's off to a roaring good start.

And despite his diminutive size, he's big in effort and heart, and surely worth a recruiting peek as a tailback and special teams return ace. Isn't the college game all about speed?

Cummings is a take-your-break away type of talent, a two-sport player who also helped lead the Thunder's basketball team into the Northern California regionals. Football is his sport, however.

Cummings rushed for 192 yards and four touchdowns in Friday's loss at Nevada Union, giving him eight scores on the season (fantasy football players, take note).

And soon, he'll be unleashed on the Sierra Foothill League, home of top-flight programs that specialize on defense in Granite Bay and Del Oro.

September 20, 2008
Monster night for CBS runner

Christian Brothers has had its fair share of nifty backs over the decades, from Vince Delgado in 1983 and Albert Hollis in 1999.

Now say hello to Josh Tucker.

The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder had 60 yards in a season-opening triumph of Burbank - a nice warm up, apparently - and then torched San-Juan Memorial of Fresno for 328 yards and three touchdowns on Friday.

That's the most yards for a Falcons runner since Hollis scooted for 421 against Truckee in 1999 (still believed to be the second most ever for a prep back in this region, behind the 427 Shannon Spagner of McClatchy had against Sacramento, also in 1999).

CBS is off to a 2-0 start, its best in years. There is superb line play and an upstart defense. The Falcons seek a 3-0 start Saturday against rival Jesuit, where a win in the Holy Bowl will surely serve notice that the pulse is back for a program that has spun out this decade.

September 20, 2008
Laguna Creek is for real

Some might view Laguna Creek's 33-14 triumph of Vacaville as a surprise.

Not here.

Not this corner, never mind that the Bulldogs were ranked No. 7 in the Sac-Joaquin Section by Maxpreps.com.

The Cardinals are due for a big season. Coach Mark Nill returned a wealth of talent from a team that struggled at times last season but nevertheless competed. This is a perfect example of a team that has grown and matured. The lines are anchored by the coach's son - and one of the top talents in the region - in Sean Nill. He mandates double teaming when he plays defense, and he's an absolute bull on offense.

The Cardinals (2-0) have a sound running game, headed by Keenan Williams (105 yards in 20 carries against Vacaville) solid linebacking and a new quarterback to fear in Chris Jackson, who tossed two touchdown passes and ran for another. The Bulldogs rushed for 399 yards in a season opener against a very good Rodriguez team but managed just 17 against Laguna Creek. What's more, the 14 points were the fewest for Vacaville since 2002.

Vacaville coach Mike Papadopoulos told Tim Roe of the Vacaville Reporter, "That's probably the best D-line we'll face all year. They're a playoff caliber team."

The Bulldogs lost five fumbles against Laguna and fumbled 10 times total. Line play, defense and a running game are the ingredients to championship success at this level (Ok, any level), and the Cardinals have the making of perhaps their best team since the school opened in 1995.

September 20, 2008
Cristo Rey sports program expands

Football isn't the only sport growing on the small South Sacramento campus of Cristo Rey High School, the innovative private school.

Athletic Director and football coach Matt Costa says the three-year-old school now offers 10 sports, up from six last year.

For girls there is volleyball, basketball, track and soccer. For the boys there is basketball, soccer, track and baseball. Golf is coed.

Costa's biggest headache is trying to schedule games with other schools. Although sanctioned by the California Interscholastic Federation, Cristo Rey is unaffiliated with a league. It is just one of three independent schools within the section.

"Every time I call an athletic director they ask, 'What is Cristo Rey?'" Costa says.

September 20, 2008
Grant's Alberghini says state bowl favors private schools

As for the state bowl football playoffs, which will expand from three to five games this December, Grant High School coach Mike Alberghini thinks the Pacers and other area D-II teams such as Del Oro and Granite Bay will remain long-shots to play.

"What's hurting us is parity," said Alberghini, whose 2-0 Pacers play defending Utah 5A champion Alta tonight in Del Paso Heights. "I think we've proven in this division that our top teams can go to the Bay Area and win. But teams here are beating each other. So it's likely we'll have a section champion with two losses, and I don't think that gets you a bowl berth."

He also thinks section officials - he says "unintentionally" - favor private schools over public schools, especially inner-city schools, because of the potential revenue windfall.
"I personally think that the bowl system, the way it is set up now, works against the have nots," Alberghini said.

Alberghini told colleague Joe Davidson recently that he is still bothered that his 13-0 team of two seasons ago was bypassed for more nationally known De La Salle of Concord, a team that seemingly has the inside track for the D-I bowl every season.

"It's silly, the whole bowl thing," Alberghini said. "It forces a lot of backward thinking. Do we think we can play in it? Yes. We can play with anyone."

September 18, 2008
How do you pick Prep Football Player of the Week nominees?

Question: How do you determine who you nominate for the "Prep Football Player of the Week?" The reason I ask is because I noticed that there were a number of players with much better stats than those nominated this past week. One case in point: Junior quarterback James Lee from Capital Christian, who passed for 389 yards and four touchdowns. You listed him as one of the Prep Stars on Sunday. So why not nominate him?
-John, Folsom

Answer: Because of our deadlines, Joe Davidson picks the nominees on Saturday morning, based on what was reported to The Bee Friday night. Lee's stats weren't called in on Friday. I picked them up Saturday afternoon for the Prep Stars after I found that they had been posted by Capital Christian on its Maxpreps.com. team web-site. The nominations had already been made at that point.

September 18, 2008
Why is Whitney is good, so fast?

Question: How did Whitney High go from nothing to a highly ranked football team in their first year with seniors? And the Wildcats look good in their second year, too.
- Marty Hansen, Rocklin

Answer: It's simple. Good athletes and good coaching.

September 17, 2008
Access TV honors Dragons, Vikings defensive stars

In the 12 years they have worked together broadcasting high school football games for community cable channel Access Sacramento, rarely have Will James and Jim Dimino picked two defensive MVPs from the same game.

But that's what they did Saturday following Sacramento High's 13-12 win over Valley in selecting Vikings junior linebacker Sivi Finau and Sac High 6-foot-4, 290-pound senior defensive tackle KeiVaughn Barrett as the game's top players.

