College volleyball: YVCC’s been there, done that

November 3, 2011 by  

Seasoned Yaks primed for another tourney run? ||

YAKIMA, Wash. — The more Raini Weaver thought about it — and she’d had almost a year to digest what had happened — the more adamantly she reacted.

“It made no sense,” the Yakima Valley sophomore said, shaking her head. “No sense at all.”

Her coach, meanwhile, just laughed. But then Al Rogers, who finds humor in many things, thought he had seen it all during his 76 years of life which has included 23 running YVCC’s volleyball program.

The Yakima Valley Community College women's volleyball team practices on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011. The team is battling for a spot in the playoffs. (Sara Gettys/Yakima Herald-Republic)

He didn’t see the Yaks’ remarkable run in last year’s NWAACC Tournament, though, being flat on his back in Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital following surgery to replace his right hip.

But Weaver and her teammates, with no head coach, no 6-footers to pound opponents into submission and apparently no respect from the tourney field, staged a performance for the ages at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Ore., finishing third after winning their final regular-season match just to get there.

Now, with Yakima Valley poised for its final home match Friday night against Wenatchee Valley, enough players are back with enough knowledge of last season’s heroics for the Yaks to merit status as a potentially dangerous tournament team.

After all, they’re fourth in the East Region, exactly where they placed a year ago before finishing third among the NWAACC’s 35 schools.

Weaver was right. It made no sense.

Yakima Valley announced its tournament presence with authority, logging a first-round sweep of third-ranked Tacoma, a team it would later oust in the double-elimination event. On Day 2 the Yaks beat Linn-Benton before falling to top-ranked Blue Mountain, securing at least a sixth-place finish in the process.

The final day saw Yakima Valley defeat two top-five teams in Tacoma, again, and No. 2 Spokane before bowing to Mt. Hood, capping their 22-13 season and third-place finish.

“There were all these teams with reputations and rankings and 6-footers,” said Weaver, who prepped at Davis, “and they were like, ‘YVCC’s a joke.’”

Said teammate Lauren Smeback, from Selah, “Nobody prepared for us, and we prepared for everyone.”

To which Rogers nodded, smiling and producing his trademark cackle. “We watched film of Tacoma and I showed them some things they could do.” he said. “They did them, and we won.”

When word of the Yaks’ daily exploits reached Rogers, via cell phone, he wasn’t as surprised as his players and assistant coach Nikki Morozzo were excited.

“I was pretty drugged up,” he said, “but when I heard all that screamin’ going on I thought, ‘Oh, man.’”

Yakima Valley, after all, had not been to the tournament in five years and had not attained such lofty heights since finishing second during Rogers’ second and third seasons as coach.

Most of last year’s players were freshmen, and most are back this year including outside hitters Weaver and Smeback and tournament standout Tori Farias (Tori Fisher, before she got married). Sam Zapien, another mainstay, is concentrating on basketball.

So do the Yaks have another tourney run in them? They are 20-9, ranked seventh in the most recent NWAACC coaches poll and have a 3-0 sweep of No. 1 Spokane to their credit.

On the other hand, they lost three straight — to fourth-ranked Walla Walla, to Spokane and to fifth-ranked Blue Mountain — before winning Wednesday night at Big Bend.

“Ideally,” Weaver said, “We’d like to do at least as well as we did last year, but we’ve hit a speed bump here lately.”

Asked the reason for YVCC’s recent difficulties, she said, “We’re girls and we have attitudes.”

Added Smeback, “Yeah, we’re moody. But it’s better to deal with issues now rather than later.”

And both emphasized that the Yaks’ collective experience — and memories — should serve them well.

“It was all new to us last year — the tournament, the competition, everything,” Weaver said. “This time we’ll know what to expect.

“But still, after all this time, I don’t think it’s set in yet what we did last year.”

• Roger Underwood’s Under the Radar blog is at He can be reached at 509-577-7694 or [email protected]

Filed under All, Featured Stories, YVCC Volleyball

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