Sept. 3, 2008
Greeting Green Wave Fans,
As we are all aware of, a lot has gone on since the start of the preseason, but none of us had any idea that the last week or so would be what it has become.
While I have been a part of the Tulane Athletics family for over a decade now - wow, has it really been that long since I was a freshman back in 1995 - and I thought I had just about seen it all as I head into my fourth season as head coach of the volleyball team.
Well, looks like I was wrong. As we left for our trip to Provo, Utah, for the BYU Molten Classic, I think everyone involved with our program was well aware of what we were leaving behind when we took off from Armstrong International Airport. With then-Tropical Storm Gustav tracked to make landfall as up to a Category 4 hurricane along the Louisiana coast, there was a lot of uncertainty about the future of our home town and our University, not to mention the welfare and well being or family and friends in the area.
Luckily, we dodge a bullet this time around, but we were not really sure what was going on back home since we were in Utah. While we tried to keep the student-athletes occupied on the task at hand - winning - the staff both in Provo and in Birmingham, Ala., kept us all abreast of the situation back home. We breathed a small sigh of relief as the storm approached the meteorologists shifted the projected landfall location further and further west of New Orleans, but we all realized that we were not out of the woods just yet.
We were able to keep an eye on things through the national media outlets and through calls with the Athletic Department administration in Birmingham, and it was decided early on that we would not be heading home until after our weekend tournament at the Paso Robles Marriott Invitational hosted by Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
We finished the BYU Molten Classic 1-2, and while the progress we made during the offseason may not have shown up in the win column last weekend, we got better as a team. We had a couple of near misses against Missouri and BYU - a pair of matches that could have gone either way - but put it all together in the tournament finale with a convincing 3-0 win over Utah State. If we can play the way we did in that match the rest of the season, we are going to be something special indeed.
After playing a pair of matches on Saturday, the team enjoyed a trip to Park City, Utah, on Sunday and we left for California on Monday. Traveling is always a bit of a nervous time as we hope for a safe trip, but Monday was even more nerve-wracking as we had an opportunity to catch the weather report in the Salt Lake City Airport. The storm was beginning to hammer the Gulf Coast, and the vision of seeing the waves splash over the levee along the Industrial Canal left everyone feeling very uneasy. Having to get on that flight for LAX was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do since we knew there would be a large block of time where we would not know of what impact Gustav had on the city and Tulane's uptown campus.
Once we arrive in Los Angeles around noon, we went to Jenn Miller's house in San Pedro where her family had prepared a welcome party like no other. The girls were able to enjoy some fine food as the Miller family and the Stromath family participated as well. It was there that we learned the city of New Orleans was spared the brunt of Gustav's wrath and we were able to breathe a little bit easier. Jenn's little sister, Becky, prepared a welcome sign in front of their house and well took pictures with them before heading north.
Loaded into three 12-pasenger vans, we made the three-hour trip to Pismo Beach where we met Tulane Associate Athletics Director Travis Goff, who had made arrangements for us to stay at the Mission Inn. After a brief settling in period, we headed for Cal Poly for our first practice. I have to give special thanks to Cal Poly Athletics Director, Alison Cone, and her staff for helping set up our home for the week at the Mission Inn as well as helping set up practice times for us throughout the week at Mott Gym.
We have been able to practice there all week so far, and that will be a huge advantage for us as we play some tough opponents this weekend. First up is No. 14 Cal Poly and Northeastern on Friday, and then we have the opportunity to play No. 2 Nebraska on Saturday. This is a huge weekend for our team. We let a couple of opportunities to make a splash nationally slip through our fingers last week. I promise you all that will not happen again. While these matches will no doubt be difficult ones, I know that the girls are prepared and ready for the challenge.
It has not been all work for the team since we arrive in California, though. On Tuesday, the team enjoyed a little down time on the Pismo Beach, and today, they went on a guided tour of Hearst Castle - the one-time home of publicist William Randolph Hearts. Mr. Hearst gave the property to the state of California during his lifetime as a way of displaying his vast art collection. Seeing that collection is something I am sure these ladies will not soon forget.
Tomorrow, we will move once again - this time to the tournament hotel in Paso Robles and our schedule return to business as usual. We were originally schedule to leave New Orleans on Thursday morning and practice in San Luis Obispo in the afternoon. It has all been a bit of a bonding experience for everyone involved. The girls are ready for the weekend as well as our return to New Orleans. It has been a long trip, but it is in adversity that true character is defined. When the season is over, I am certain we will look back on this experience as a springboard to another record-setting year.
Our regular-season home opener is now schedule for Friday, Sept. 12, against Jacksonville State in day one of the Allstate Sugar Bowl Classic. I hope to see all of you there.