"We've been doing these games together since 1996 and most of the time we go with an offensive player," said Dimino, the retired El Camino coaching legend. "But these two were easy. Both clearly dominated."

September 17, 2008
Best bet for a State Football Championship is in Division II

Hoping to see a local team participate in the CIF State Championship Bowl games in December? Your best bet is in Division II. The Sacramento area currently has five teams ranked in the latest State Championship D-II North top 10 rankings. Casa Roble is No. 3, followed by No. 4 Whitney, No. 5 Rocklin, No. 7 Del Oro and No. 10 Inderkum.
Granite Bay is ranked No. 4 and Grant No. 7 in the D-I North top 10.
Look for Elk Grove and Pleasant Grove to crack the D-I top 10 if teams ahead of them falter.


September 17, 2008
Pleasant Grove continues to improve

A year ago, with a young roster and an otherwise unproven and untested product, Pleasant Grove ventured into Roseville for a nonleague game in Week 2.

It was the toughest game to that point for the Eagles, sporting their first senior class, in going against a talent-laden, tradition rich program headed by coach Larry Cunha. Pleasant Grove bolted to a 21-0 lead then collapsed to the more experienced Tigers, who pulled out a 33-21 victory.

But the setback served the Eagles well. They did not lose the rest of the regular season, finishing 9-1. Now it's a rematch, Friday night at Sheldon, and should the Eagles jump to a 21-0 lead, expect it to hold. Easily. Pleasant Grove already appears better, deeper, more seasoned than in 2007 with coach Joe Cattolico and leading players Peter Kelly, Greg Williams, Dan Hansen, Taylor Congdon, Michael Madkins and Russell Vonschoech.

September 17, 2008
Rio Linda's rise

I remember visiting Mike Morris in his history class at Rio Linda some 11 years ago. Morris, also the football coach, would often scold his students for beating down on their own school and the image of the town, for years labeled as a loser society by talk radio mouth Rush Limbaugh.

It irritated Morris that students would bag on their own school. Before long, the culture changed, and football played a prominent role. The team, once mired in misery with dreadful losing streaks and every freak injury imaginable, became a winner, a monument of campus pride.

Morris still produces a winning program every season. And he sticks to his core values of accountability. He benched 18 players against Roseville in a season opener, yet the Knights still prevailed 21-7.

The 18 players surely learned their lesson, specifically the program has become so good and so deep that it can prevail without those who do not want to conform to team policy. It's a credit to Morris for what he has created with the Knights.

September 16, 2008
Observations: NU won't win DVC; Grant is disciplined; Vista is no cupcake

Here are some observations of local high school football teams after Week 1. Look high school coaches, players and fans, this is simply one man's opinion. It is not the gospel. If you disagree with my thoughts, then use it to inspire your team.

Nevada Union is not going to win the Delta Valley Conference. Elk Grove or Franklin should. However, it appears the Miners will be better than last year's team that finished 4-6 and failed to make the playoffs.

NU runs the ball well, especially between the tackles with bulldozing junior running back Juan Espinosa. However, the Miners need consistency from its passing game to be a force.

On another note NU: Stop playing the Sacramento-Bee-doesn't give-NU-respect card. If you win games, then you will get respect. That's why you jumped from No. 18 to No 10 in this week's top 20. Lose games and you will drop.

Back to the observations.

Ponderosa is not as strong as last year's team. In fact, the Bruins are one dimensional, especially on offense, using Lyndell Scarr as their primary weapon. Last season, the Bruins featured Scarr, Sierra Valley Conference MVP Taylor Wilkenson and All-SVC first-team selection Taylor Schablaske on offense. The Bruins don't have that luxury now and it showed in their 15-14 home loss to Nevada Union.

Was Folsom's 53-0 pounding of Davis a big deal? Maybe. The Bulldogs always win early-season games big. Duplicate the feat in meaningful late-season Delta River League games -- that will be more impressive. Beat Oak Ridge by 53 points this week, then we might have something.

Grant winning back-to-back roads games at Montgomery of Santa Rosa and Highland of Pocatello, Idaho, shows signs of a team dedicated to playing disciplined football. The one knock on Pacer teams of the past is that they committed a lot of penalties and turnovers.

As a result, superior talent normally camouflaged the indiscretions. Right now, it looks like the Pacers have the ingredients to compete for a state championship. Hence, they cracked Cal-Hi Sports state top 25 at No. 21 this week and could climb higher in the future with more victories.

What's up with Roseville? If the Tigers couldn't beat Rio Linda with 18 suspended players, how can they expect to beat Granite Bay, Rocklin or Del Oro in Sierra Foothill League play?

Vista del Lago's 29-9 road loss to defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champion Napa was an eye opener. Many expected Vista to get pounded. The Eagles played a more competitive game against Napa than Ohio State did in its 35-3 loss at USC.

It looks like Eagles coach Chris Jones has quickly infused the young program with the spirit of the three D-II section titles he won at Oak Ridge.

Message to Vista's upcoming opponent Casa Roble: Take the Eagles lightly and you might get upset.

September 15, 2008
Jesuit, Davis suffer monstrous football beatdowns (ouch!)

Our football rankings took a bit of a beating, and before anyone jumps up and cries, "you over-ranked them!", consider one thing: We never saw it coming, and neither did Jesuit or Davis.

Jesuit suffered a 52-0 wipeout in Stockton in a season opener on Friday at the hands of St. Mary's and quarterback ace Cody Vaz. It was the worst setback of coach Dan Carmazzi's otherwise stellar career that dates back to 1980 and includes two Sac-Joaquin Section championships. How bad did it get for Big Red? Referees went to a running clock in the fourth quarter to speed things up and spare the Marauders any more humiliation.

Davis, a formidable program since the 1970s, was belted 53-0 at Folsom, a program breaking in a host of new starters. It was the worst setback in school history, and a blast of humble pie for first-year head coach Dan Gazaniga.

It's how the programs recover and respond from here that will identify the seasons now. It certainly can't get any worse.

