UC Slam Diego spent President’s Day Weekend and Valentine’s Day up in UC Davis for the annual Far Westerns Invitational. This was the biggest tournament yet for the season, with bids to Nationals up for grabs for the top four teams. Placed fourth overall out of the 27 teams that participated, UC Slam Diego simply had to hold their seed to gain a bid. But it was not that simple. This entailed the 4-4 team winning their first seven matches, reaching the semifinals without dropping a single match. And that’s exactly what they did.
On the Friday before the tournament weekend, the gentlemen made their trek up to the inhospitable wasteland that is Northern California. Apparently up there they suffer a meteorological calamity referred to as “seasons.” Sometimes bravery is confused with stupidity, especially in this case, when six of the gentlemen decided to “brave” the trip by driving instead of flying. The smartest four players on the team, Chris “Griebs” Griebenow, Jordan “Suh Dude” King, Mahdi “Definitely 21” Younis, and Jeffery “Old Greeeeeeeg” Meng, as well as the dark wizard-coach Trombledore, relaxed in style by flying into Oakland and staying with their Valentines, the Keller family.
The Keller family deserves their own paragraph, smack dab in the middle of this article, and you’re not allowed to simply skip over it to get to more about the volleyball tournament, so deal with it. First of all, the biggest of possible thanks to the always-lovely culinary goddess, Cheryl Keller. Words cannot describe how much she did for the lucky players that got to stay at her amazing home, which makes writing about it tricky. After playing eight matches over the course of two days, I believe that I gained weight since I was fed so well. The first night, there was lasagna, salad, and garlic bread waiting for us when we arrived after 9:00 PM. We were served three huge tri tips, potatoes, rice, and salad the following night. And then, after they drove an hour to come watch us play in the playoffs on Sunday, made the remaining few that hadn’t left to drive home a delicious dinner of enchiladas, rice, and beans with chips, salsa, and guacamole. But dinner wasn’t all that was served. We had to be on the road before 6:00 AM each morning, but that didn’t stop Cheryl and her husband Kris and sometimes her daughter Melissa from having breakfast burritos and breakfast sandwiches and coffee prepared for us before we even woke up a little after 5:00 AM. I’m sure you’re thinking, “But Griebs, what about lunch? Were you and your team just left to your own devices for fueling up between matches?” First of all, how did you know I was the author of this? And second of all, hell no! The Kellers packed cold cuts for us the first day and then a gigantic Chinese chicken salad the second day, along with plenty of chips, waters, and bananas for both days. Honorable mentions from the Keller family go out to Kris Keller who helped Cheryl tremendously and drove us to the airport, Erica Keller who wasn’t there but allowed us to use her Prius (it was a black Prius, the manliest of the Prii), and I guess Melissa Keller helped too, but she just flew up for the weekend so that she could get help with her taxes and make sure no icky boys slept in her bed.
Now back to the volleyball! On the first day, UC Slam Diego came out strong against UNR in their first match, completely crushing the spirit of UNR, and making friends with the ref along the way. Their second match was against Cal, where the Tritons slammed so hard that the Cal coach talked to his team for over an hour after their defeat. Next up was Hartnell, the fifth seed in the pool, and basically a warm-up match before playing the second seed, Santa Clara, right afterwards. Or so the Tritons thought! Hartnell came out strong with a brand of incredibly weird volleyball that dug UC Slam Diego into a deep hole in the first set, throwing our bench and coach into a fit of laughter as they watched us struggle to barely lose 27-25 in the first set. But that’s why a volleyball match is a best-of-three series. After some harsh truths thrown out to each player by Captain Griebs, and then reciprocated by each player to Captain Griebs, the Tritons humbled themselves and refocused, winning in three. The final match of the day against Santa Clara was to decide the winner of the pool, and was long, grueling, and literally bloody. Slam Diego stayed classy in the faces of Santa Clara, who were talking so much trash through the net that they should have been charged with littering. The gentlemen did not partake in the pissing match that Santa Clara was attempting to start, and instead chose to win the match, smiling all the way. This couldn’t have been done without the relief of Nic “Dancing Queen” Maroun, coming in for Chris “Unquenchable Thirst” Shaffer who loses more water from playing than he can possibly drink. No wonder he’s always so thirsty.
The second day, the Tritons were the first seed in a power pool with San Jose State and the genetically engineered protectors of the sky, Air Force. First, UC Slam Diego handled San Jose State with grace, and were then off for three whole hours before playing the reigning champions of being gorgeous, Air Force. But actually, girls’ teams from throughout the convention center at Nationals flocked around their court for every match. Even some guys’ teams. Aside from being really, really, ridiculously good-looking, they can also fly without the aid from aircrafts and spend all of their time in the academy honing their bodies and minds to serve our country, meaning that a volleyball has no chance when they go for the kill. In spite of the team of super humans that stood before UC Slam Diego, they weren’t even phased since they realized that all of their gorgeous players were gone, leaving the gentlemen of UC Slam Diego the crown of being the most attractive team in the gym, and possibly the nation. The Tritons handled them easily in two games, with the Captains and Presidents, Jordan “Suh Dude” King and Chris “Griebs” Griebenow bouncing the butter from Jon “Trash Cans Are His Kryptonite” Maroun harder than the genetically enhanced pseudo-Captain Americas.
This put the Tritons straight into the quarter finals, facing Sacramento State. With the support of their new family, the Kellers, the gentlemen of UC Slam Diego destroyed Sac State in two games. At one point, and I can’t speak highly enough about this guy, Captain Griebs served 9 points straight, many of which were aces, causing Sac State to burn through both of their timeouts.
With their bid to Nationals in their pocket, UC Slam Diego faced off against the number one ranked team in the tournament, Cal Poly SLO. Exhausted from the past two days of play, the Tritons battled against SLO, barely losing the first set 23-25 and then the second 22-25 after being down 9-19. Despite the loss, the Tritons are proud of their 7-1 performance, especially since the only team that they lost to won the tournament.
They are looking forward to their crossover tournament against UCLA, USC, UCSB, ASU, and CSULB coming up on March 5th in RIMAC Arena.