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Bobcats boys, Vikings girls win Pauma Volleyball Tournament

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

Seven small middle schools and K-8 elementary schools in northern San Diego County and southern Riverside County compete in monthly athletic tournaments with each school hosting a different sport throughout the year.

The 2023-24 tournaments began Sept. 21 with the Pauma Volleyball Tournament at Pauma Elementary School, and Pauma Elementary School won the boys portion of the tournament while Vallecitos Elementary School had the first-place girls team.

Vallecitos and Pauma swept the top two positions in both divisions. The Vallecitos boys placed second and Pauma's girls took second place.

"Our team did very, very well," said Pauma coach Jaime Lopez.

"I'm really proud of the way that they played," said Vallecitos coach Ray Hanbeck.

Hamilton School (Anza) did not participate in the tournament, and each of the six schools participating played the other schools once. "It was a very good tournament, good competition," Lopez said.

"It was really very well run," Hanbeck said. "Jaime always does a good job."

All matches were one game to 20 points, although a team had to win by at least two points. Three girls teams had 3-2 records; Pauma was given second place on the tiebreaker of points scored although no tiebreaker was used for third place and both Cottonwood Elementary School (Aguanga) and Julian Junior High School were given that status.

Vallecitos brought 13 girls and 11 boys to the tournament. Pauma had 10 girls and eight boys.

The Vallecitos and Pauma girls opened play against each other. Vallecitos took a 20-18 victory. "That was our closest game," Hanbeck said.

Pauma then lost to Julian, but the Bobcats defeated their other three opponents. "I'm proud of them. They showed perseverance," Lopez said. "They kept playing."

The second Vallecitos girls match was a 20-10 triumph over Cottonwood. The Vikings then faced Warner Middle School (Warner Springs) and the match had a 20-6 final score. "They won that pretty handily," Hanbeck said.

The match between Vallecitos and Julian was a 20-9 Vikings triumph. The Vallecitos girls closed out play with a 20-6 win against Borrego Springs Middle School.

"They pretty much dominated," Hanbeck said of his team.

"I was really worried about communication. Some of the girls were quiet and they needed to learn how to talk to each other and communicate with each other," Hanbeck said. "Their communication skills got stronger."

Last year, the Vallecitos girls had a 3-2 record for third place while the Pauma girls were 1-4 which was worth fifth place. Five of the six Vallecitos starters had played in last year's tournament. "They were mostly returning players," Hanbeck said.

The core group consisted of five eighth-graders and one seventh-grader. When Vallecitos had a large lead in the early matches, Hanbeck opted to let his eighth-graders play. "I kept the experienced girls in," he said.

"The last couple of games I was able to substitute some girls," Hanbeck said. "I got the seventh-grade girls in."

Vallecitos had no sixth-grade girls. Some fifth-grade girls practiced with the team and made the trip to Pauma Valley but did not play. "They came more for experience," Hanbeck said. "It's a learning experience for them."

Both the Vallecitos girls and the Vikings boys had approximately four weeks of volleyball practice prior to the tournament.

Pauma and Vallecitos also opened boys play against each other with the Bobcats winning that 20-15 match. "That was a good tight game, close game," Lopez said.

"It was competitive," Hanbeck said.

Both the Bobcats and the Vikings won their ensuing boys matches. "They were good games," Lopez said.

"They were pretty nervous at the beginning," Hanbeck said of his boys. "The rest of the matches they were able to get their composure and become a lot more competitive."

The Warner boys took third place, and Vallecitos defeated the Wildcats in a 21-19 contest. "That was a really competitive game," Hanbeck said. "There was a lot of good volleys, very long volleys."

Last year, Vallecitos had a 5-0 record to win the boys portion of the tournament. Seven of those 15 players were on the 2023 squad. This year's boys core group included a fifth-grader.

After the 2022 boys match between Pauma and Warner was completed, a scoring error was discovered, and Lopez and Warner coach Brigette Spinks agreed to have the game declared a tie. Both teams finished 2‑2‑1, and Warner was given third place based on the tiebreaking criteria of more points scored with Pauma being designated as the fourth-place team.

Pauma's boys championship broke the Vikings' streak of winning three consecutive Pauma Volleyball Tournament boys titles. "I'm proud of my boys," Lopez said.

"They were dominant and played hard and played together," Lopez said. "They played as a team."

Pauma Elementary School has 48 boys and girls in the sixth, seventh, and eighth middle school grades. "We may be the smallest school, but we played big," Lopez said.

The next tournament will be the Vallecitos Soccer Tournament at Vallecitos Elementary School and Rainbow Park, which will take place Oct. 26 if the weather permits.


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