September 15, 2008
Volleyball for Dummies, Vol. 1: Gameplay

Aided by a dominant showing from the United States in Beijing last month, volleyball is rising in popularity across the United States but Sacramento has always been a hotbed for the sport, especially for high school talent. Over the next several weeks, The Bee's Prep Blog will bring you a series of informational posts about the game, how it's played and its nuances.

If you have ever played or coached competitive volleyball, this will be review. But if your niece, grandson, neighbor, BFF or any other significant other plays and you've been too afraid to ask what's going on, this is for you.

This week, we're focusing on the basics.

The court: Since volleyball is an international game, all measurements handed down by FIVB for regulated play are metric. But the volleyball we're talking about is played in America, where the only thing we use the metric system for is 2-liter soda bottles.

For our immediate purposes, we'll use U.S. measurement standards. With that in mind a volleyball court is a 60x30-foot rectangle with 2-inch lines defining the boundary. The court is split in half by the line that the net sits above and on either side of the half-way line about 10 feet away (again, not approximate because of the metric system) is another line. This line is, you guessed it, called the "10-foot line," is used as a means of separating front-row hitters from back-row hitters.

On some older courts fans may notice two lines on either side just off the baseline measuring an area 10 feet from the right sideline in. This is the old serving box - for many years players could only serve from the confines of that area from any distance from the baseline. That rule was abolished in the late '90s and now players can serve from anywhere on the baseline as long as (a) no part of their shoe touches the baseline, and (b) they strike the ball from within the confines of the sidelines (but not necessarily behind the baseline)

In high school girls volleyball the top of the net is 7 feet, 4 ΒΌ-inches from the floor, boys use an eight-foot net. The candy-striped antennae sticking up from the sides of the net just above the sidelines are a visual aid for officials to determine whether a serve or potential spike crossed the net inbounds. Any time the ball contacts the antennas a point is given to the team that did not touch the ball directly before the contact.

There must be at least 10 feet (in many cases there is more) of playable space in all directions surrounding the court for teams to attempt to play an errant ball. In that total area there also must be about 23 feet above the ground without obstructions (basketball rims, rafters, dividing screens) for the ball to travel freely. If the ball contacts something in mid-air, the team playing it can contact it again provided they have at least one more hit, if it hits something and goes to the other side, it's a point for the other team.

The rules: The FIVB and USA Volleyball rulebooks are about as long as War and Peace, so I won't bore you with the details of rule 4.5.1 - just the basics so that you'll know what and who is going where and why.

Two refs and two linesmen officiate the action: One official, the "up official" watches from a platform above the net while the "down official" is across the court and watches from near the standard. The up official is in charge, can overrule anyone else, and watches primarily action at the net. The down official makes sure both teams are in proper rotation and action at the net. The linesmen stand kitty-corner from each other and watch for boundary calls, serving faults and touches on blocks.

At its most basic, teams have three touches to get the ball across the net and try to down the ball within the opponents court space. Volleyball uses "Rally Scoring" format, meaning that every time the ball is served a point is scored - except in the case of a snafu which would result in a replay, you'll know this has happened if the up official gives a double thumbs up. Points are scored when the ball hits the ground - if the ball hits inside the boundaries of the court, the team on the other side scores. If the ball lands out of bounds the team that did not touch it last is awarded a point.

Some common violations:

Double contact: If a player touches the ball twice in a row. This is mainly called on players trying to set the ball. It's pretty easy to tell when this happens - the ball will have more spin if a player has tried to set but had one hand hit it just before the other. The up official will indicate a double by making the peace sign.

Lift: Pretty self-explanatory. The ball must be struck with a quick motion if that part of the body is underneath the ball at the time of contact. A player may, however, "throw" the ball on the attack - that is manipulate it without making quick contact (this looks a lot like palming) over their head. The up official will signify this by turning their palm up.

Net contact: No player can touch the net at any time. If they do, the other team gets the ball and point. This can be called by the up or down official and is signified by the official motioning toward the net on the side it occurred, then the number of the player will be shown by fingers.

Next week: Strategy

September 13, 2008
CBS comes on strong to beat No. 6 Burbank

Burbank coach John Heffernan says his players got a wake-up call.
Christian Brothers coach Andre Johansen said his players got a nice reward for all that hard work in the hot sun.
That was the assessment after Saturday's nonleague opener that unranked Christian Brothers won 28-18 in Oak Park.
The Falcons' depth - something they have lacked in the past - and some exceptional conditioning worked heavily in their favor in the upset of the No. 6 Titans.
CBS had only five rushing yards in the first half and held a precarious 8-6 lead. But even in the first two quarters, Burbank players were cramping in droves in the 90-degree heat. By the second half, conditions took their toll.
CBS backs Josh Tucker and Marcus McDaniel ran for a combined 185 yards behind their steamrolling offensive line, anchored by 290-pound Cal-Hi Sports Preseason All-Section tackle Matt McCarthy.
Ball control and five Burbank turnovers forced the Titans to play from behind the entire game, despite gaining 328 yards in total offense.
"We got served up a little humble pie," Heffernan said. "We have a lot of kids going both ways and on special teams so that was part of the problem with the cramping. But we're not in as good a shape as we should be. We preach all the time about taking care of the body, drinking fluids and eating right, but it doesn't always sink in."
Burbank senior quarterback Miles Freeman had some nice plays in passing for 158 yards and two touchdowns and adding another 54 yards rushing. But he also was intercepted three times (by McDaniel, Dylan Orr and Cory Crowder) and fumbled once in the end zone (recovered by Ekena Anya-Gafu).
"We made too many mistakes and they capitalized," Heffernan said. "But even as poorly as we played, we still had a chance to win it down the stretch."
Johansen was pleased with his defense because arguably the the Falcons' top defender, senior linebacker Daniel Cox, was out with an ankle injury.
"We're playing better defense than we have in the past, so we're feeling good about that," Johansen said.
CBS, which was 5-6 last season, lost 22-20 to Burbank in the D-II section playoffs. So this was a good start for Johansen's crew.
"I wouldn't be surprised if we see each other in 10 weeks (during the playoffs)," Johansen said. "They are big and physical, so they were a big test for us."
An exhausted Tucker, who played on both sides of the ball and special teams, agreed.
"We knew that conditioning would be the big advantage when we saw them already cramping in the first half," the senior said. "But don't take anything away from Burbank. They are a great team. They have great players across the board."
But McDaniel, who rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns and had an interception, said that beating the defending Metro Conference champions means the Falcons deserve some props. He says it's time for The Bee to give CBS a Top-20 ranking.
"The newspaper is going to do what it does," he said. "But we felt we should have been in in there (the preseason Top 20). We're not going to let it ruin our season. Besides, this is one of those games where Sac knows where we're at."
Although the Falcons had most of the highlights, the Titans' Anthony Larry had an exceptional game on both sides of the ball.
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound senior defensive end-wide receiver dropped Falcon runners behind the line four times and he had three catches for 111 yards, including one for 81 yards and another a 21-yard touchdown where he soared high above his defender to snag the ball.

