PLEASANTVILLE -- I'm suffering from a bit of culture shock here. Not in demographic terms -- my Press of Atlantic City office is actually located in P'ville, and three of the boys I coach in club soccer ... Emilio, Raul and Charles ... are all Latino boys from this town, where I spend a lot of my time.
No, I'm talking about a wake-up call when it comes to sports here. I've always sought out beach-volleyball matches, and whenever women's and men's (OK, maybe just women's !!) NCAA-tournament volleyball matches are shown on ESPN or a similar channel, I'll make an effort to watch.
But what I saw at Pleasantville High School on Thursday afternoon just blew me away. First of all, the term "girls volleyball" is a misnomer. The outa-and-out athletes I saw at Pleasantville High School are more like women ... make that 6-feet-tall, jump-into-the sky women.
What's happened to the kids today ... is there really something in the milk? My own 13-year-old twin sons are as tall as me, and they passed my shoe size months ago (as a plus, at least I now get their sneakers as cast-offs).
The girls I watched play volleyball on Thursday would certainly crush any sort of beach competition I saw at the communal sand court set up at the 37th Street beach in Ocean City this summer. That said, the official result Thursday was a Pleasantville win, 20-25, 25-21, 25-21 before a small, but appreciative crowd.
The nature of the sport demands that there's a lot of rotation, but two players kept catching my eye due to their cover-the-court-at-all-costs playing style: Pleasantvile junior Hana Coleman and Middle Township senior Becca Lirio.
Interestingly enough, after the match both girls said they took up the sport in sixth grade, when their middle schools offered them an option to play. Coleman and Lirio are extremely athletic, but the way they executed the digs and sets that are inherent to the sport really made an impression.
Both schools were winless coming in, so Pleasantville's win took a bit of pressure off the girls for the rest of the season. From Middle's perspective, they hope to right the ship eventually. I spoke to Lirio afterward, but she was still very emotional after the loss. It's nice to see that kids still care so much in this age of so-called instant gratification.
As a side note, during the match there was a tremendous roar coming from just outside the gym where the volleyball game was played. My curiosity got the better of me, and a quick walk yielded a highly-spirited Pleasantville cheerleading squad practicing for this weekend's football game.
All I can tell you, despite my best efforts at joining in the rhythmic vibe, I should never quit my day job. Let's just say this .... as a cheerleader, I certainly make a heckuva journalist!
pville def. middle twp 2-1 (20-25) (25-21) (25-21)
pville: jessica solorzano: 6 kills/4 digs
kendall washington: 5 kills/ 6 service pts.
middle: yvonne wolef: 11 kills/ 4 aces
kelsey hand: 5 kills/ 7 digs/ 2 blocks