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Battleline: Tourney of Tradition

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Posted: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 12:00 pm

Imagine if most of the top area teams in a given sport, regardless of class or conference, got together to determine a champion.

Then, imagine if this event took place in the middle of the season, over the course of an entire week and had the attention of all of the sport’s interested observers.

If you’re a volleyball fan, you don’t have to imagine.

The 58th Annual Hermann Invitational Volleyball Tournament is taking place this week in Gasconade County.

No other volleyball tournament has the type of deep tradition as the Hermann Tournament.

“Obviously the Hermann Tournament means a great deal to us since we host the event,” said Hermann Head Coach Linda Lampkin. “We are proud that the tournament has existed for as long as it has. We always talk about success in our tournament when we set our goals for the season. We know the competition will be tough. We have won more state tournament titles since I have been coaching than we have Hermann Tournament titles. That gives you an idea of how tough the competition is.”

Under Lampkin, Hermann has won 11 state titles. The defending tourney champion Lady Bearcats have won five Hermann titles under Lampkin and a total of 11 titles going back to a six-tournament run from 1966-72.

Borgia holds the record for most tournament wins, 18 since 1982. The Lady Knights last won in 2011.

“The Hermann Tournament has a rich tradition of great competition,” said Borgia Head Coach Brad Bruns. “It seems like on any given year, you never know who is going to come out on top. We enjoy playing in the tournament because we get a chance to play many local teams that we do not always get to play during the regular season.”

Union has raised the title 10 times, but not since 1988. Washington has earned nine titles with the most recent being in 2010.

Hermann, Borgia and Washington have dominated the tournament since 1989 and no other school has won in that span.

Other schools with titles are New Haven (five with the most recent being in 1980), Sullivan (three with the most recent being in 1962) and Pacific (won the inaugural tournament in 1956).

Hoener knows it takes top play to be able to walk out with the championship.

“The competition is fierce from year to year,” Hoener said. “You have to bring your best game if you’re going to have a chance to play for hardware.”

And, much of the time, a team has to be at the top of its game to make it to Thursday’s final night.

“There is always good competition and we have to play well to play on Thursday night,” Brown said.

Owensville Head Coach Kari Nolting feels it’s a great chance to see some of the best teams from the area.

“We love that all the participants are local,” Nolting said. “It gives us the chance to play some of them more than just once in our regular season.”

Like many of the other coaches, Lampkin has memories of the Hermann Tournament as a player.

“I played in the Hermann Tournament when I was in high school, so it means more to me than the other tournaments that we participate in,” Lampkin said.

Other coaches who have played in the event feel the Hermann Tournament is a special one.

“The Hermann tournament has been a staple for the local teams in the area for decades,” Washington Head Coach Kym Blankenship said. “It’s a tradition that started way before I was a player at Borgia and will continue long after I am done coaching at Washington. It’s a great way to play local teams and have the school and the communities they represent support their programs.”

Pacific Head Coach Janel Brown not only played in the tournament for Washington, but watched her older sisters play in the event for Borgia.

“Even as a coach I still get excited about playing in the Hermann Tournament,” Brown said. “I have so many good memories as a player and watching my sisters play. It is hard to describe but there is just something about the Hermann Tournament that gets people fired up. There are such good rivalries between all teams that everyone wants to know who is the best.”

New Haven Head Coach Jaime Hoener said the tournament is a great way to find out where her program stands at the midway point of the season.

“I think the Hermann Tournament is a great measuring stick for our team and where we are right now,” Hoener said. “It’s one of those constants that you can always rely on.”

Owensville Head Coach Kari Nolting, who is in her first season in charge, knows the tournament will be a challenge.

“This is a chance to compete with some outstanding competition,” Nolting said. “It is an opportunity for growth and building our team and program. We think it is a good preview of district winners in our area and also a good chance for collegiate exposure.”

Lampkin also played in the tournament.

“I have so many memories of the Hermann Tournament dating back to the early ’70s when I played,” Lampkin said. “The competition has always been fierce. The teams that participate have not changed much in the last 58 years. It started as a consolation bracket  tourney and was changed to the current pool play format in the ’80s. There have been some real battles in the semifinal and championship matches over the years.”

So, what makes the Hermann Tournament unique?

It’s played over most of a week with two nights of pool play and one night of bracket play. Most tournaments these days either are one-day Saturday events, or run around the weekend.

“The fact that we play the tournament during the week makes it different than other tournaments,” Lampkin said. “We have talked about moving  it to a Saturday, but there is an atmosphere at this tournament that is different from the one day tournaments. I think it  would lose some of that if we were to go to a one day tournament.”

Lampkin said the participating schools have made an investment in the tournament.

“I know that taking a week out of your regular schedule for this tournament makes scheduling difficult for teams but I think a lot of people in the area look forward to this tournament  each year because it is as you said the closest thing we have to an area championship. It hosts schools of all sizes and  everyone can see how they stack up against area teams.”

The full week format is something that appeals to other coaches because it’s different than the bus in, play, award trophies, bus home one-day events.

“I like how the tournament takes place over a week,” Brown said. “It gives you time to prepare for championship night.”