September 13, 2008
Amazing atmosphere for Pleasant Grove-Franklin

Frank Lucia has seen this sort of feel and flavor before at Cosumnes River College.

When he was the principal at Valley in the 1990s, the Vikings often sported some of the most athletic, entertaining and prolific outfits in the region, when Dave Hoskins, Mel Fontes, Rich Swan, Russ Sommers, Rick Messer and Rick Swan were coaching and Damen Wheeler, Jeremiah Pharms and a host of others were dominating play.

Valley attracted over-flow crowds with CRC its home stadium in a rousing show of support. It was proof that it wasn't just Elk Grove in the district that could draw such a gathering.

On Friday night in a season opener, two of the newer schools in the region - Pleasant Grove (and principal Lucia) and Franklin played in front of an overflow crowd at CRC, home of Franklin. The snack bars were jammed. Students actually stayed off their cell phones and socialized and watched the game. Parents wore the jerseys of their sons. People lined the stadium when seating in the bleachers was full.

It could be the kickoff to a nice neighborhood rivalry, and the large crowd on both sides is further proof that the programs have not only come of age as teams but as programs in general.

September 13, 2008
Herd impressive in opener

Chris Nixon was triumphant in his Elk Grove coaching debut, beating Chavez of Stockton 29-8, and if there was a refreshing surprise in the results, it was this: The defense stood tall.

N. 4 Elk Grove returned all of one starter this season from its 12-1 bunch that reached the City Championship and lost a hearbreaker to eventual Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champion Napa.

Chavez is as skilled and fast and athletic a team as there is in the valley. It was more experienced coming in with a wealth of returning starters, so the Thundering Herd prevailing on the road behind quarterback Zach Miller and the versatile Brandon Soohoo makes for an impressive opening act for Nixon, an offensive genuis of sorts who wasn't sure how sturdy and reliable his defense would be. It's plenty good, coach.

September 13, 2008
Miners on the rebound?

Dave Humphers promised better days.

The Nevada Union coach suffered through his worst season last fall, a 4-6 spin out (and 3-7 if you don't include the forfeit loss to Franklin of Stockton). The wing-T fooled no one. The defense didn't make enough stops. There were injuries and inexperience.

But in Grass Valley, football is a way of life and the Miners were bound to recover. They showed as much in a season opener on Friday in Shingle Springs, downing No. 10 Ponderosa 15-14.

Quarterback Jantz Broughton is a leader, the defense was sound, and there was spirited play throughout.

But one thing, please. Stop complaining. Prep players love to point to the media as being down on their product, using any measure of motivation for their cause. Bottom line: Produce. The Miners did not win last season. Ranking them in the preseason was a reach in the view of many. Keep winning, lads, and the respect follows.

September 12, 2008
Granite Bay is among state bowl favorites

Question: If Granite Bay's football team goes undefeated and wins another section championship, what is the possibility the Grizzlies would be in the state bowl game?
-Troy Daniels, Granite Bay

Answer: I'd say that the odds would be good because many believe that the Sac-Joaquin Section's Division II playoffs are as tough, top-to-bottom, as any in Northern California and a team that wins back-to-back section titles would merit strong consideration. Still, there are no guarantees, especially with Granite Bay being in a loaded Division I field for state bowl consideration. Those schools that could possibly spoil it for the Grizzlies with unbeaten seasons include St. Mary's of Stockton and Bellarmine of San Jose.

September 12, 2008
Thundering Herd gets plenty of respect

Question: What is the Thundering Herd's ranking for 2008? Do they have a chance of going to a state playoff game? And why don't they get as much respect as Grant, Nevada Union and Jesuit?
-Leo Heredia, Sacramento

Answer: The Herd is ranked No. 4 in our first Top 20 poll, a rating earned on their impressive 12-1 finish last season. While the Herd should be in the running for the Delta Valley Conference title, they return only one starter and new coach Chris Nixon says: "We are GREEN. Environmentalists will love us." The offseason coaching upheval didn't help, although Nixon appears to have been the right choice when Jeff Carlson was snubbed for the job. Because of this, however, I don't think the Thundering Herd will win the D-I title this season, a requirement to be considered for a state bowl game. As far as respect, Elk Grove football takes a backseat to no one. The only question the Thundering Herd has faced in recent years is that their preseason schedule wasn't nearly as tough as those played by Grant, NU and Jesuit. That won't be the case this year. Elk Grove will be tested by both Inderkum and Del Oro in the preseason.


September 12, 2008
Extra duties for small El Dorado football staff

New El Dorado High School varsity football coach Rick Redding has one of the smaller area coaching staffs.
But he isn't complaining because he's got two former head coaches among his three assistants: Mike Thomas, who coached at Oak Ridge and Marty Sherin, who coached at El Dorado.
Redding also has former Cougars' star Taylor Duncan pitching in.
"We're all wearing a lot of different hats," Redding said. "Ideally, we'd like to get two or three more coaches for the varsity. But we've got a great group."
Thomas is the defensive coordinator; Sherin works with quarterbacks, defensive backs and special teams; and Duncan works both the offensive and defensive lines. Redding is the offensive coordinator and helps Duncan with the line.
"It's hard to coach on both sides of the ball," Redding said. "Ideally you'd like to have separate offensive and defensive staffs."
One staffing issue Redding doesn't have to worry about is the freshman team.
The man he replaced as varsity coach, Rob Pifferini, is running the freshman team this fall. Pifferini stepped down from the varsity at the end of last season to spend more time with his family.
"Rob put a lot of time effort into the program the last five years," Redding said. "He wanted to take a break but stay involved in a lower-stress situation. He's going to give our freshmen a great foundation."
El Dorado will play host to neighboring rival Union Mine tonight.
"It's a big one," Redding said. "I think they're going to shut the town down at 3 o'clock for this one."

