In early May I received a telephone call from Michael Houghton, a High School classmate. Michael had entered a volleyball team into the Empire State Senior Games and then had a couple of his players back out on him. Michael and I had talked and emailed about volleyball several times, but never played together. Mike said he was desperate for players so I agreed to participate, although I was concerned I might be trying to play at a level over my head.
The Empire State Games are a set of annual Olympic-style competitions for amateur athletes from the state of New York, encompassing several divisions and allowing athletes of all ages to compete. The Senior Games consisted of a number of competitions specifically for athletes age 50 and older. New York State is divided into six regions for the Empire State Games, and each region fields its own athletic teams through tryouts before the Games begin: Adirondack, Central, Hudson Valley, Long Island, New York City and Western. The games at SUNY Cortland collected participants from the Western, Central and Adirondack regions.
The volleyball games were all day Saturday June 8, with 31 women and men teams entered. Games were at the Lusk Field House at SUNY Cortland. There were six nets with continuous play starting at 9am. Games were broken up by breaks and working as linesmen and score keepers. During breaks I walked laps on the tracks around the volleyball games to keep loosened up.
We had 6 teams in our 60-65 age group pool: two from Buffalo, a team from Binghamton, and one from Albany. All the teams were established entities with a team from Buffalo having played together for 17 years. We had not played together as a group and I hadn’t played a 6-2 set in over 13 years. Our lack of familiarity and practice showed, but over the course of the day we improved and managed to finish in 4th place in our pool. Our record tied us with another team but we lost a placing due to point differential.
Seeded 4th we played the #1 seed and lost two games. Our 2nd game we were leading at the end but made too many mistakes at the end. At the end of a long day we played the 3rd place team about 7:30pm. They were tired and asked us if we wanted to play just 1 game for the bronze medal position. We declined and decided to get our monies worth. It was a wise decision as we dropped game 1. We won game 2 and then played a close final match. We were in the lead 8-6 at the mid-game court switch over. We expanded our lead to be the 1st to 15 points and winning the bronze medal.
All our games were competitive. Every team was comprised of good volleyball players and most all played an aggressive 6-2 offense. Our team was comprised of Craig, Phil, Michael and Phil in the front row with Jim, Larry and Chris in the back row.