When most recent high school graduates wake up Saturday morning and coordinate the color of their face paint to the beads they’ll be wearing, they’re usually off to a college football game.
But for Mike Wixon and Mike Desimone, better known as Mike Squared, their purple face paint matched their purple and gold beads not because they were off to a football game. Instead, they spent a majority of their Saturday cheering on their alma mater Clarkstown North’s girls volleyball team.
“We used to always come to every game last year and we just fell in love with the team,” said Wixon, of New City.
Wixon and Desimone, of Congers, graduated from North last year and haven’t been able to get to as many games as they’d like this year due to work. But they made sure to be there for the Rams on Saturday, as North was one of 20 participating teams in the Clarkstown South Alex Valow Memorial Volleyball Tournament.
“We’ve been here since morning and plan on staying all day to see them win the championship,” Desimone said.
While Clarkstown South has hosted a volleyball tournament for 17 years, this was only the second year it was named after Valow, a Wesley Hills resident who died in 2008. Valow played volleyball and was an international referee, receiving the USVBA Golden Whistle Award and The Glen Davies Referees Service Award during his career.
“A few officials came to us and asked us to name the tournament after him, so we did,” said South coach John Pardy. “It seemed like a nice thing to do.”
But that’s not the only change the tournament has seen. While the South volleyball tournament used to have eight teams, it has grown over the years to include 20.
“We also have a plaque now that says the name of the tournament that we just got last year,” Pardy said. “We put the winning teams name on it, so right now the only team there is last year’s winner, Henrick Hudson. After today, we’ll have another team’s name to add.”
And even though Henrick Hudson won the previous five tournaments, they didn’t win on Saturday, probably because it’s difficult to win a tournament if you don’t take part in it. The 20 schools that did play on Saturday came from Rockland, Orange and Westchester counties. Some came from New Jersey.
The teams were initially broken up into four pools of five teams. The teams were Clarkstown North, Scarsdale, Old Tappan, Monroe-Woodbury and Pelham in Pool A; Suffern, Archbishop Molloy, Northern Highland, Cornwall and Panas in Pool B; Clarkstown South, Pearl River, River Dell, Warwick and Westlake in Pool C; and North Rockland, Albertus Magnus, Demarest, Francis Lewis and Mahopac in Pool D.
“There are a lot of great teams in this tournament,” said West Lake coach Carmen Bates. “You can play great competition all day.”
And all day it was. The tournament started at 8 a.m. and was scheduled to end around 6:30 p.m. When teams weren’t playing, athletes could be seen all over South’s campus.
Some teams when they weren’t playing had to work games for other teams, assisting at the score table and working as line judges to help out the down referee. Many brought blankets or sheets, and sat on the floor in the hallways talking, eating, doing homework or even napping. Some sat outside and others simply watched potential future opponents.
Another new addition this year was tournament T-shirts listing all participating teams. The proceeds from T-shirt sales will be donated to help people with cystic fibrosis. The mother of Taylor and Kianna Carroll, junior sisters from South, came up with the idea.
“We try to raise some money every year, so our mom thought this would be a good place to try and raise some money and awareness about it,” said Taylor Carroll.
Kianna Taylor added that their 10-year-old cousin, who goes to Link Elementary, has cystic fibrosis.
Even thought the winners would get trophies, most coaches used the tournament as a sort of practice day.
“We use it to move around the lineup a little bit and get the girls some more game experience, especially this year because we’ve got a young team,” said Albertus coach Valerie McFadden.
Still, with an all-day tournament there’s a level of endurance a team needs to simply make it through.
“You have to wake up ready to play immediately,” said Taylor Carroll. “A lot of people get tired by the end of [the day]. At that point the team that wins might not be the team with the best skill but the team with the best stamina.”