Team: Kapow – Hey You
Club: Kapow Volleyball Club
Article for USA Volleyball Nationals 2013 – Louisville, KY
Written by Daniel Zweifler
For most of you, everything starts with the letter “A” but for the Kapow volleyball club men’s team, it begins with “E.” That is easy to remember the nickname of our big middle hitter. Most of our tournaments involved E hitting big, blocking big, and being simply a BIG part of our team’s success. When we put the word out in the beginning of the season that we wanted to go to Nationals in Louisville, we were happy to see that many of our New York City players, with tough work schedules, were in.
Even the best laid plans wind up having obstacles however. Ours started the day before the tournament when a rough spring storm hit the northeast affecting all air flights out of the NYC area.
“Ladies and Gentleman, this is your captain,” the disembodied voice said throughout the plane as we sat on the tarmac. “Due to the storms west of the city, we’ll be sitting put for a while. We apologize for the delay and hope to be under way shortly.”
Oh great! I thought. Delays. This, I would conclude later on the flight home, to be the overall characteristic of our trip to the USA Volleyball Open Championships in Louisville, KY. It was a trip full of big intentions and excitement but just like our flight out of New York, it never really got under way for the two teams we sent to Louisville. To add even more insult to injury, we found out just days earlier that E had a miscommunication at work and won’t be joining us until day 2.
In total, three of my teammates missed their flights all together due to the heavy storms. Two wound up driving all night to get there in time for our first matches Friday afternoon, while the last, E, our big middle blocker had both work conflicts and flight trouble, and didn’t show until Saturday, much later than he had expected.
My team has always been streaky, with days where we demolish all who stand in our way but then others where we lose to a much underrated and under talented team than we are. Missing three players wasn’t going to make for a positive streak. Don’t let this bother you, I kept saying to myself. This is Nationals! Enjoy it!
We arrived at our hotel in the downtown area and the best part of an event like this becomes evident right away – there were so many players around. Meeting players from all over the country, ones that you would never meet let alone play against brings out the best characteristic of the sport. Volleyball is a close knit type of event. I saw players I met in prior tournaments and met new ones that I hope I will see in the years to come.
Arriving at the expo center, I am always amazed that I get surprised at the size of the event. Dozens of courts, hundreds of players from all levels and ages, and the opportunity to see international level players do the sport proper almost made me forget the trouble we had in getting here. I watched a few matches, including seeing Lloy Ball, who makes my position of setter seem so easy, play and started getting excited about the games we had coming up later that day.
We played well, all things considered and split our matches on the first day and walk away in the middle of the pool in the standings. I had hoped for more but I’ll take it considering we were missing one of our big swingers and motivational players. Nothing gets a team riled up more than a big, floor crushing hit bit one of your teammates.
Day 2 began and the outlook from the team grew as we now had our full roster. Winning our next match gave us a huge boost in confidence and moved us up the rankings. The final match of the pool was a nail biter, and ended up with a very close score. The team that won would go into the Silver bracket, the other would drop all the way down into one of the conciliation brackets known as flights.
We fought hard, but couldn’t pull it out. The next day, we lost our first flight match and found ourselves out of the tournament. In hindsight, the three days of playing flew by so fast. Our women’s team found themselves in the same situation and the Kapow volleyball club all of a sudden had a lot of free time on its hand. Many of the players watched other matches, or departed to see what Louisville had to offer outside of the expo center, while others packed up and simply went home. We said our good-byes, made plans for the next games back home, and all agreed we had a lot of fun.
Despite not playing up to expectations, there is one thing this team certainly never falls short with – getting exciting about playing this sport. We even started talking about Phoenix next year. Coming to Nationals is something all serious players need to do, even if it’s just one time. The size, spectacle, and skill level that you are exposed to gives the sport a life that you can’t see on TV or, when like me you are not 6’5” tall in your own game.
If you love the sport of volleyball, you owe it yourself to come to Nationals, even to watch if you don’t play. Louisville in 2013 was so much fun, and as I sit here on the plane going home, remembering the experience from the past week makes me smile, even if I might be sitting on a delayed flight home.