One Ella-va Good Time

I know – that subject line just didn’t quite roll off the tongue like it was supposed to.  But roll with me on this one – we had a tremendously good time at Ellapalooza (get the title now?) this weekend and, quite frankly, my brain hasn’t recovered from the awesomeness that is consistently one of the best tournaments of the year out at Volleyball Beach.

If you’ll remember last year I posted about Ellapalooza (this link will refresh your memory) and how much fun it was.  This year was no different.  The team had a few new players: Catherine was out due to a knee injury, Michelle abandoned us for Chicago and Jason was out of town so we recruited Jess (who plays out at the other volleyball place), Matt (who’s on my team at work) and Marissa (who plays with us on Thursday nights).  We petitioned to be in the “B” bracket…except there were only two: Power or Rec.  Rather than repeat last year’s start we decided the place to be was in the Power division, and thus began our evening.

The weather was perfect…or at least as perfect as August was going to get.  We might have hit 95 but I doubt it; the overcast skies and occasional sprinkling of rain did a great job of keeping things (relatively) cool – I’m going to have to get Robyn’s secret to ordering up great volleyball weather and try it next time we’re out playing.

The pool play was one game to 25, rally scoring, against all the other teams (seven total in the bracket, so six games).  Only the bottom team wouldn’t make the single-elimination tournament.  We started off on the blue court against a four-person team while we threatened to lose the game by giving up some points in the middle we ended up keeping the lead and pulling off a nice victory to start the evening 1-0.

Up next we were on the yellow court against another team we didn’t recognize.  We gave them a run in the middle which we couldn’t recover from and we ended up evening our record as a result.  That’s the only frustrating part about one-game pool play – if you start slow against a team you’re really in a bad spot and you don’t have a second game to make it up.  But c’est la vie – we were 1-1 after two.

Our third match was against the team that – ultimately – won the championship.  We played some solid ball and, despite them having a big hitter on their team, managed to keep the ball off our side of the court most of the time.  When the dust settled we came away with our second victory of the night in the hardest-fought battle we would have all evening.

The fourth game was against Team Steadman (actually that wasn’t their team name but since I don’t remember it and Mike and J were on it I just call it that).  A solid team to be sure, and one that ultimately beat us more handily than I’d like – or, more appropriately, took advantage of the mistakes we made more handily than I’d like.

We ended up against the Hungry Hippos for our fifth match of pool play.  This is the team Robyn (who organized the tournament and works with us here at CenturyLink) plays on on Sundays out at Volleyball Beach.  It’s also the team that for the past two years had won the costume contest.  And, I might add, a pretty dang good team.  We traded points at the outset before Tess went on a magic serving run and gave us what would be the lead for good, positioning us at 3-2 headed into our bye.

After our bye we were on yellow for our final pre-tourney game.  We were up against Aaron, Skylar and their team – not the same team that won last week but a great team nonetheless.  We were never really in the game, unfortunately – a combination of sitting for 45 minutes, running up against a team who’s average age was probably ten years younger than ours and the fact that they were damn good – and we ended our pool play with a .500 record at 3-3.

During the break we did the raffle.  Mascot Sammy came up to me about midway through and said “Dad, I need your tickets”.  When I asked why he said “because I have to show it to the girl so I can get the bag you won”.  I couldn’t figure out what he was talking about but he looked so serious about it I handed them over.  The next thing I know he comes back with a blue Playstation 3 duffel bag…with a couple of PS3 games, the PS3 “Eye” camera and the PS3 “Muve” controller – apparently I won the raffle for it.  I was expecting Sam or Josh to ask me if they could have the games or the action figure that was in there but instead all Sam asked me all night long was “can I have the bag?”  Crazy kid.

They also announced the winner of the costume contest.  We had gone as “The Six Pack Attack” – we’d put on belts made of various beer cases around our abs (get it?  six pack, abs, beer?  Oh, never mind…).  We didn’t win, but we’re going to win next year because much as the Hungry Hippos are awesome they need to be dethroned – they won their third costume contest in a row and that kind of dynasty is just too much success for any one team to bear. *grin*

Finally we got back out on the orange court for the quarterfinals match in the single-elimination tournament.  We had the #4 seed, matching us up against the #5 seed…who happened to be Team Steadman.  The tourney was best-of-three games; first two to 21, last to 15.  We gave our hearts and left it all on the field but they were just the better team that match.  While we had a legit shot to beat them in the pool play match we had against them this time they just dominated us for both games (the first more than the second).  A great team and one I always enjoy playing – win, lose or draw (although I prefer the “win” part of that equation).

We ended the tourney by sitting on the deck watching Team Steadman play the (ultimate) champions, enjoying some beverages and just relaxing.  After a little while folks filtered out and the few remaining of us played a pick-up game (which Mike, Jess, Amy and I won).

All-told it was – as it was the last two years – a very well-run tournament that was a blast.  While I would have rather seen us play two games to 15 for the pool play (vs. one to 25) if that’s the biggest gripe then there’s no way you couldn’t call this a success.

But here’s the kicker, the punchline, and the true test of how awesome Ellapalooza is.  Playing beach volleyball is a blast.  Hanging with friends is great.  Winning raffles is fun.  But when all is said and done, it’s the charity that’s sponsoring the tournament that measures success in the final tally.  And when you can say “we helped raise over $15,000 for the Waner Children’s Vascular Anomaly Foundation” – a 25% increase over last year which was a 20% increase over the year before – you just can’t help but say the fourth annual Ellapalooza beach volleyball tournament was an absolute success.

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