September 11, 2008
Jesuit, a QB factory over the years, now braces for QB ace

Jesuit has produced its share of fabulous quarterbacks over the years, and it's a list worthy of mention and appreciation.

Behold...there was:
* Ken O'Brien (prep days were a warm-up to his UC Davis and NFL career).
* Greg Harcos (led Marauders to first ever playoff berth in 1988).
* Gio Carmazzi (willed Big Red to the program's first "great" season, a 12-1 run in 1993, and was carried off the field after gutty mud-game victories at Hughes Stadium).
* J.T. O'Sullivan (helped Marauders win first Sac-Joaquin Section title in 1995 to cap a 13-0-1 season).
* C.J Bacher (a section champion and now a record-setter at Northwestern).
* Dominic Carmazzi (second son of Jesuit coach Dan Carmazzi is now on scholarship at Sacramento State after throwing just one interception in 2007).

Now Jesuit prepares for a top arm.

In a season opener in Stockton, the Marauders face perhaps the best passer in the Sac-Joaquin Section. Maybe all of Northern California. Say hello to Cody Vaz, a 3,000-yard peformer a year ago when he steered St. Mary's to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I title game against Napa (where the Rams fell to another fine QB in Bee Player of the Year John Boyett in a classic battle of scholarship talents).

Bound for Oregon State, where he will some day face off against Boyett and the Oregon Ducks, Vaz is a great challenge for a young Marauders defense that will surely be on their heals. Vaz will throw it a good 35 times a game. He is polished, he is poised, he is the ultimate prep weapon. And his coach - Tony Franks - is from the UCD school of aerial attack (so, too, is coach Carmazzi).

A Jesuit triumph - it beat the Rams in an opener last season - will provide a tremendous boost for a program curious to see how it breaks in such a young roster. And maybe, the Marauders unveil their next great arm in the process. .

September 11, 2008
More Top 15 shakeups in volleyball as No. 12 Union Mine downs No. 6 Golden Sierra

Rankings are a funny thing. They give fans something to look forward to. A way to judge their team against others. The Bee's Top 15 volleyball ranking seeks to serve the same purpose, but it is a work in progress.

On one hand, it paints an accurate picture of where the power is in the region, on the other, there have been a lot of "upsets" -- lower ranked teams beating higher ones. First then-No. 3 Christian Brothers took down then-top-ranked St. Francis. Previously unranked El Dorado followed suit by taking down two ranked teams in one week. Now, on Thursday night, No. 12 Union Mine swept No. 6 Golden Sierra 25-12, 25-17, 25-16 in a match that wasn't even that close.

Golden Sierra (1-3), in a rebuilding year with only two seniors, showed signs of promise, but was kept out of system all night by tough serves from the Diamondbacks, particularly junior libero Kyndall Kordakis, who was sporting a green and white jersey (similar to league rival Ponderosa's uniform) instead of Union Mine's traditional maroon and navy.

"My nickname is Pondo," Kordakis quipped. "I'm getting a new jersey, these aren't good colors."

While Union Mine (3-0) was playing in just its third match on the books, head coach Mike Yates pointed out that his team, while also very young, has played in two scrimmage tournaments and had more chances to come together. Which is good, considering the Diamondbacks are trying to break through in the toughest league in the area, the Sierra Valley Conference.

"Any one of five teams could win our league and go far," Yates said, "in a seven-team league!"

Golden Sierra, while in a weaker Golden Empire League, still have their proud history to protect as the Grizzlies have made the Section D-IV playoffs each of the last eight years, winning three titles, two NorCal titles and two NorCal runner-ups.

"We have a lot of inexperience right now," Grizzlies coach Justin Cox said. "Returning players trying to do too much, young players not doing enough.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us."

September 11, 2008
Jesuit soccer ranked fifth nationally

Jesuit (6-0) is No. 5 and Davis (3-0) No. 12 in the first National Soccer Coaches Association of America fall boys soccers rankings. Jesuit defeated Oregon powers Jesuit-Portland 2-0 and Central Catholic 4-0 in Portland last weekend.
Rockhurst (1-0) of Kansas City, Mo., is the No. 1 team.
In the NSCAA's Region VIII rankings, which includes teams from six western states, Jesuit is No. 1, Davis No. 2 and Vintage of Napa No. 7.

September 11, 2008
Grant's tremendous talent covers flaws

The Grant High School football team deserves credit for its impressive 45-14 victory over Montgomery in Santa Rosa last week.

The No. 2-ranked Pacers collected 348 yards of total offense and was flawless on their first drive, going 80 yards in 12 plays and scoring on second-string quarterback's Glenn Deary's 17-yard touchdown pass to Darvin McCauley.

The big surprise, however, were the Pacers committing just six penalties for 46 yards in the victory.

Grant has a reputation for producing talented teams. However, it also has a reputation for playing undisciplined at times, committing a lot of penalties and not securing the ball.

Some may not recognize the flaw because the Pacers tremendous talent usually camouflages it.

If the Pacers hope to contend for the Sac-Joaquin Section D-II title and Division I State Championship, they must play mistake-free football.

Championship football teams usually do. So what Grant team will we see this season? The one that played solid against Montgomery. Or the one that plays careless at times?

Quwan Spears

September 11, 2008
Grant coach Mike Alberghini not a fan of state bowl

Mike Alberghini is always a man with a biting opinion.

