High-SchoolVolleyball: Durango Classic

By Walter Villa

Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.) was undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the POWERADE FAB 50 last year when it ran into Mercy (Louisville, Ky.).

The matchup, which came in the final of Berkeley’s Premier Volleyball Tournament, was won by Mercy in five sets. Mercy won the final set 19-17 to knock the Bucs off the top spot.

This year, Berkeley is ranked third in the FAB 50 and is off to another strong start at 6-0, including a five-set win over 2010 state champ East Lake (Tarpon Springs, Fla.).

But the Bucs will be challenged to an even greater degree this Friday and Saturday when they host the 19th annual Premier tournament. The field will again include Mercy, which is unranked this week but has won the tournament six times in the past eight years.

To his credit, Berkeley coach Randy Dagostino, whose team won the tournament the other two years, keeps inviting Mercy back.

“I’m always looking for teams that will push us and make the tournament better,” Dagostino said.

Dagostino may have “discovered” another such team in No. 18 Chattahoochee (Johns Creek, Ga.). The Cougars went 50-5 last season but really opened eyes this year. They are the only team to beat No. 5 Assumption (Louisville, Ky.) so far this season.

Chattahoochee (25-4) is 5-0 this season against Kentucky teams, including wins over No. 34 Sacred Heart (Louisville, Ky.) and Mercy.

The other teams entered at the Premier are No. 50 Bishop Moore (Orlando, Fla.); Lake Mary (Lake Mary, Fla.); Leon (Tallahassee, Fla.); Francis Howell (St. Charles, Mo.); and Springstead (Spring Hill, Fla.).

Berkeley is the top seed in the tournament, but Dagostino doesn’t think his team has “clicked” just yet. He’s had to replace three of his seven starters from last season, and Dagostino says star outside hitter Jordan Burgess has yet to hit her peak since returning from Turkey, where she was playing for the U.S. Youth National team.

“She’s had a lot of nagging – I don’t even want to call them injuries,” Dagostino said. “She’s just played a lot of volleyball, and she missed a couple of weeks of jelling with her teammates while she was in Turkey.

“But we’re working hard. We’ll get there.”

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Josh Holmberg/ESPNHSFaith Ma'afala of Kamehameha was the lone freshman to make the all-tournament team at the 2011 Durango Fall Classic.
Young guns in Vegas

Six underclassmen made the 17-player All-Tournament team last weekend at the Durango Fall Classic in Las Vegas, Nev., including 5-foot-7 freshman opposite hitter Faith Ma’afala of Kamehameha (Honolulu, Hawaii).

Three sophomores made the team: 6-2 outside hitter Brittany Abercrombie of La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.); 6-2 middle blocker Crissy Jonesof Los Alamitos (Los Alamitos, Calif.); and 5-9 setter/outside hitter Alex Filley of Assumption (Louisville, Ky.).

The two juniors on the prestigious team are 6-3 middle blocker Taylor Paulson of Assumption and 5-7 outside hitter Amanda Benson of Xavier (Phoenix, Ariz.).

Glass half full, or half empty?

Los Alamitos coach Dave Huber was pleased with his team’s performance at Durango, especially the way they battled after blowing a 24-21 second-set lead to Marymount (Los Angeles, Calif.) in the semifinal.

“To kind of have one taken from us like that, I didn’t know how we would respond,” Huber said. “But we regained our composure and got to the final. I’m proud of the way we fought back. Our girls were in it physically and mentally.”

Coach Pat McDougall of La Costa Canyon was also feeling good, even after his team lost in the semifinals to Assumption.

“We had only played two matches coming into Las Vegas,” said McDougall, who also praised his new setter, Jordan Robbins, a 5-10 junior. “We didn’t know what to expect, but I’m very happy with the results.”

Meanwhile, Marymount coach Cari Klein was upset her team continued a recent trend of falling behind early only to rally late.

“Our kids gave a great effort,” Klein said after the loss to Los Alamitos. “But we need to get better. We need to block smarter. We seem to think we can give up points and battle back, but we can’t do that against really good teams.”

Senior setter Lauren Fuller was named to the all-tournament team, and Klein praised Fuller’s twin, Manon Fuller, a 6-0 senior outside hitter and said that 6-2 junior middle blocker Kaitlyn Edwards has “come alive.”

