Lady Devils host Grass Volleyball Tourney

Current Lady Devil Rhyen Debenham jumps for a spike, as Constance Hegardt (far left), Austin Robertson (left) and Kielynn Blea look on, at Saturday’s Grass Volleyball 4 v. 4 Tournament, hosted by the EHS volleyball program. (HERALD PHOTO/Don Cogger)

Eleven teams compete; one more event in August

Though the first scheduled round in this summer’s Grass Volleyball Tournament Series last month was canceled due to rain, July’s incarnation found nothing but sunny skies and happy current and former Red Devils (among others) at Bear Meadows Saturday, making the event a resounding success.

Hosted by the Evanston High School volleyball team, the co-ed friendly tournament featured eleven teams, many of which were made up of past, present and future Lady Devils volleyball players.

“It was a good time – it was a lot of fun,” said EHS head volleyball coach and event organizer Tera Lawlar. “We did one of these last year, and had 11 teams at that one, as well. We have one more coming up in August, and our goal is to get 16 teams, so we can have four-team pools on the four courts. We think that would be the perfect number.”

While the event has proven to be a great fundraiser for the volleyball program, for Lawler – who will soon be entering her 23rd season as head coach of the Lady Devils – it’s also a chance to catch up with former players, as well as meet new ones.

“It’s so fun to see former players, and we met some new people who are interested in volleyball, as well,” Lawlar said. “Overall, it was just a blast, and that’s exactly why we were doing this. The Rec Center is amazing – they take care of all the registrations for us, and they settle up with the boosters at the end. They do the sign-ups for us, and of course, they allow us to use the field, which is amazing. We’re really thankful to them.”

It seemed only fitting that a team consisting of past, present and future Lady Devils won the tournament – incoming EHS freshman Kyan Lawlar, current Lady Devil Jaylie Critchfield and former Lady Devils Baylie Critchfield and Emily Freeland were joined by Kynlee Reber of Enterprise, and walked away with July bragging rights. The co-ed team that placed second also featured a handful of familiar names to Evanston sports fans – Chandler Anderson, Ajahonna Archuleta, Alexia Leland and Dylan Mathson.

“It was really neat to see the current players match up with the past players – I’m sure they’ve heard about a lot of them and their time as Lady Devils,” Lawlar said. “We also met some younger people who were interested in the Rec Center’s volleyball league. It was just a fun environment – it made me proud to be a part of it.”

The tournament began with pool play for seeding purposes, then finished up with single-elimination bracket play. Lawlar said most teams seem to like this format, though some wouldn’t mind seeing bracket play extended to double elimination.

“At the next one, we might try to get a quick consensus of the teams that are playing, if they’d like it to be double elimination,” Lawlar said. “I have no problems staying for another hour or two, but we did have a couple of teams Saturday that needed to get out of there by a certain time, just because they had other commitments. But we’ll definitely look into bracket play, and whether we want to change that. But otherwise, August’s tournament should look very similar.”

Feedback to the tournament has been overwhelmingly positive, though there’s always room for minor adjustments.

“My daughter Kyan informed me we need a longer music list – we played our playlist [2 hours, 40 minutes] three times,” Lawlar said. “But the feedback we received was that those who participated really enjoyed it. Obviously, the weather – something we can’t control – the weather being nice made a huge impact on the event. Also, I think it would have been great to be able to use that fourth court, even if we had just one extra team, we could have evened them out – we just didn’t want to have a pool of two teams, if we could help it.”

While we’re on the subject of wish lists, Lawlar said she can think of a couple of more additions that would really add to August’s event.

“We need a food truck, or a snow cone booth,” Lawlar said, laughing. “We had some parents that asked if their kids could sell drinks next time, and the boosters had a cooler of drinks for sale. But I think a food truck would be fun – and maybe better speakers for the music. But it’s all good. We just want everyone to have a great time.”