The longtime Grant coach heaps praise on his young Pacers, especially after an impressive opening-night 45-14 win at Montgomery of Santa Rosa. Grant is big, fast, ferocious and hungry to rebound from an atypical 7-4 showing in 2007. That was the poorest showing in Alberghini's 18 years as head coach. Translated: That's a lot of good living in Del Paso Heights.

True to form, there are always big-picture topics swirling in Alberghini's mind.

Though the Pacers make the overall Division II field all that more formidable since being realigned three years ago, he longs for a return to the D-I ranks, saying, simply, "Oh, absolutely."

The coach is not a fan of the current state bowl format, convinced that if you are not a private school, you have no chance, and that if you don't go unbeaten against a quality schedule, you really don't have a chance.

Alberghini is still bothered that his 13-0 bunch of 2006 was bypassed for more nationally known De La Salle of Concord, a team that seemingly has the inside track for the D-I bowl every season.

"It's silly, the whole bowl thing,'' Alberghini said. "It forces a lot of backward thinking. Do we think we can play in it? Yes. We can play with anyone."

September 10, 2008
How do you pick your top-20 football teams?

Question: Every year, you are able to rank and discuss dozens of area football teams in the preseason. How are you able to make these determinations? Do you use statistics, coaches, or any other inside sources?
-Ben, El Dorado Hills

Answer: As far as our Top 20 is concerned, we don't pull schools out of a hat, nor do we spend countless hours analyzing reams of data. We try to find a middle ground as we put together our poll each week. Joe Davidson, Quwan Spears and myself take the rankings seriously, if only to maintain the Human Touch in light of the growth of computerized rankings such as Maxpreps.com, which we feel have flaws of their own. Coaches recommendations, past performances, personal observations, tradition and, occasionally, gut feelings factor into our picks. As far as how we gather and use information, much is gleaned from coaches' questionnaires, covering games and interviews with area coaches and "insiders" who follow some of the teams and share their insights with us.
- Bill Paterson

September 10, 2008
Volleyball: The Bee's Top 15, week two

Remember the old riddle, if a tree falls in the forest but no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Well, if a top-ranked team is beaten in a match that doesn't count against its overall record, is that team still the best in the area?

The answer here is no.

Christian Brothers went into St. Francis last Thursday night and save for a close first game, handled the Troubadours in a Foundation Games match -- which, since they are a fundraiser for the State CIF scholarship fund, do not count toward overall records. The Bee, however, considers these games for rankings purposes. Especially in this instance. Both teams played their starters the entire way through, except for a brief setter change for St. Francis in game two.

Both coaches and teams played like it did matter. No tinkering with lineups, no experimentation with different attacking/blocking looks, and neither team offered any excuses.

Other highlights from the new list: El Dorado debuts at No. 8 with wins over two ranked teams in the last week, Rocklin and Oak Ridge -- both ranked in the top five last week -- played twice with each winning one and going to the limit, and Roseville is back in the mix after a year out of the rankings.

Here is The Bee's Top 15:

1. Christian Brothers (8-1) - The Falcons swept St. Francis in the Troubadours' own gym last Thursday in their Foundation Games match.

2. St. Francis (4-1) - In addition to tough loss to CBS, the Troubadours went 2-1 in the High Sierra Invitational at Galena (Nev.) High School in Reno. St. Francis' lone loss came to defending Oregon Class 5A state champion Ashland.

3. Rocklin (8-1) - The Thunder lost a tournament (best of three sets) match to Oak Ridge at the Christine Craft Invitational in three sets on Saturday, but came back to beat the Trojans in a thrilling five-game match on Tuesday night.

4. Oak Ridge (9-3) - The Trojans had likely their toughest week of the season, with two matches against Rocklin and a loss to Christian Brothers.

5. Nevada Union (3-1) - Swept Yuba City during the Foundation games and then went 3-1 at the High Sierra Invitational in Galena, Nev. Also swept No. 6 Golden Sierra on Tuesday night.

6. Golden Sierra (1-1) - Beat Bradshaw Christian on Saturday.

7. Davis (1-0) - Rallied from down two games to beat Woodcreek on Tuesday night.

8. El Dorado (5-1) - Posted wins over Bella Vista and Folsom.

9. Bella Vista (6-2) - Lost a five-gamer to No. 8 El Dorado and then went on to run off five straight victories at the Carmichael Invitational on Saturday before losing to eventual champion St. Ignatius-San Francisco.

10. Del Oro (2-2) - Lost to Palo Alto and beat Galena in Reno over the weekend.

11. Folsom (2-2) - The Bulldogs had a busy week, going 2-3, posting wins over Bret Harte and Bradshaw Christian and losing to No. 8 El Dorado, No. 9 Bella Vista and No. 3 Rocklin.

12. Union Mine (2-0) - Swept Casa Roble on Thursday night in their only match of the week.

13. Roseville (3-0) - With longtime head coach Ron Grove back after a year as an assistant at Sac State the Tigers have looked strong in wins against Loretto, Red Bluff and Laguna Creek.

14. Franklin (0-1) - The Wildcats' lone blemish is a loss to Palo Alto last Friday.

15. Rio Americano (0-0) - The Raiders remain idle until a match-up with Mira Loma next Thursday.

(Records through Tuesday; Ranking period Tuesday Sept. 2 - Tuesday Sept. 9)

September 9, 2008
Sac High star's AAU career took off at a young age

Bee boys basketball Player of the Year Chase Tapley helped raise his recruiting stock the past two years by leaving Sacramento and playing in Southern California.

In landing a spot on David and Dana Pump's top AAU team, he received exposure to hundreds of college coaches and scouts during the NCAA's spring and summer evaluation periods.

"If you are not on an elite AAU team, you are not going to be seen," Tapley said. "That why Brendan (Lane) had to leave Sacramento and why X (Xavier Thames) also plays in Southern California."

Lane played with the Fresno based-EPO while Thames was a key player for the Compton Magic this past summer.

Tapley said he got seen at the Double Pump Camp and made the Pump brothers' No. 2 team last year. But he played well enough to move up to the No. 1 squad to play with Jrue Holiday and other top Southern California stars before the summer was out.

"It takes a little courage and some risk," Tapley said of playing on a larger stage. "You are going to be nervous but in the long run you know it's going to benefit you."