Durango Classic video highlights

September, 21, 2011

The 2011 Durango Fall Classic is in the books. We take a look back at some of the highlights, including the championship match between Assumption (Louisville, Ky.) and Los Alamitos (Los Alamitos, Calif.) and an interview with MVP Katie George.
By Walter Villa

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – If you assumed Assumption is the only strong team in Kentucky, you’d be wrong.

Assumption (Louisville, Ky.) won the Durango Fall Classic on Saturday night, but the Rockets’ two state mates at the tournament also had impressive showings.

Sacred Heart (Louisville, Ky.) won the silver championship Saturday, rallying to beat Torrey Pines (San Diego, Calif.), 22-25, 25-14, 25-21. The silver title was good for an overall finish of ninth place.

The third Kentucky team at Durango this weekend was Notre Dame Academy (Park Hills, Ky.), and the Pandas finished a respectable 15th out of 48.

All three Kentucky teams entered the tournament ranked in the POWERADE FAB 50, with Assumption 13th, Sacred Heart 35thand Notre Dame 46th.

The trio combined to go 9-0 on Friday and 17-4 for the weekend, with three of the losses charged to Notre Dame (4-3). Assumption went 7-0, and Sacred Heart rolled to a 6-1 record in Vegas.

“We’ve been clicking the last couple of weeks or so,” Sacred Heart coach Eric Garvey said. “This was a continuation of us playing well.”

Sacred Heart’s only loss in Vegas was Saturday morning in a round of 16 game against Xavier (Phoenix, Ariz.), 25-18, 25-23. But Garvey’s team regrouped and won three straight, beating Pleasant Grove (Pleasant Grove, Utah), Edison (Huntington Beach, Calif.) and Torrey Pines.

Sacred Heart, which lost just three sets in its seven matches, has another big test on Sept. 25 at Assumption.

“They’re tough,” Garvey said of Assumption. “Their two setters, Katie George and Alexa Filley, are amazing.”

California shows its depth
None of them won the top prize, but three California schools finished in the top four. Los Alamitos (Los Alamitos, Calif.) came in second, followed by Marymount (Los Angeles, Calif.) and La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.).

Los Alamitos, which entered the tournament ranked seventh in the POWERADE FAB 50 – highest among all the teams at Durango – is now 12-1. It had not lost a set this season until Saturday’s semifinals, when it gave up a 24-21 lead to Marymount.

Los Alamitos came back to beat Marymount but could not sustain that momentum against Assumption.

Champs again, sort of
Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood, Calif.), which won the 2010 Durango Fall Classic, failed to repeat this year, losing in Friday’s play-in game to Xavier.

But Harvard-Westlake showed character in rebounding to win the competition division championship, good for an overall finish of 25th.

No Ma’a for Kamehameha
Misty Ma’a, a talented 6-foot-1 outside hitter, missed the last three matches for Kamehameha (Honolulu, Hawaii) after hurting her right arm diving for a ball.

Ma’a, showing a bruise on her right forearm, appeared to be in pain, although no tests had yet been taken to determine the severity of the injury.

“It’s frustrating to sit out matches,” said Ma’a, who said she did not think the injury was serious.

Even without Ma’a, Kamehameha was impressive, finishing sixth. The Warriors lost a heartbreaker in the quarterfinals, falling 27-25, 25-23 to La Costa Canyon.

Green Valley leads Vegas teams
Green Valley (Henderson, Nev.), which had a big showing on Friday, came in 28th, the highest finish for a Vegas-area team in this year’s tournament.

Host Durango came in 45th, just ahead of fellow Vegas-area schools Shadow Ridge (Las Vegas, Nev.), Coronado (Henderson, Nev.) and Foothill (Henderson, Nev.).
By Kirstin Olsen/ESPN HS

Crissy Jones, Los AlJosh Holmberg/ESPNHSMiddle blocker Crissy Jones of Los Alamitos (Los Alamitos, Calif.) closes the block during action at the 2011 Durango Classic.
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The talent stepped up on Day 2 of the Durango Fall Classic as teams made their runs deep into the tournament.

We salute the top 10 players.

Rebecca Strehlow, Long Beach Wilson (Long Beach, Calif.): The 6-foot-1 setter/outside hitter is the complete package. She can pass, set, hit, block and serve. She is strong and takes control of the game. The only problem is that she can’t pass, set and hit every ball, and her team needs more of her. Though the Bruins didn’t have the best showing, UCLA coach Mike Sealy has a great player coming into his program next year.

