Photo by David Knox.
Bucs Volleyball 2014
Hoover regroups after losing a game to top-ranked Bob Jones. Hoover had just returned from an arduous trip to Utah. Bob Jones won 3-0.
The road to the volleyball state championship sometimes means hitting the road, the interstate and the airport runways.
That’s what Hoover High coach Chris Camper has done in the past, and that’s what his Bucs did this year.
The success of facing a difficult schedule will be measured when the area tournaments begin Oct. 20, followed by regional tournaments Oct. 23-25, and culminating with the Elite 8 State Tournament at CrossPlex in Birmingham Oct. 29-30.
Hoover was off to a fast start in September, rolling through Alabama competition. The Bucs took a trip to Provo, Utah, and went 5-3 in the two-day event, a very good showing considering the difficult field there. The return trip proved challenging as well – a connecting flight in Houston was canceled, which led to a layover and an extra night in a hotel, returning to Birmingham on a Monday afternoon. Camper, seeing a bunch of worn-out young ladies, canceled practice even though top-ranked and defending champion Bob Jones was scheduled to visit that Tuesday. Perhaps predictably, Bob Jones won 3-0, but Camper thought the Bucs lost each match by just one play.
But the tough Utah competition, plus the hardships of travel, plus a loss to their top state rival the next day is the adversity Camper believes his team needs to survive the road to the state finals.
“I caught a little grief from some people as far as, ‘Geez, you’re asking a lot, eight matches for the girls without a lot of downtime right at the start of the season,’” Camper said.
And the Bucs had opened the season quickly too, with a pair of matches against tough Vestavia Hills and Pelham, rolled into and through its own tournament, the prestigious Juanita Boddie tournament, which Hoover won for the first time, all in the first three days of the season.
“To go from that to travel to come back and play No. 1 with no practice days…” Camper said, “I ask a lot of the girls, but I want to put them through as much adversity as I can playing-wise because the way that the state tournament is structured in October, there’s a lot of adversity. You’ve got to get in a bus, get up there, play three matches in a day, which you don’t do ever in a season. It’s not something you want to have happen for the first time [at state].
“So we played a lot of matches … for me the adversity we got was worth it when it comes to mentally preparing them — ‘I’m tired … I’m hurt … they’re good … the refs are bad … I’ve got schoolwork I need to do.’ Create that adversity in September and October so when it gets to the playoffs it’s just another day.”
The travel – Camper took his team to Las Vegas last year for a tournament – can bring a team together as players learn who they are off the court.
“When you take a group of high school girls on the road for four or five days, you expect to have some of that,” Camper said. “And in reality, in getting there and back, we had very little drama. Now, they’re getting to be like sisters, and they get tired of each other at times … We’ve got to learn to deal with each others’ personalities and not let it interfere with our common goals.”
Bucs star Kathryn Cather wholeheartedly endorsed the tough slate.
“I love adversity,” Cather said. “It’s going to help our team grow more. It’ll help us in the long run when we get back to state.