Section 1 volleyball teams are not required to participate in weekend tournaments, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that does not indulge in at least one such Saturday morning event during the season.
Some teams, like Scarsdale and Panas, play in several tournaments throughout the year and even host one of their own. Both programs walked away with Section 1 titles last year, winning in Class AA and Class A respectively.
The rewards of playing in a tournament are overwhelming.
With upwards of 30-plus teams attending one tournament, coaches can scout a number of programs without burning their free time or gas money. Since most tournaments include at least six games of pool play and a playoff bracket, players get plenty of experience on the court.
Tournament performance also does not factor into a team’s regular-season record, which allows coaches to experiment with various lineups and play calls.
“It’s much better learning at a tournament here, and being able to get the practice in and trying to figure out what the kinks are, to playing in an actual game,” said Nanuet head coach Danyel del Rosario, who was without her starting setter Laura Zazyczny at the Scarsdale tournament Saturday.
Zazyczny, an all-conference player last year, was away on a college visit, forcing del Rosario to seek alternative means of passing the ball on the court. Nanuet practiced Friday in a 6-2 rotation — a formation that uses two setters — with sophomore Kayla Diaz and freshman Rachel Chan doing the setting.
“It’s been pretty smooth,” Diaz said Saturday, of the adjustment. “Laura brings a lot to the team, and it’s really nice to have her around, but I think we’re just trying to do our best today and trying to hold our own without her, but it’s pretty difficult.”
Following an 0-6 showing in pool play, del Rosario chuckled after being asked when she realized how valuable Zazyczny was to the team.
“First set of the first match,” she said.
Diaz picked up much quicker.
“The first point of the first game,” Diaz said.
Most coaches and players contend that there is no greater risk at a tournament than any regular-season match, but it does pose a harsh reality when injury does strike at a tournament that — for all intents and purposes — means nothing.
Eastchester and White Plains both posted undefeated records in pool play at Scarsdale this past weekend, but also suffered blows to their starting lineups. Eastchester senior Sophia Tiso (possible concussion) and White Plains senior Juliet Lodes (sprained ankle) both missed the playoff bracket after suffering injuries during pool play.
“An injury can happen at any point in time, anywhere, any day,” White Plains head coach Caitlin MacDonald said. “We try and do injury prevention stuff in practice. Female athletes are the most likely to injure their knees out of anyone, and I think the age range is like 16-24 (years old) or something along those lines, so we do things so that they don’t tear their ACLs.”
With Lodes out Saturday, MacDonald moved junior outside hitter Valeria Echeandia over to middle blocker. The Peruvian exchange student, who had never played volleyball before making the Tigers’ varsity team, made a lasting impression.
“She came up pretty big,” MacDonald said of Echeandia. “She was able to hold her own, so now we’re also looking at her for that position, as well.”
Eastchester head coach Kathy DePippo opts for two tournaments per season, but said risk of injury has nothing to do with it.
“The risk is minor compared to the reward,” she said.