Sara Hughes Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.): The 5-11 setter/opposite is the most well-rounded player on her team. Only a junior, Hughes shows her overall skills as she fights for balls and bangs them on the right down the line. Her skills from the beach shine through with her excellent ball control and court sense. Any program would be lucky to have Sara fight for them.

Kelly Murphy, Walton (Marietta, Ga.): This 6-1 senior outside hitter was a powerhouse for her team. She sides out like a champ and can move the ball around.

Lauren Fuller, Marymount (Los Angeles, Calif.): You can tell a good setter when you almost don’t notice her but see they ball spread around evenly. This 5-11 senior can back set a pipe, set a quick from her knees and has a sisterly connection with outside hitter/twin sister, Manon. She is athletic and strong and has a nice high quick delivery.

Crissy Jones, Los Alamitos (Los Alamitos, Calif.):This 6-2 sophomore middle blocker takes control of the net when she’s up. With a nice high reach and a quick snap on quick sets, she's a nice addition to Los Al’s balanced attack on the outside.

Abby Hornacek, Xavier Prep (Phoenix, Ariz.): The 6-1 opposite with an unconventional style brings it on the right side. Her hard angle is hard to stop and she puts up a nice block as well. She is well-rounded with her game, and she does a good job making good decisions.

Misty Ma’a, Kamehameha (Honolulu, Hawaii): The 6-1 outside hitter hits some sharp angles and put up a wall of a block on the net. She was the main offensive weapon for her team this weekend and did a great job moving the ball around with good court vision.

Katie George, Assumption (Louisville, Ky.): The girl in the helmet was an inspiration for all this weekend as the 5-11 setter did everything she could for her team. She set and passed and hit a few rotations, showing her versatility as a player.

Karlee Fuller, La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.): The 6-foot outside hitter led the attack for the Mavericks. As part of a solid front row, Karlee chiseled away at opposing teams' blocks and helped lead her team to the semifinals.

Skylar Dykstra, Redondo Union (Redondo Beach, Calif.): The 5-10 outside hitter was a force on the left for the Sea Hawks. She used a variety of shots and displayed excellent ball control to give her team the balance it needed.
high schoolJosh Holmberg/ESPNHSKatie George led Assumption (Louisville, Ky.) to the Durango Classic championship and was named tournament MVP along the way.
By Walter Villa
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – There has been no disruption at Assumption (Louisville, Ky.).

After graduating six players from last year’s state championship team – all of whom are now competing in college – the Rockets are still rising.

On Saturday night, Los Alamitos (Los Alamitos, Calif.) felt the full force of the Assumption machine, getting overpowered for much of the Rockets’ 25-13, 25-19 victory in the championship match of the Durango Fall Classic.

Senior setter Katie George, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, helped Assumption lead from wire-to-wire in the first set, and the Rockets fell behind only briefly in the early stages of the second.

“This is just icing on the cake,” George said of the MVP. “The main thing I’m happy about is our team won.”

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Josh Holmberg/ESPNHSCrissy Jones of Los Alamitos (Los Alamitos, Calif.) takes a swing against Assumption (Louisville, Ky.) in the championship match of the Durango Classic.

The Rockets won by doing just about everything right. They utilized their short tip, they slowed Los Alamitos’ 6-foot-2 middle hitter Crissy Jones and they thrived even when offensive plays broke down.

A couple of questionable calls went Assumption’s way, but give the Rockets’ defense credit. They got their hands on just about everything, and their serve seemed to handcuff Los Alamitos.

Assumption, which also won Durango in 2005, is now the first non-California team to win the prestigious event twice.

The Rockets’ success in 2011 has surprised even those in Assumption’s inner circle, who figured the team would suffer – at least initially – without talents such as middle blocker Jeni Houser (Notre Dame), libero Jackie Napper (Kentucky) and setter Courtney Robison (West Virginia).

The other graduated stars were outside hitters Claire Gerwig (Western Michigan) and Taylor Allgeier (Eastern Kentucky) and opposite hitter Laura Purcell (Loyola-Chicago).

“I had my doubts,” George said when asked if she thought the Rockets would be this good this quickly. “But we’re so much further along than where we were last year. We’re jelling as a team. This tournament was exactly what we needed.”

The Rockets (22-1), ranked 13th in the POWERADE FAB 50 national volleyball rankings, have already beaten powers such as Sacred Heart (Louisville, Ky.), Muncie Burris (Muncie, Ind.) and Muncie Central (Muncie, Ind.).

