By Shawn O’Brate
LANDER – This past weekend was the annual Lander Valley High School (LVHS) Summer Slam 4v4 Volleyball Tournament and, as usual, it was a great day for learning and honing skills on the grass. Not only that it was a great day weather-wise, but it helped those participating in the tournament who may not play volleyball as regularly as some of the other competitors.
The tournament hosted a total of ten teams during the day, some teams were from Worland, some were from Thermopolis and many were from right here in Lander. Competitors from 8th grade and up all competed for the LVHS Summer Slam shirts that were awarded to first place finishers in both the Gold bracket and the Silver bracket.
But the prizes were not why the tournament was put together, nor was it the reason many of the athletes came and participated during the beautiful Saturday afternoon.
“The main thing is just to get them out so they’re getting touches on balls and to have fun,” Volleyball coach Marissa Powell said during the first round of the bracket play, “it’s fun to play teams like Worland when it’s not a conference game…they can just play, and have fun and actually become friends with those kids and make relationships.”
Teams of four were put outside in the sunlight and the whirling wind rather than play inside on the courts where many of the Lander teams practiced for the past few weeks to prepare for the tournament.
“Grass is just a different type of volleyball,” coach Powell said, “you add in the wind…there’s so many different variables so they have to learn to compensate and change their serve, I think it’s really good for them.”
And while some teams were taking the tournament much more seriously, like the girls who play for LVHS that were building their skills with the Summer Slam event, there were also some kids there to just have fun like 17-year old Diego Lobatos.
Lobatos, who competed and came in third place in the Lander Triathlon earlier that day, said he didn’t originally plan on playing volleyball that day.
“My friends told me there was a volleyball event and that they signed me up so I just showed up,” Lobatos said before competing in bracket-play on the warm summer day, “this is probably my first time really playing volleyball too.”
Powell, who loves volleyball and has a passion for it, was excited for people like Lobatos to come out and show what they had on the grass.
“For everyone to play and learn, that’s what it’s all about,” Powell said, “then maybe they learn that they like to play volleyball then they can play forever and grow into it.”
At the end of the day it was all fun and games for everyone involved but, ironically, it was the team playing ‘just for fun’ that won the Silver bracket at the Summer Slam. Lobatos’ team, the $layers, took first in that bracket while the ‘Ace Holes’ from Worland took first in the Gold bracket.
Powell, who organized the event with her assistant coach Keri Mulholland, was happy with the turnout when everything was said and done but hopes to get back to the month of July next year where the tournament usually takes place
“This year we had to do June because July we have every weekend filled with something for volleyball already,” Powell said, “hopefully next year we can go back to July and get a lot more high school teams to come have fun.”
And although Powell is already looking forward to next year’s event, it was people like Lobatos who was just enjoying the day and having a fun time no matter who he was playing against:
“I think there’s tons of kids that aren’t really doing anything right now that want to come out here and do this,” Lobatos said, “I think it’s great that they did this.”
Now, LVHS looks toward the volleyball season and hopes to improve on their third-place finish from last season when they were inches away from competing for a state championship.