Shawn Jansen: Golden Valley volleyball's Sykes performing at MVP level

October 21, 2011 

Reina Sykes made a strong case for earning her second straight Central California Conference Most Valuable Player award on Wednesday night.

In Golden Valley's biggest volleyball game this year, Sykes took center stage, finishing with 33 kills, 22 assists, three blocks and three aces in the Cougars' five-game thriller over Pitman.

Sykes hurt the Pride in so many ways.

Facing a double team on the left side, the GV star went to her soft game early with tips and dinks.

When Pitman adjusted its defense and put up a single block, Sykes hammered away.

"I may be biased, but I think she's the best player in the league," said Cougars coach Matt Thissen, whose team pulled even with Pitman atop the CCC at 9-2. "Sometimes it just seems like the game is in slow motion for her. She'll be up hanging in the air and make up her mind what she's going to do with the ball.

"She did a great job of reading the block (Wednesday night)."

Sykes' 33 kills was a career high, but not a school record.

If I gave you one guess at the record, you're first thought would probably be Jacque Robinson.

Incorrect.

Robinson is easily the best player ever at GV, but her teams where so dominant that they rarely, if ever, went five games.

The record belongs to Stephanie Hellner, who recorded 42 kills and 18 blocks in a five-game win over Merced in 2000.

* * *

Michelle Osmer held an unconventional volleyball practice to prepare her team for its game at Turlock this week.

Osmer turned off the lights in the Thunder Dome and had her team practice in the dark on Tuesday.

They used just the sunlight peeking through the skylights in the ceiling.

"The girls acted like it was a slumber party or something," Osmer said. "They had fun."

Osmer protested the Thunder's first match in Turlock's girls gym because she felt the light wasn't adequate.

On Thursday they were more prepared and BC won 3-1.

"I think it helped," Osmer said. "We made sure we used the all-white balls in practice. When we got there we were already adjusted when we walked in."

* * *

Golden Valley quarterback Ridge Bertuccio set a school record with 482 passing yards last week against Atwater.

Like many passing records, it came in a loss with the Falcons winning 57--42.

Bertuccio completed 29 of 49 passes, including four touchdowns.

His 1,909 yards this season ranks sixth in the state according to MaxPreps.

* * *

Serina Castillo became the first Merced girl golfer to win the individual title at the Central California Conference Tournament on Tuesday at Creekside Golf Course in Modesto.

Merced's Zach Lemas won the boys individual CCC tourney title last spring.

Call it a Bears slam.

Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at sjansen@mercedsun-star.com.

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