And that was before Durango. Now you can add wins over tough outs such as Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), No. 30 Redondo Union (Redondo Beach, Calif.), La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.) and No. 7 Los Alamitos.

“We knew we had some good talent waiting,” coach Ron Kordes said of his returners. “Still, I’ve been impressed with the way the girls have come out and played like veterans right away.”

The 2011 Rockets have four players who have committed to Division I colleges: George (Louisville); senior libero Chelsea Bowles (Tennessee-Martin) and junior defensive specialists Kaelin Grimes (Western Kentucky) and London Ackerman (Georgia Tech).

Other standouts include 5-8 sophomore setter Alexa Filley; 6-3 junior middle blocker Taylor Paulson; 6-0 senior middle blocker Dallas Zimmerman; and 5-10 senior outside hitter Taylor Long.

Kordes said Paulson was an especially big factor on Saturday, but the middle blocker gave credit to the entire team.

“I think our serve and our serve-receive were big,” Paulson said. “We work really hard on serving deep with our floaters. We serve to the outside, and that makes it a lot harder for them to get around the ball, which causes mistakes. That was our tactic, and it worked.”

Assumption lost just one set this weekend, and that came on Saturday morning in a 26-24, 15-25, 25-9 win over Mater Dei.

On the season, Assumption’s only loss came last week against No. 20 Chattahoochee (Johns Creek, Ga.), 27-25, 21-25, 25-19.

“They had these two outside hitters, and we couldn’t stop them,” Paulson of the Georgia team. “They were two awesome players, and they went right over our block. What are you supposed to do?”

Actually, what the Rockets are supposed to do now is celebrate. Paulson said she and her teammates were prepared to have fun Saturday night.

“We are going to walk the Strip, have a little Vegas time,” Paulson said. “It’ll be fun. Dress up, take pictures, stuff like that.”

With the title secured, many of the Assumption players and parents turned their post-game attention to the hometown Louisville Cardinals, who had a Saturday night game at in-state rival Kentucky.

Rooting for Louisville is an especially big passion for George, the Cardinals recruit.

“I’m a huge U of L fan,” George said. “If they beat Kentucky, that would make it a perfect day.”

George’s wish was granted later Saturday night as Louisville won 24-17, snapping a four-game skid in the series against Kentucky.

Somewhere on the Strip, you can bet George and the rest of the Assumption girls were whooping it up.
By Walter Villa

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Green Valley (Henderson, Nev.) exceeded expectations on Friday, showing that Las Vegas-area teams can compete with some of the nation’s elite.

Green Valley, seeded 32nd in this weekend’s 48-team Durango Fall Classic, stunned the tournament’s top overall seed, Marymount (Los Angeles, Calif.) with a 25-23 first-set win. Marymount went on to win the next two sets, 25-19, 25-15.

Because Green Valley finished second to Marymount in its pool, the Gators qualified for a play-in game and the chance to qualify for Saturday’s Sweet 16 round.

Green Valley got another tough draw: La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.), which finished in second place at Durango last year.

Green Valley again gave the favorites a jolt, beating La Costa Canyon, 25-21 in the first set before losing 25-11, 25-11.

“It was a great night for Green Valley and a great night for Las Vegas volleyball,” Gators coach Erin Hill said, alluding to the fact that Vegas teams have never won Durango and have lately not even been very competitive. “I’m thrilled with how we played. We’re young, but we showed up.”

Hill, who was there when Green Valley opened in 1991, is the only coach in school history. She welcomed 140 girls to her very first practice and worked some minor miracles early, winning state titles in 1993, ’95, ’96 and ’01.

No other Vegas-area team has won more Class 4A state titles in girls volleyball. But since the Gators’ golden start, four new schools have opened that have taken enrollment away from Green Valley.

“We have good players in Las Vegas – girls who have gone on to compete at the Division I level,” Hill said. “They just don’t all play for the same high school.”

Still, the Gators have remained a force. Last year, they finished 29-9 and lost in the state final for the second year in a row. The Gators graduated five players from that team.

This season’s team returns four starters: 5-9 junior setter Jenna Swaffer, 5-11 junior outside hitter Carly Schiess, 5-10 sophomore outside hitter Nikki Drost and 5-4 senior libero Alexa Drost.

They also have right-side hitter Sommer King, a 5-9 junior who has emerged this season as an underrated force, and 6-0 junior middle hitter Julie Dramise, who came up big on Friday.

Tournament is on the rise

The Durango Fall Classic started with 16 teams in 1995, quickly grew to 32 schools and now sits at 48.

