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After defeat in Reno, volleyball team hits the courts

The Hastings Heat 14-1's volleyball team suffered a tough set of losses in Reno, Nev., last week at the 2010 USA Volleyball Girls' Junior National Championships, but after arriving home late last Tuesday night their coach found them ready to practice again the next morning.

"They're ready to get going for the school season," head coach Rita Girgen said.

The girls faced obstacles every step of the way, starting with a series of delayed flights that caused them to miss their first day of competition and forfeit their first three games.

Once they started playing, the team couldn't shake their unfortunate start

"We could not mentally and emotionally get ourselves back together," Girgen said.

The teams they played were well within the girls' league, and normally the Hastings Heat would have been able to come out on top against many of them, Girgen explained.

"We were very comparable to the teams we did play," she said. "There wasn't a team that was so much better than us that we couldn't compete."

The Hastings girls were able to pull ahead in some of their sets, but each time, "it didn't stick," Girgen said.

Of the 48 teams competing in the division, Girgen expected her girls to place in the 25th to 30th range.

"It didn't work out that way," she said. "But the experience was well worth the place we finished in."

Hastings had nine games scheduled. The first three they had to forfeit due to their flight delays, and they lost the remaining six, placing last in the tournament.

Even though they didn't win any of their games at the tournament, the efforts the team put in before it are notable.

"It was about 10 girls that worked extremely hard to get there," Girgen said.

Hastings Heat was one of 48 top teams in the country.

"That is an accomplishment in and of itself," Girgen added.

The team's streak of bad luck held on even after the tournament was over. They left Reno on time on their way to Dallas, but severe weather forced them to detour to Amarillo, Tex. before they made it to Dallas.

"Upon arriving there, we find out our flight (to Minneapolis) was already cancelled," Girgen said.

Airline employees told them they could catch the same flight at 8:30 p.m. the next day, so they found a hotel for the night. At 2:30 the next day, one of the parents called to confirm their flight and found out that the girls, mostly 14-year-olds, had been put on a 6 p.m. flight without any of the adults.

"If we had not called to double check... we would have missed our flight," Girgen said.

Girgen and another coach, Bob Petersen, managed to get seats on that flight, but it took two more flights to get the rest of the parents back home.

"We do understand (June 28) it was weather. There's nothing they could do for that," Girgen said. "The main mishap was on the way down and that's what affected the team the most."

The girls didn't get home until 9:15 p.m. After the long trip, Girgen said she didn't expect to see many of the girls at practice the next morning, but quite a few did show up, ready to work and improve for the upcoming season.