Hard work and commitment make dreams come true for local boys volleyball team
By Lisa Catterall
This year’s boys season Main Beach fielded only four teams, taking every player who wanted to play. Nevertheless, we managed to earn not one, but two, team bids to the USA Volleyball National Championship. The 18’s team finished 2nd in the Far Western Bid Tournament and the 16’s finished 3rd. What was the secret?
Assistant coach of the 16’s team, Alison Ota stated, “Overall, we had a great season and in the end it’s their comradery and fun energy that got us to where we are.” The parents seemed to agree, making comments that described this team as having more fun and “goofy energy” than any other team.
The coaches, however, also began with high expectations. They asked the boys to find out what it was like to train as a top-level team. 16’s head coach Justin Bates stated, “Allison and I believe that setting roles, expectations, and goals early allowed us to stay on track throughout our season. This group of boys has a great bond that their passion for the sport has created.” The boys practiced for hours, coming in early and leaving late, on weekends and holidays.
Many of the boys on both teams have known each other as long as they have been playing sports. Some of them met in preschool. Sports connections between team members began in their first youth soccer leagues as long as eight years ago. And in a town with a small pool of youth athletes, the connection endured through the years.
Director Tina Pendleton moved club practices to the south of Santa Cruz county with the idea of attracting players from the less affluent town of Watsonville. In the spirit of community, a parent stepped in and donated league fees to bring players in who would change the demographic of the boys’ division. “I’ve lived in Santa Cruz county for thirteen years, and I’ve noticed that there are not many opportunities for kids from Santa Cruz and kids from Watsonville to come together in positive ways. I think we created that opportunity in our club this season,” said director Pendleton.
The players themselves are humbled and excited. Many have spent formative years of their lives on the sport, and this is an achievement they will never forget. “I have been playing for four years and this is the first time I’ve been on a team that got a bid. Our team has a chance at the Nationals because we have good chemistry,” said 16’s setter Leonardo Tuncer. Libero Owen Kusz stated, “This team has been like family for the five months we have been playing together. We grew closer as a team and we have pushed each other beyond our limits. My coaches have been the best mentors and leaders you can find!”
Main Beach Boys will warm up for the Nationals at the Boys’ Far Westerns in Anaheim in mid June and make their bid for the national title in Reno June 27-30.