Bob Kelly, who created the tournament and still runs it, said he is most proud of two things connected with his event: the geographical diversity of the teams and the element of surprise.

The diversity is evident when you see that there are teams from 10 states -- including Alaska and Hawaii -- and Canada.

As for the surprise factor, Kelly said every year seems to produce an unranked team that emerges in Las Vegas. Last year, it was Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood, Calif.), which shocked many experts by winning the tournament.

Two years ago, it was Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, Calif.), which finished second. They were unranked before the tournament started but finished the year No. 15.

“My gut feeling is that there will be a team from California that surprises again this year,” Kelly said. “There are a lot of outstanding teams out there.”

A hungry player

Senior outside hitter Misty Ma’a of Kamehameha (Honolulu, Hawaii) is making her fourth straight trip to Vegas, and she has found her favorite place to eat. “The buffet at the Rio Hotel,” she said. “It’s the highlight of my life -- the best food I have ever seen. We starve ourselves for months so we can eat there.”
Girls Volleyball, Durango ClassicJosh Holmberg/ESPNHSCorie Bain sets the tone for Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) on Day 1 of the Durango Classic in Las Vegas, Nev.
By Kirstin Olsen

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- The Durango Fall Classic served up plenty of action in pool play on Friday. With 48 teams featuring some of the best players in the nation, there was no shortage of star power at the two-day tournament.

On Day 1, we were on the lookout for some of the tournament's up-and-coming players.

Here are 10 players we found flying under the radar:

Nora Kiesler, Assumption (Louisville, Ky.): The 6-foot-6 freshman middle blocker is big and powerful and has good footwork. She got some playing time in pool play but most certainly hasn’t reached her potential yet. Under Coach Ron Kordes’ coaching expertise, she will surely be a threat for rthe Rockets for the next four years.

Berkeley Oblad, Coronado (Henderson, Nev.): This 6-3 freshman middle blocker seems to still be getting comfortable on the court but didn’t bat an eye digging hard-driven balls with her hands against La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.) in pool play. She has a nice high reach and tons of potential.

Katherine Broussard, Metairie Park Country Day (Metairie, La.): The 5-7 junior outside hitter was a sparkplug for the Cajuns on the outside, hitting sharp angles and maintaining a perm-a-grin. She passed well and didn’t have any issues blocking some 6-footers with great technique and penetration on the block.

Alexa Drost, Green Valley (Henderson, Nev.): The 5-3 senior libero passed nails and did a great job playing defense. She was a leader on the court and did a great job setting hittable balls when her setter was in trouble.

Morgan Smith, Walton (Marietta, Ga.): The 5-4 senior libero led the ball control for the Raiders. She was all over the floor, digging balls one-handed and then pooping back up, ready to cover her hitters.

Amanda Wasko, Kamehameha (Honolulu, Hawaii): The 5-9 senior outside hitter wasn't afraid to take big swings against the big block of defending champion Harvard Westlake (North Hollywood, Calif.). She ripped her jumper for some points and helped the Warriors win their pool.

Kelsey Moore, Torrey Pines (San Diego, Calif.): The 5-10 senior outside hitter was unstoppable in the front row. She terminated on the outside hitting a variety of angles. When she got to the back row she assisted there as well, playing great defense and coming up with some key digs.

Elly Ogle, Notre Dame (Park Hills, Ky.): The 5-11 sophomore setter was an intimidator setting in the front row dumping with authority. She buried some over passes and looks to have great potential to grow into her setting capabilities.

Kenedy McGrath, Palos Verdes (Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.): The 5-6 senior libero did a great job digging the array of weapons that Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) threw at her. She was the sparkplug that fired up her team to convert points off of some of her impressive digs.

Corie Bain, Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, Calif.): The 5-11 junior is a well-rounded setter with great location and a strong block and tough serves. She fires her team up and can hit as well when called upon. Her fire and tenacity helps motivate her team.
high schoolJosh Holmberg/ESPNHSKatie George of Assumption (Louisville, Ky.) is wearing a helmet and pads this season to guard against the blood clots that formed after having her tonsils removed. "I look ridiculous," she says. "But I don't care."
By Walter Villa

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Wearing a helmet and pads, Katie George may look like a like a football player – but she’s not.

She’s tougher than that.

George, a 5-foot-10 senior setter for Assumption (Louisville, Ky.), had her tonsils removed in July. But soon after the routine procedure, doctors discovered a blood clot in her left lung.