In many years, it’s been the only time you will see multiple state contenders (and sometimes state champions) playing in one event for one championship trophy.

“This area has strong competition and a legacy of amazing coaches who have numerous state championship visits between several schools,” Blankenship said. “It’s an honor to coach among these coaches and work with some pretty amazing players.”

Many times, just making it to the semifinals is a big accomplishment.

“I enjoy seeing year to year the different schools playing for different places,” Blankenship said. “It’s not like the same one or two teams dominate each and every year. Some years we have played for first and either won or lost, other years we have played for third. I remember one year playing for consolation. The competition is always strong and anything can happen.”

We’ve already seen one minor upset this year. Pacific swept Washington (current top team in GAC Central) in the first match of the tournament and then followed through to earn the second semifinal spot from the pool.

Top-seeded Borgia cruised, for the most part, on Monday night. Washington, which will play for the consolation title, gave the Lady Knights a hard run in the first game of the final pool match.

Tuesday’s pool should be brutal. Defending champion Hermann, New Haven, Owensville and Union are competing and a good team will be watching action from the stands Thursday night along with Montgomery County, Monday’s last-place pool finisher.

How tough is Tuesday’s pool? The teams vying for playoff spots are among the better squads in the Four Rivers Conference. Union, the bottom seed, is coming off a championship in the Chamois Round Robin last weekend.

But play like that has been typical during the history of the tournament.

Over its span, the event has seen the volleyball season change from fall to spring (1968, the year without a tournament) and back (1979, the year with two tournaments). It’s seen the end of sideout scoring and the rise of rally scoring as well as the libero. It’s seen net serves become legal.

And the coaches have favorite memories.

“One game that particularly stands out is the championship match with Borgia in 1991,” Lampkin said. “It was a hot contest with lots of big hits and awesome defense.  We came out on top which is probably why I can remember it.”

Pacific has played for one championship since 1960, and Brown fondly remembers the 2011 title match against Borgia.

“Our favorite memory is when we played Borgia for championship two years ago,” Brown said. “Our team was starting to peak and we were able to play really well. Even though we lost in three it was still an outstanding night of volleyball. For us we had worked so hard to play with the traditional strong teams that we felt like we had become a strong team too.”

Hoener, an all-state outside hitter at New Haven, has fond memories of the event.

“This is my 11th year at the tournament (three as a player and eight as a coach),” Hoener said. “As a player, I remember taking second in 1992.  We lost to Borgia in three sets. As a coach, I’ll remember taking third in 2006.”  

If you’ve never been to the event, it’s worth a drive up Highway 100 on Thursday night.

Even in Hermann’s current gym, things can get crowded for the last night and you’ll frequently find fans from different schools cheering together. For example, if Hermann is playing Borgia, you’ll probably see green-clad New Haven fans yelling, “Point, Bearcats!”

At times, the atmosphere can resemble a huge high school basketball game. The stands get packed and it gets loud and warm in the gym.

The tournament’s a little different these days. During the days before the rules were changed to rally scoring, it wasn’t uncommon for the championship match to end well after 10 p.m. I can remember nights of leaving the parking lot after midnight.

And you used to see a number of college coaches there, at least on the final night. However, most coaches now choose to recruit their players at large club volleyball events, so the college scouts are less common these days.

Few get to see it, but the hospitality room for coaches, officials and workers has become legendary over the years.

“Not everyone knows this but the hospitality room alone is worth being in the tournament as a coach,” Blankenship said. “Hermann does an amazing job catering to coaches and support staff of our programs. It’s very well run.”

The teams fight hard for the title and there usually is a lot of emotion shown on and off the court. But when the ball has hit the floor for the final time, there’s a lot of mutual respect among the programs who have vied for the title.

“I grew up in Washington, played for Borgia in high school, and married a man from Owensville,” Blankenship said. “My husband’s cousin, Kari (Blankenship) Nolting, is now the head coach at Owensville. I grew up playing with surrounding teams and remember all the coaches. I love the connection I have to this community and I am always happy when any program from this area is successful. It’s good for their community and it’s great for the players involved. I’m thrilled every day to be a part of it as Washington’s coach.”

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Area Scoreboard

62nd Annual Borgia Pepsi Thanksgiving Tournament

Blue Division

Pool 1

McCluer North

Normandy

Carnahan

Pool 2

Cardinal Ritter

Pacific

Rockwood Summit

Gold Division

Pool 1

CBC

Soldan

Washington

Pool 2

Borgia

North Tech

Union

Monday, Nov. 24

CBC 77, Washington 52

Tuesday, Nov. 25

Cardinal Ritter vs. Rockwood Summit, PPD

Washington 63, Soldan 62

Borgia 83, Union 50

Wednesday, Nov. 26

Carnahan 71, Normandy 46

Pacific 64, Rockwood Summit 22

North Tech 67, Union 37

Thursday, Nov. 27

McCluer North 95 Carnahan 68

CBC 82, Soldan 55

Borgia 50, North Tech 45

Friday, Nov. 28

McCluer North 93, Normandy 39

Pacific 70, Cardinal Ritter 57

Saturday, Nov. 29

Blue Consolation — Rockwood Summit 47, Normandy 38

Gold Consolation — Soldan 78, Union 59

Gold Third Place — North Tech 63, Washington 57

Blue Third Place — Cardinal Ritter 71, Carnahan 46

Blue Championship — McCluer North 64, Pacific 58 (OT)

