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Tawa’s Daily Dots: The “randomizer” makes for fun notes, catching up with old contacts

Daily Dots (May 10, 2021): Club or high school volleyball factoids, notions and ideas to impress your friends (or not)

• I am writing today’s Daily Dots from my basement. My wife is in the next room doing her work (she’s the managing editor of a legal publishing company). Seated next to her is my son Jordy, a 16-year-old junior, doing online school. Casey (freshman WR at Rice University) will be home soon after PT on his injured foot and a workout.

We are all gathered below deck because, upstairs, carpets are being removed, cabinets are being refinished and new pain is happening everywhere. It’s a crazy time of upheaval in the Tawa household!

• Because of that, I decided to do something a little different today for Dots: I randomized my telephone’s contact list and made a pledge to call those who came up to see what’s going on in their lives volleyball wise. It turned out to be great fun as well as eye opening.

My first call went to Chris Lamb, the head coach at Wichita State University. “Lambo” had just come from Maize South High School, where he was picking up his freshman daughter, Sydney, to take her home. No, the school day was not over for most kids; but it was over for her, because she’d played at the Colorado Crossroads Qualifier in Denver over the weekend.

On Thursday, the day before Crossroads began, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) added Colorado to its travel quarantine list. The state now requires anyone who traveled to Colorado to quarantine for between 7-10 days upon returning to the state unless fully vaccinated.

Many teams were already in Colorado when the order was issued. Others driving there turned around and did not attend the tournament.

Sydney, a libero for Shockwave Adidas 15 Sean, which tied for 17th in 15 Open, was particularly frustrated to be pulled out of school. She said her team tested for Covid beforehand, wore masks, socially distanced and followed all protocols to minimize the risk of getting or transmitting the virus.

“We did all of these things and none of it mattered,” she said.

• Lambo also told me about his current 2021 recruiting class.  He’s been at Wichita State for 21 years and this is the first time he hasn’t had any incoming recruits. With current seniors retaining their eligibility, he could not sign any in the Class of 2021 and keep his seniors. So he kept his seniors.

“We didn’t send out any National Letters of Intent for the first time in my life,” he said.

After the season ended – the Shockers went 9-8 – Wichita State did have someone leave, so Lamb is now looking for a transfer or a foreign player … someone who can help his roster.

• The randomizer next landed on Julie Ibieta, who is the head coach at Metairie Park Country Day, the Louisiana small-school volleyball power. Ibieta also has an ownership interest in NOLA, a club whose 17s team had a terrific Lone Star Qualifier a couple of weeks ago. NOLA Kasey/Jesse 17 went 5-3 in 17 Open in Dallas, including wins over national No. 3 Drive Nation 17-Red and No. 6 Adversity G16 Adidas.

“This team has played together for a long time,” Ibieta said. “Most aspire to play in college.”

The team has one player currently committed: Setter Kate Baker, who was recently named Louisiana’s Gatorade POY, is headed to LSU to play beach. Several more will soon commit, including phenomenal athlete Nia Washington, a six-rotation outside; Olivia Stant, an outside who will have options both indoor and beach; 6-3 sophomore Ellie Schneider, who’s coming into her own and becoming a force at the net; and standout libero Brooke Couret.

NOLA, which has won everything in its few local playdates, started its travel schedule at MEQ in Louisville and didn’t fare well, going 2-5 in 17 Open. The Lone Star effort – the team finished one set from a bid – showcased more what this team can do. It will head to Red Rock Rave this weekend in search of a bid.

• The randomizer picked Scott Mattera next. Mattera, who coached Our Lady of the Lake University to a conference title in his second year as head coach, wanted to talk about long-term dreams. Mattera has always thought about coaching volleyball at a deeper level than most and he’s interested in sharing what he knows. 

“Part of my dream is to coach coaches at some point,” he said.

Mattera recently bought land in Montana and hopes one day to turn his property into a coaches retreat. The plan isn’t fully formed, he admits, but the idea is to get coaches to Montana for knowledge sharing, fellowship and all the recreation (hiking, fishing, boating, golf) that Montana has to offer.

• Mattera also talked about “healthy stress.” The subject came up because of a conversation he’d conducted earlier that day with one of his current players.

“The strain between where you are and where you want to be is what makes life worth living,” he said. “If we have no stress maybe we’re not caring enough.”

Mattera added that he recently started both Instagram and TikTok pages — @morethanwinsvb – where he gives volleyball tips. Worth a follow if you ask me!

Teresa Garza

• The randomizer found AVA of Texas founder Katy Garza next. Garza, who admitted she’s a mom first, talked about her daughter, Teresa, who has signed to play outside hitter for the University of Wyoming. Teresa, who is just shy of 6-0, graduated from Alvin HS, her mom’s alma mater, in December after a volleyball career in which she’s played every position on the floor at some point.

“I’m excited to see her go off to Wyoming,” Katy said. “I’m looking forward to seeing her spread her wings.”

Teresa plans to wear No. 17 in Laramie. She wanted to wear No. 34 – that was the number her late father, Ray, wore while playing baseball at Sam Houston State – but the numbers don’t go that high. The number 17, half of her father’s number, will honor her dad, who passed away in 2019 at age 47 from the effects of a motorcycle accident many years earlier.

Teresa is going to report to Wyoming a few days late in order to be a support player at Junior Nationals in Las Vegas. A young senior, she’s going to play for the 17s team, which earned an American bid at Regionals. Teresa’s 18s team didn’t do so well at 18s Nationals in Columbus. She feels like there is unfinished business at the club level.

• I talked to Amy Schlauder next. Schlauder just celebrated her 35th birthday and, five weeks ago, welcomed daughter Aleah. Aleah joins four-year-old son, Cassius. I covered Schlauder when she was a superstar high school setter at Durango High School in Vegas. Very little warms my heart than watching players I covered go on to have happy, fulfilled lives.

Schlauder broke the news that she resigned as head coach at her alma mater less than a month ago to spend more time with her kids. In her last full tear with the Trailblazers, Durango, a doormat in the years after she graduated, almost won state!
“We would have had a good chance this year to win it all,” she said, noting that Covid caused Nebraska’s season to be wiped out.

Schlauder, whose career record during eight years at Durango was 138-107, will remain active in volleyball even without her high school coaching duties. She runs the Durango Fall Classic with Bob Kelly, is media and marketing manager for Sykora Academy, a second year club with teams in the 12s-16s age groups this year. And she and Stacy Sykora will be camp directors this summer for the Nike Volleyball Camp Las Vegas.

• Longtime East Troy (Wisconsin) head coach Jeremy Weis was the next person the randomizer identified. East Troy last won state in 2018, when current senior, lefty RS Katie Winkler, was a sophomore just coming into her own. Weis, who has no children of his own, says that one of his pastimes is traveling with his wife of seven years to watch former players play in college. They are particularly close to M.E. Dodge, the former defensive specialist at Wisconsin, who played this past year on the beach at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and have been twice to Texas to see her play.

Winkler has signed to attend Seton Hall University. Perhaps there’s a trip to New Jersey in the Weis’ futures.

• The randomizer hit close to home for its final landing spot: Cathy Nelson, club director at Webfoot Juniors in Eugene, Oregon. Nelson is coaching the 15 Gold team this year. The team isn’t very big – both outside hitters start at libero for their high school teams – but they are a great, hard working group, Nelson said.

“It’s been fun to work with a group like that,” she said. “I tell them, ‘There’s more than one way to win. If you don’t have size figure out a way.” Practices are great; tournaments not as much fun. But the players are learning and willing to get better.”


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