She was in the hospital -- still suffering from severe pain -- when a doctor told George, a University of Louisville recruit, that her high school volleyball career was over.

George’s mother, Ann, started crying. Katie George, battling her own tears and shortness of breath, tried to protest. The monitors strapped to her body sensed her stress level and started blaring like a police siren.

“I don’t think people understand how serious volleyball is in the lives (of the kids who play the sport),” said George, who led Assumption, the No. 13 team in the POWERADE FAB 50 national volleyball rankings, to three straight wins on Friday, qualifying the Rockets for Saturday’s Sweet 16 round of the prestigious Durango Fall Classic.

“We work so hard and basically give up having a regular teen-age life. For (the doctor) to say, ‘You are not going to play your final high school season, but you will live’ was not good news. I was devastated.”

Devastated … but not deterred.

“It was shocking when they found the blood clot,” Ann George said. “You just don’t expect that to happen to a 17-year-old girl.

“Katie had been looking forward to her senior season for quite some time. But to her credit, she started researching other players who had competed in her condition.”

George took her research to her doctor, who was from India and knew nothing about volleyball. George told him she would wear whatever padding he wanted … as long as she could play.

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Josh Holmberg/ESPNHSKatie George says she sometimes feels pain when she goes on a serving run.

The doctor then asked if volleyball is a contact sport.

“It is the way I play, running into chairs and bleachers,” George said with a laugh. “But I didn’t tell him that.”

Still, the doctor was not convinced. So George, undaunted, called her uncle, Salem George Jr., who is a vascular surgeon. He recommended another doctor, who said George could play as long as she wears a helmet and pads. This would prevent internal bleeding in case of an on-court collision.

“I said, ‘All right! I like this guy!’ ” George said.

George also has to wear a compression hose from her left foot to her thigh. The fit is so tight, it takes three minutes to put on.

The original hose given to her was white, but George has switched to black, more in keeping with Assumption’s uniform.

“With the helmet, the pads and the hose, it looks like I’m pretending to be Allen Iverson … I look ridiculous,” George said. “But I don’t care.”

Coach Ron Kordes, who led Assumption to its 15th state title last year, has nothing but praise for George, who has had no collisions since playing with the black foam helmet that is now a big part of her life.

“For her age, she is one of the best leaders I’ve ever coached,” he said. “She never quits.”

Indeed, there’s no denying George’s toughness. The theory is that she gets it from her brothers, Timmy, 22, and Charlie, 21, who grew up using their little sister as a backyard target while practicing their lacrosse skills.

Toughened up by her bruising brothers, George would not let chronic tonsillitis keep her from playing volleyball. She would routinely play despite swollen tonsils and a 103 degree fever.

Doctors told her removing her tonsils was not necessary, but she asked for the procedure. She didn’t want anything to get in the way of her impending college career.

When she was hospitalized for the blood clot -- and worried she was losing her volleyball conditioning -- she began taking fast-paced walking laps around the nurses’ station. Never mind that she was attached to an IV. She simply took the rolling pole with her.

After six days in the hospital, George was going “stir crazy” and convinced doctors to release her. But this meant she had to give herself blood-thinning injections twice a day for 10 days.

“They made me practice on oranges until I learned how to do it,” George said. “After I started giving myself the injections, first in my stomach and then on my right thigh, I looked like a junkie. I had bruises everywhere. It really hurt.”

But, remember, George is tough.

Three weeks after she was hospitalized, she was still feeling pain in her left leg. She called her uncle, who scheduled another ultrasound. This time, a second clot was discovered in her left leg.

George, who is still on blood-thinning medication, said she is “perfectly fine” and continues to play.

“When I go on a serving run, I feel pain,” she said. “But that’s just because I have a jump serve. I also have to watch what I eat. And I can’t run into doors like I normally do. I have to be careful.”

That is easier said than done for George.

“My husband (Tim) cringes every time she dives on the court,” Ann George said. “But with Katie, there is no second gear.”
high schoolPIXLV PhotographyKamehameha (Honolulu, Hawaii) won the Durango Classic in 1999 and is looking for another strong showing this year. "This will tell us where we're at on a national level," coach Chris Blake says.
By Walter Villa

Hawaii is comprised of eight major islands.

The ninth part of the state, some joke, is Las Vegas.

That may seem especially true this weekend, when thousands of Hawaiians are expected to travel to the Nevada desert for two of their favorite pastimes: sports and sightseeing.