Still, Tapley has fond memories of his first AAU team, the Junior Pocket Kings that he started playing with as a third grader.

Teammates included Rio Americano's Kyle Oddister, Darren Payne and Pierce Burton; former Sac High teammate Kyle Allen; and Kennedy's Ade Akinsanya and Jesuit's Amobi Okugo, both of whom have earned more recognition as members of their respective USA Men's U-18 and U-20 National Team soccer pools.

"That was fun," Tapley said. "In our first trip to the nationals we played well. We showed them that Sacramento could play some ball."
-Bill Paterson

September 5, 2008
What football team will win the D-II section title?

Question: Who is the favorite in Division II football this season? Is it defending champ Granite Bay, which also has a very talented senior group; traditional powerhouse Del Oro; Grant, which always produces talent, or some other school?
- Jon, Sacramento

Answer: Since they are defending champions, you have to give the edge to coach Ernie Cooper's Granite Bay Grizzlies. But it should be pointed out that in what is easily the strongest division in the section, there has been a different champion (Oak Ridge, 2004; Del Oro, 2005; Grant, 2006; and Granite Bay, 2007) the last four years. So in addition to those familiar front-of-the-pack schools mentioned above, watch out for Burbank from the Metro, Christian Brothers and Ponderosa from the Sierra Valley Conference; and Roseville, Rocklin and Woodcreek from the Sierra Foothill League.

-- Bill Paterson

September 5, 2008
What's up with Cordova sports?

Question: I grew up in Rancho and graduated from Cordova High School in 1986. I haven't really paid much attention to sports down there over the past bunch of years, so I was blown away to see that there weren't any Lancers that have signed letters to continue sports in college, and you don't show any Cordova teams in your top 20 rankings. What has happened with that school? I remember back in the 1970s and 1980s, Ron Lancaster and then Max Miller in football and baseball's Guy Anderson and others always had a few kids on each team that were heavily recruited. What happened to the talent pool?
- Ken Hill, Juneau, Alaska

Answer: In a nutshell, Mather Air Force base closed and the area has also undergone huge demographic changes. The community is not nearly as stable as it once was. Miller came back and resurrected the football program for a short while -- the Lancers made the D-II finals in 2003 and had big-time recruits a few years back in running back James Montgomery, now at Washington State, and wide receiver Carl Moore, now at Florida. Guy Anderson is one of the nation's winningest coaches but the baseball victories and the talent aren't as prevalent these days as in the past, in part because of declining youth feeder programs. Top players appear to be going to other schools. Tennessee girls basketball standout Vicki Baugh was a Lancer for a season -- before transferring to Sacramento High as a sophomore.

-- Bill Paterson

September 5, 2008
Best girls basketball players in 2008-09 will be juniors

I know we're gearing up for an exciting football season. But it's never too late to talk basketball, specifically girls' hoops. The upcoming season promises to be another thrilling season thanks to top players like seniors forward Melody Khlok of Kennedy and senior center Cheyenne Cathey of Sheldon.

But the best players in the area and Sac-Joaquin Section will be juniors. Leading the way is 6-foot-2 center Erica Barnes of Sacramento High. After strong performances in some of the nation's top AAU summer tournaments, Barnes has emerged as top-notch recruit. In fact, it has been reported Barnes has received interests from several schools, including UConn and Georgia.

Others juniors to watch entering next season, include some of Barnes' Sac High teammates, guard-forward Brittany Shine and forward-center Kyra Dunn. Both are becoming solid college prospects as well as McClatchy guard Ariel Thomas, Sara James of Oak Ridge, and St Mary's of Stockton stars Afure Jemerigbe and Chelsea Gray.

---Quwan Spears

September 5, 2008
Where's The Bee's 100 best coaches?

Question: Whatever happened to The Bee's attempt to list the best 100 coaches in the area? I believe this was asked of the readers a couple of years ago. I nominated Mike McIntee, the Jesuit golf coach and Greg LeMaster, the Pierce High football coach and Northern Section Commissioner. I never saw any results. Were the results ever tabulated and reported?
- Kent Myers, Yuba City

Answer: I have been told that that project has been on hold but might be resurrected at some point.

-- Bill Paterson


September 5, 2008
Where's the MEL?

Question: Has The Bee decided to leave the Monticello Empire League and Solano County Athletic Conference out of its high school football rankings? Will this be reflected in other sports as well, including wrestling?
- Ray, Vacaville

Answer: Yes, we no longer will be including MEL schools in our sports rankings or on our all-Metro teams. We haven't included the SCAC since the end of the 2005 school year. Because of economic and strategic issues that all newspapers are facing these days, the Bee is re-evaluating and refocusing how to best deploy limited resources. So our core coverage will be on the growing Sacramento area.

-- Bill Paterson

September 4, 2008
No. 3 Christian Brothers unseats No. 1 St. Francis in volleyball

St. Francis' reign at the top of the Bee's area Top 15 ranking lasted one day.

Christian Brothers, led by senior middle blocker Kayla Neto's eight kills and junior outside hitter Erika Cuevas' seven, went into St. Francis gym and came away with a 3-0 (26-24, 25-21, 25-19) victory in a Sac-Joaquin Section Foundation Games match on Tuesday night.

"We played tentative tonight," St. Francis head coach Alynn Wright said. "This is just what we needed, it exposed a lot of our flaws."

The Foundation Games are a scholarship fundraiser and do not count toward the teams' overall records or power ratings. The Bee does, however, use results for rankings purposes. St. Francis (1-0) entered the match ranked No. 1 in the area, while Christian Brothers (6-1) was No. 3. Both were listed in prepvolleyball.com's Top 100 as being "on the bubble."

The Falcons trailed in the first set 24-21 before a Neto kill on the slide made the score 24-22 and put junior outside hitter Whitney Swain on the service line. Swain's tough jump floater kept the Troubadours out of system and allowed Christian Brothers to run off four straight to claim the first set.

"You just have to stay focused back there," said Swain of serving in pressure situations. "You can't worry about the ball going out or into the net."

