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Area teams volley in Hamilton City
They came from far and wide and represented Divisions 4-6, as a total of 10 teams took Hamilton High up on their invitation to play in the three-day Lady Braves Invitational over the weekend in Hamilton City.
Corning High and Live Oak were the two teams there from D-4; Hamilton, Quincy and Liberty Christian participated from D-5; and Princeton, Elk Creek, Mercy and Pierce were the D-6 entrants.
The tournament concluded with 11 different matches on Saturday, and the Lady Braves once again kept the tourney hardware at home with a 25-22, 25-23 victory over Gridley.
Elk Creek was easily the smallest school playing in the tournament, with some of the teams having almost as many players on their bench for their matches as the Lady Elks have on their entire seven-player roster.
The order of play on Saturday was not always optimal for some of the teams, but they still gave it their best. Princeton drew the 8 a.m. game and then had to sit for two games before taking the court again. Elk Creek didn't have to get up quite as early as Princeton did, but they played two straight matches after the Eagles' 8 a.m. wake-up call.
Some teams competed to win, while others were just happy to use the competition to hone their skills for the arduous league seasons that are soon to begin.
Elk Creek's Kayleen Swearinger put things in perspective when she explained, "We're out here to have fun. We don't have a lot of experience, but we're doing our best and having fun doing it."
That fun was evidenced by the smiles on the faces of the Lady Elks, whether the ball they just struck landed for a point, landed out of bounds or wound up in the net.
Maryssa Martin from Princeton saw real positives from playing larger schools. "I think it's a nice opportunity to play against the bigger schools," she said, "it benefits us once we get to league from having played them."
Pierce finished in seventh place, and while they may have wanted to make a stronger showing, Ellen Hansen shared her glass-half-full philosophy when she exclaimed, "We should have won more games, but going 3-2 is better than 2-3."
There were iPods and school books that came out in between games, but there was also plenty of time for the girls to just enjoy the tournament experience and further bond with their teammates.
"I think we're coming together as a team," said Corning's Rachel Bentz. "We're getting to know each other in between games and on the court. We're young, but its also good experience watching other teams."
Mercy's Kayce Kemp considered the tournament a quest for the consistency that could possibly carry the Warriors back to the section championship game.
"Tourney by tourney, play by play, we try to be consistent. We always want the chemistry, and while we lost a few to graduation, we have some new players and a transfer stepping in."
And as for Hamilton coach Erin Johnson, who when she wasn't busy coaching the Braves to the title was filling in the bracket or even emptying out garbage cans, she's probably just breathing a sigh of relief that it's over.
CONTACT Craig Purcell at 824-1036 or email@example.com.