As part of the former, they’ll watch the University of Hawaii football team play Nevada-Las Vegas Saturday night.

In addition, Kamehameha (Honolulu, Hawaii), which has won six straight girls’ volleyball state titles and 17 overall, will make the 3,000-mile trek to participate in the 17th annual Durango Fall Classic.

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PIXLV PhotographyOutside hitter Misty Ma'a was the 2010 Gatorade state volleyball player of the year in Hawaii. She'll look to lead Kamehameha (Honolulu, Hawaii) to a deep run at the Durango Classic this weekend.
This is the fourth straight year Kamehameha has entered the prestigious Fall Classic, a 48-team tournament that runs Friday and Saturday and includes teams from 10 states and Canada.

This year, though, getting to Vegas was trickier.

“Because of the football game, it was hard to get flights out of Hawaii to Vegas this week,” said ninth-year Kamehameha coach Chris Blake.

“Many people from the mainland love to vacation in Hawaii. But Hawaiians love to come to Vegas. And when you add the football game, there will probably be about 10,000 Hawaiians in Vegas this week.”

Blake is hoping a large portion of those islanders continue to show their love for volleyball and come support his team this weekend.

“Women’s volleyball is a big deal in Hawaii, and the fans are very savvy,” Blake said. “All the UH women’s volleyball games are on TV, but they still draw over 5,000 fans. Some teams on the mainland are lucky to get that for an entire year.”

Only football is a more popular team sport on the island than volleyball. The high school girls’ volleyball state finals average about 3,500 fans, and Kamehameha is almost always there when it’s winning time.

Kamehameha, currently ranked 41st in the POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings, has also had success in Vegas, winning the Durango tournament in 1999 and becoming the first non-California team to hoist the trophy.

The only other team to accomplish the feat was Assumption (Louisville, Ky.), which won it in 2005 and finished second the next three years.

Assumption, ranked 13th in the FAB 50 poll, is among this year’s favorites. But there will be a total of 11 teams from the FAB 50 competing in Vegas this weekend.

“We like the challenge,” said coach Ron Kordes, who is in his 24th year at Assumption. “This tournament gives us that underdog mentality, which we don’t get a lot of in our neighborhood. We’ll get to play teams we don’t usually see.”

Most of those teams are from California and Nevada, but –- in addition to the aforementioned Hawaii and Kentucky -- there are also schools here from Georgia, Arizona, Utah, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Among the other ranked teams entered are:

-- No. 7 Los Alamitos (Los Alamitos, Calif.), which has North Carolina recruit JoJo Schnabl, a 5-foot-9 senior setter, is the highest-ranked team at the tournament.

-- No. 18 Marymount (Los Angeles, Calif.), which won Durango in 2003, has 5-11 setter Lauren Fuller.

-- No. 30 Redondo Union (Redondo Beach, Calif.) stars Michigan recruit Tiffany Morales, a 5-6 senior libero.

-- No. 35 Sacred Heart (Louisville, Ky.) is among the top teams outside of California in this year’s field.

-- No. 36 Edison (Huntington Beach, Calif.) stars Washington recruit Cassie Strickland, a 5-7 senior libero.

-- No. 40 Xavier Prep (Phoenix, Ariz.), a 2010 state champ, has Tennessee recruit and 5-8 setter Bianca Arellano.

-- No. 44 Walton (Marietta, Ga.), which won the 2010 Class 5A state title, looks to carry the flag for Georgia.

-- No. 46 Notre Dame Academy (Park Hills, Ky.) is the third team from Kentucky with a shot to make waves in the desert.

-- No. 48 Thousand Oaks (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) is the fifth California team in the FAB 50 entered in the tournament.

Here are some other top contenders:

-- Lakewood (Lakewood, Calif.), which has 5-6 junior libero Heather Eggers, was ranked as high as No. 29 this year.

-- Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.), which lost in the 2010 Division I state final, has been ranked as high as No. 35 this year.

-- La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.), which finished second at Durango in 2010, won it in 2008 and has 6-2 junior Cosy Burnett, was among the FAB 50 teams earlier this season.

-- Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), which has won Durango three times but not since 2001, also was ranked among the nation’s 50 best earlier this season.

-- Saint Mary’s (Stockton, Calif.), which won Durango in 2000, is on the verge of breaking into the FAB 50 poll.

-- Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood, Calif.) is the reigning Durango champion.

-- Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) was in four straight Durango finals between 2004 and 2007, winning three titles. Mira Costa is led by UCLA recruit Maddy Klineman, a 6-1 outside hitter.

-- Wilson Classical (Long Beach, Calif.) has top talent in 5-11 setter and UCLA recruit Rebecca Strehlow.

Kamehameha, meanwhile, has two premier seniors in Chelsey Keoho and Misty Ma’a.

Keoho, a 5-2 libero, is a Colorado recruit. Ma’a, a 6-1 outside hitter, has yet to commit but is planning a visit to the University of Miami.

Other Kamehameha standouts are sophomore setter Alohi Robins-Hardy, senior middle blocker Haley Pa’akaula and senior outside hitter Brit Kalepa.

“This will be a great test for us,” said Blake, whose team finished 13th at Vegas last season. “This will tell us where we’re at on a national level, and it’s a great springboard for the rest of our season.”
high schoolJeff Speer/www.JeffSpeer.comGreen Valley (Henderson, Nev.), which went 31-9 last year and made it to the state semifinals, could be the top Las Vegas-area team at this year's Durango Classic.
By Walter Villa

There is such a thing as being too good a host, and that, in essence, is what has happened to Las Vegas girls volleyball teams at the annual power-packed Durango Fall Classic.

No Nevada team has won the tournament, which returns to Las Vegas for the 17th year this Friday and Saturday.

Last year, the best finish for a Vegas-area school was by Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.), which came in 23rd in the 48-team tournament.

high school
Jeff Speer/www.JeffSpeer.comCarly Scheiss and Green Valley (Henderson, Nev.) hope to stand tall against some of the top teams in the nation this weekend at the Durango Classic.

The other area teams were Centennial (Las Vegas, Nev.), which finished 36th; Green Valley (Henderson, Nev.) at 37th; Silverado (Las Vegas, Nev.) at 43rd; Coronado (Henderson, Nev.) at 45th; Shadow Ridge (Las Vegas, Nev.) at 46th; Foothill (Henderson, Nev.) at 47th; and host Durango (Las Vegas, Nev.), which finished in last place.

The best ever finish by a Vegas team was in 2003, when Durango placed fifth under coach Bob Kelly, who now serves only as tournament director.

“Usually a good Vegas team will finish between 17th and 32nd,” Kelly said. “They rarely get into championship contention.”

That’s OK, according to Bishop Gorman coach Ed Van Meetren, who said where you finish this week is not the only thing that matters.

“All we are looking to do is get better coming out of it,” said Van Meetren, who returns four starters from a 31-9 team that made the 2010 state semifinals.

Van Meetren said he is concerned about his team because his star setter, Kylee Chun, is recovering from a concussion and is questionable for the tournament.

Van Meetren said Green Valley is probably the top team in Vegas at the moment. The Gators return four starters from a 29-9 team that lost in the Class 4A state final for the second year in a row.

“They are well coached,” he said. “I just don’t know if they have enough size to compete against the big teams coming here.”

Among those “big teams” are 11 that are nationally ranked.

Among the other Vegas teams entered, Centennial returns five starters from a 29-8 club and Coronado has two starters back from a 28-6 squad.

Four other Vegas teams are entered in this year’s tournament: Bonanza, which went 15-10 a year ago; Shadow Ridge (17-16 in 2010); Foothill (13-18 last year); Durango (9-23 in 2010).

Hawaii team set for Vegas
While the Vegas teams are playing, virtually, in their backyards, Kamehameha (Honolulu, Hawaii) is making a 4,000-mile trip to compete against the elite field.

“It’s a great bonding trip for us,” said Kamehameha senior Chelsey Keoho, a 5-foot-2 libero who has committed to Colorado.

“I remember the first time I came here as a sophomore. I was a bit intimidated because the girls we played against were so tall and jumped higher. I remember all these big, tall seniors trying to kill me with the ball.”

Leigh Andrew recovering
Leigh Andrew, a 6-0 left side hitter at Cardinal Gibbons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), has missed the start of the season due to mononucleosis. But the North Carolina recruit is expected to return to action later this week.

In mid-August, Andrew said she started feeling tired “for no reason.” A blood test finally confirmed she had mono, and doctors told her to refrain from playing sports for one month or she’d be risking a ruptured spleen.

Andrew has made peace with her upcoming time on the sidelines.

“The positive is that this could have happened two months from now, which would have kept me from the playoffs,” she said. “At least this way, my goal is still on – winning state.”