St. Francis led the second set 13-7 early but again, let the lead slip away with six unforced errors the rest of the way.

"We had control and then we got careless," Wright said. "Momentum is everything in this game and once you've lost it, it's hard to get back."

Christian Brothers never trailed in the third set and rode the arms of Cuevas and junior middle blocker Katie Hoekman to close out the sweep.

"I'm decently happy," Christian Brothers coach Jeff Deter said. "We still have a lot of room for improvement.

"St. Francis is a very good squad."

The only other time these two teams could run into each other is tournament play as St. Francis plays in the Delta River League and Christian Brothers calls the Sierra Valley Conference home. Saint Francis is in Division II for playoff play while Christian Brothers is in Division IV.

Assuming no slip-ups, Christian Brothers will be ranked No. 1 when the next Bee poll is published on Thursday.

September 4, 2008
High school sports world is getting smaller

With more and more media outlets covering high school sports: one thing comes to mind. The high school sports world is getting smaller. High school athletes were rarely in the consciousness of sports fans 20 years ago. Today, you can find tons of data on them. In fact, some prep athletes are as popular as some college players.

Take Matt Barkley of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana for example. The senior quarterback is already the most celebrated high school football player in the country. He earned the 2007 football Gatorade National Player of the Year Award. Rivals.com rates him the top overall college prospect in the nation for the Class of 2009. Last season, he passed for 3,576 yards and 35 touchdowns, completing 63 percent of his passes. He has verbally committed to USC.

I wonder if people knew as much information on John Elway when he played at Granada Hills High School in Southern California in the late 1970s, as people know about Barkley. I seriously doubt it.

Millions of people got a chance to see Barkley play against Carson on ESPN2 Wednesday. I wonder if Elway had a nationally televised game in high school.

At the rate things are going, I would not be surprise if we start knowing about junior high school athletes before they enter high school.

-- Quwan Spears


September 4, 2008
Roseville football coach decries too many preseason games

Roseville High football coach Larry Cunha says playing a tough preseason schedule is fine.

But the focus this year for his No. 8 Tigers, which he says has the potential to be better than last year's 8-2 group that missed the playoffs, will be on the Sierra Foothill League.

"I think we have too many nonleague games," Cunha explained at the annual kickoff brunch Sunday sponsored by the National Football Foundation's Sacramento Valley Chapter. "Last year we had a preseason schedule in which we beat five teams that all went to the playoffs. But we wound up having to buy a ticket."

The SFL, the section's strongest league regardless of division, only got two D-II playoff spots in 2007 while the Metro Conference and the Sierra Valley Conference got three apiece.

D-II section champion Granite Bay and runner-up Del Oro, both winners over Roseville, landed the SFL's top two spots.

A number of area coaches have long advocated for a power-ratings system to reward the strongest teams with postseason berths. Cunha also is a power-ratings supporter but favors a hybrid in which each league's top two finishers automatically qualify but the remaining two berths in the eight-team field are power-rated.

Last season, if the section used the MaxPreps.com computer ratings system that is based on league and overall schedule strengths, Roseville would have reached the postseason on their No. 5 regular-season ranking among section teams at all levels.
So would have No. 3 Del Oro, No. 9 Granite Bay and No. 10 Rocklin (which also finished 8-2) from the SFL. They would have joined No. 11 Ponderosa and No. 22 Oak Ridge from the SVC and No. 13 Grant and No. 17 Burbank from the Metro. No. 33 Christian Brothers and No. 47 Sac High would have stayed home.

But since the section uses a predetermined playoff format, going unbeaten this season against preseason opponents Rio Linda, No. 3 Pleasant Grove, No. 11 Franklin, Woodland and Pioneer, will be meaningless for the Tigers if they can't win in league. This season the SFL will get three playoff berths.

"This year it's all about the SFL," Cunha said. "It's the toughest league in our section, bar none."
-Bill Paterson

September 2, 2008
Oak Ridge volleyball looks good against formidable Del Oro

Becky Potter's Sacramento-area coaching debut was a successful one as the Auburn native led Oak Ridge into Del Oro and left with a 3-1 (25-19, 25-9, 20-25, 25-18) victory in a non-league match on Tuesday night.

Oak Ridge jumped out to big leads in game one (5-0) and game two (12-2) en route to easy victories behind the arms of sophomore outside hitter Katie Vaughn and rightside hitter Kayleigh Durket.

Del Oro (0-1) looked every bit like a team playing in its first match while Oak Ridge (5-1), which played in a tournament in Clovis over Labor Day weekend, was able to stay in system more consistently thanks to good ball control from the back row.

Once the Golden Eagles got rolling, however, they showed that they can do some real damage. Del Oro took game three and threatened early in game four behind tough jump serving from sophomore middle Aly Duffin which put Oak Ridge on its heels. Meanwhile, Del Oro's serve receive and freeball passing stabilized, enabling to senior setter Jess Lehner to mix up the offense and confuse the Trojans' blockers. Lehner had particular success setting Kelsey Mooney out of the pipe, Duffin on the slide and mixing in her own array of dumps and dinks.

"We showed that we can generate offense - we have the hitters," Del Oro coach Stuart Kageta said. "We just couldn't run anything for most of the night."

Vaughn led all players with 11 kills while Duffin posted 10. Both teams will be ranked in The Bee's initial Top 15 which will appear in print on Thursday.

Del Oro finished third behind Nevada Union and Rocklin in a very tough Sierra Foothill League last season but this year could challenge if the defense comes around. Oak Ridge tied for second in the Sierra Valley Conference but Potter is preparing the Trojans for a slugfest in league this year with the likes of Christian Brothers, defending champion Ponderosa and up-and-coming Union Mine.

That's all for now, look for The Bee's girls volleyball preview on the cover of the sports section on Thursday and coverage from a key Foundation Games match-up of St. Francis and Christian Brothers on Thursday night.



About the Prep blog

Bee staff writers Joe Davidson and Bill Paterson provide news, analysis and insight on the area high school sports scene in their Prep Blog. Have a question to ask them? Send them an email any time at jdavidson@sacbee.com or bpaterson@sacbee.com.

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