Gold Championship — CBC 67, Borgia 66

Boys Basketball

Monday, Dec. 8

Lutheran S 64, St. Clair 48

Borgia 61, Carnahan 51

Tuesday, Dec. 9

Lafayette 44, Washington 35

Friday, Dec. 12

Potosi 72, St. Clair 45

*Washington 69, Ft. Zumwalt North 65

Montgomery Co 62, New Haven 61

*St. Mary’s at Borgia    6:45 p.m.

Bourbon 75, Union 74

Glendale 63, Pacific 46

Saturday, Dec. 13

New Haven 46, Barat 40

Nixa 56, Pacific 46

Tuesday, Dec. 16

*Pacific 70, New Haven 35

*Hermann 67, St. Clair 49

*Ft. Zumwalt South 61, Washington 50

*Union 81, St. James 74

Friday, Dec. 19

*Owensville at St. Clair    4 p.m.

Washington vs. Parkway Central, GAC/Suburban Shootout, St. Charles Family Arena, 5:30 p.m.

*St. James at New Haven    6 p.m.

*Pacific at Union    7 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 20

Sullivan Shootout

Owensville vs. Rockwood Summit, 11:30 a.m.

St. Clair vs. Lindbergh, 1 p.m.

Jefferson City vs. Jackson, 2:30 p.m.

Washington vs. Lutheran South, 4 p.m.

Borgia vs. Poplar Bluff, 5:30 p.m.

Sullivan vs. Affton, 7 p.m.

Girls Basketball

Saturday, Dec. 6

Cor Jesu 63, Borgia 60

New Haven 46, Moberly 39

Monday, Dec. 8

Pacific 73, Rolla 40

St. Clair 68, Dixon 37

Washington 54, New Haven 15

Tuesday, Dec. 9

*Borgia 59, Rosati-Kain 38

Union 53, Northwest 44

Thursday, Dec. 11

*Borgia 60, Notre Dame 53

Union 81, Bourbon 53

Friday, Dec. 12

New Haven 45, Principia 30

*Washington 59, Ft. Zumwalt North 32

Saturday, Dec. 13

West Plains 76, Pacific 37

Monday, Dec. 15

*Pacific 46, New Haven 28

*St. Clair 59, Hermann 50

*St. James 64, Union 37

Sullivan Tournament

Cuba 48, Principia 27

Borgia 68, Patriettes 29

Sullivan 56, Pattonville 43

Owensville 78, Farmington 54

Wednesday, Dec. 17

Sullivan Tournament

Farmington 61, Pattonville 39

Sullivan 68, Owensville 64

Principia 55, St. Louis Patriettes 42

Borgia 56, Cuba 38

Thursday, Dec. 18

*St. James 72, New Haven 21

*Union 49, Pacific 48

Friday, Dec. 19

Washington at Francis Howell    7 p.m.

Sullivan Tournament

Seventh Place — Pattonville vs. St. Louis Patriettes, 4 p.m.

Consolation — Farmington vs. Principia, 5:30 p.m.

Third Place — Owensville vs. Cuba, 7 p.m.

Championship — Borgia vs. Sullivan, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 20

Union at Waynesville    5 p.m.

Wrestling

Monday, Dec. 8

Maplewood 48, Borgia 30

Brentwood 47, Borgia 36

Winfield 48, St. Clair 36

St. Clair 42, St. James 40

Tuesday, Dec. 9

Pacific 55, North County 10

Jackson 63, Washington 12

Farmington 63, Washington 6

Wednesday, Dec. 10

Borgia 36, Lutheran St. Charles 34

Winfield 54, Borgia 30

Thursday, Dec. 11

Union 72, Ft. Zumwalt East 9

Union 52, Principia 30

Union 54, Winfield 27

Saturday, Dec. 13

Union Tournament    9 a.m.

Borgia at McCluer S-Berkeley Tny    9 a.m.

Pacific at Farmington Tny    9 a.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 16

Owensville 61, St. Clair 16

Union 48, Owensville 27

Union 65, St. Clair 18

Friday, Dec. 19

Washington at Raytown S Tny    TBA

Union at Cape Central Tny    TBA

Pacific at Ft. Zumwalt E Tny    TBA

Saturday, Dec. 20

Washington at Raytown S Tny    TBA

Union at Cape Central Tny    TBA

Pacific at Ft. Zumwalt E Tny    TBA

Girls Swimming

Monday, Dec. 8

Washington at Eureka    4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 9

Washington at Nerinx Hall    4 p.m.

LSC/OFC 134, Borgia 101, St. Dominic 83

Monday, Dec. 15

Borgia at Notre Dame (Forest Park)    4 p.m.

Kennedy 88, Washington 84

Wednesday, Dec. 17

Lindbergh 128, Washington 48

*Conference Games

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