By Argentum Metallicus
Mandatory 4 was again played at Artesia High School. At least we started at the center court—no low hanging baskets. Purple Starlings entered as the 2nd seed owing to taking second place (by game percentage—see last paragraph) in Mandatory 3.
The first match was against 4th seed Commerce Crush. Commerce reminded quite a few parents of the Purple Starlings last year—a very young and tenacious team that could wreak havoc. Commerce won their bracket in Mandatory 3 by taking 2 matches to over-time and prevailing. Game 1 was a rather atypical Purple start with quite a bit of energy. Brooke Nelepovitz was the highlight server with 7 serves and 1 ace and added 3 kills for good measure. Bridget Ingle had an exciting block—setting the ball to herself—and kill. Michaela Metcalf followed shortly thereafter with a block–self-set–and hit. These key plays kept the Purple point rallies going. Commerce was not giving up lightly as very very few of the balls hit the floor on the Commerce side. Starlings had some key side-outs and won 25 to 21 with only 2 service errors. Game 2 featured some solid defensive play by Grace Tesdall and Hannah Farmer, solid serving by Becca Stoffel and 3 kills—at least 2 of which were untouchable—by Michaela Metcalf. Starlings won 25-21 again, but 4 service errors kept the game closer than it should have been.
Second Match was against 3rd seed SVVBC. SVVBC appeared to be the team to beat according to the coaches and scouts. Game 1 featured, unfortunately, 5 Purple service errors. However these were slightly offset by 9 total kills, Michaela Metcalf lead with 3 kills, followed by Bridget Ingle with 2 and Brooke Nelepovitz with 2, the last of which was the game-winner. Starlings won 25-23, with the 5 errors costing the Punisher some stomach lining, as he did enough worrying for all the coaches. Game 2 featured 3 kills and some great blocks by Michaela Metcalf, blocks by Bridget Ingle, some solid defensive play by Hannah Farmer and an acceptable 3 service errors. Match 2 also had and 2 “Coach’s side outs”. Starlings won 25-19.
Third Match was against 1st seed Conejo. SVVBC had already finished 2-1 in matches and Purple was told that if they had to win against Conejo to take first. Starlings came roaring out of the gate, going out to a 6-1 lead thanks to some fine serving by Jazmine Stenger-Smith. Conejo attempted to mount several comeback runs, but solid overall play by Becca Stoffel and Allie Sliva, with 4 kills by Michaela Metcalf (all at key times to stop runs by Conejo), allowed the Starlings to win 25-14 with 4 service errors. Conejo was fired up for game 2 and started playing tough. However, Purple, lead by Michaela Metcalf (6 serves 3 aces and 4 kills), Allie “Golden Foot” Sliva (5 serves 1 ace and 2 kills) Jazmine Stenger-Smith (5 serves and 2 kills), and solid overall play (especially defensively) by Brooke Nelepovitz, Becca Stoffel, Grace Tesdall, Hannah Farmer and Bridget Ingle lead the Starlings to a very fine 25-18 victory with 1 service error. Purple will play in Division 8 at Mandatory 5, which is the Silver Bracket.
This was the most solid that the Purples have every played against very tough competition. Team serving was at 87%; there were 21 total aces (Lead by Michaela Metcalf with 7 and Brooke Nelepovitz with 4) and a team record total 41 kills (lead by Michaela “The Kill Machine” Metcalf with 17 and Brooke Nelepovitz with 9), Bridget Ingle was second in serving percentage with 90.91% with an Ace/Miss ratio of 1 and Jazmine Stenger-Smith lead serving with a very solid 96.97% and an Ace/Miss ratio of 3.
Now, having written all that, Argentum Metallicus has a confession to make. During the Commerce versus SVVBC match, I was calculating Scenarios based upon possible outcomes and had at first determined that if SVVBC beat Commerce, Starlings would then have to win at least 1 game of Match 3 to guarantee a first place finish. However, the Nelepovitz-Slivomatic Volleyball Scenario Outcome Generator (NSVSOG) highlighted a flaw in my plan. I epically failed to consider the possible outcome of SVVBC winning their last match in 3 games and not 2. It turns out that Commerce came roaring back in the second game, forcing a tie breaker. Commerce was not going down lightly and if Commerce won Purple would then have to win Match 3 in order to take first but would be guaranteed at least second place. Game 3 started heavily in SVVBC’s favor but they eventually won. The NSVSOG then informed me that, because both SVVBC and Conejo each had 3 losses and the Starlings would have at most 2 losses, the Purple Starlings were already in first place and the 3rd Match wouldn’t affect the outcome of today’s place—though it would place Purple in a higher overall placement in Division 8 if Purple would win the last match. We decided to withhold this information, but I did confess to the team afterward that they already had first place. To Purple’s credit, I didn’t even get an eye-roll—what I got was “When do we get Ice Cream?!”
Brooke and Michaela with a key Block
Starlings Savoring First Place