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Top-rated female athletes come to Hall of Fame

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

HOLYOKE The Volleyball Hall of Fame will be hosting its first ever Girls' High School Showcase of Champions next week in a tournament that will follow the induction of the Class of 2007 Hall of Famers on Oct. 11. The three day tournament will bring together 25 of the top-rated girls' volleyball teams from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York.

"We've been wanting to reach out to high school volleyball players," Jerry Fitzsimons, executive director of the Hall of Fame, said. "We currently hold college-level tournaments."

The tournament brings together teams that won sectional or state championships last year, or had played at the championship level in the past. Because the girls' volleyball season has already started in Massachusetts, some teams will be playing against others they were already scheduled to play.

High school teams in the Commonwealth can only play a certain number of independent matches, however, so some of the teams invited could not attend.

The Showcase of Champions will start with a game dubbed "the Founders Game," pitting Holyoke High School against Dean Technical High School. Twelve more matches will follow, played until about 8:30 p.m. the first night, and from 9 a.m. through at least 6 p.m. during the weekend.

Minnechaug Regional High School from Wilbraham will be playing Joseph Case High School from Swansea, Mass., Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. Longmeadow High School will take on Turners Falls High School from Turners Falls, Mass., the next morning at 9 a.m.

The last local team in the tournament, Agawam High School, will play Bourne High School from Bourne, Mass., following the Longmeadow match.

Patricia Demers, head coach of the Agawam High School girls' volleyball team, feels that her team represents the area very well.

"We're a fairly new program. We started the girls' team in 1998," she explained. "We have won one Western Mass. Championship and last year, we were finalists."

In addition to the 13 matches in the tournament a skills competition will be held everyday. "There's a slam dunk competition in basketball, a home run derby in baseball, but nothing to really showcase skills in volleyball," Fitzsimons said. "These daily competitions will take representatives from each team who will pass, set, serve and spike." The skills competition was created by Peer Nasseir, head volleyball coach at Mt. Holyoke College.

"Given the amazing caliber of the teams their scholar athletes, along with the fun activities and contests, we have really created a terrific event for all sports fans and their families to attend," Aaron Patterson, Showcase Committee chairman and Director of Athletics for the city of Holyoke, said. "We invite everyone to enjoy great high-level volleyball at an excellent volleyball facility."

To keep spectators amused between matches, there will also be T-shirt vendors who can put a team's logo on a shirt on the spot as well as a variety of food vendors.

"It's hard to tell how big the crowd will be," Fitzsimons said. "We're expecting a couple hundred per match. These are good teams so a lot of them have a following."

The Volleyball Hall of Fame is looking to make this annual event, and plans on having a Boys' High School Showcase of Champions in mid-April 2008. "Our expectation is that this event will grow," Fitzsimons stated.

Demers shares his optimism. "Our goal is to see that this flies and continues on every year. We would like to extend it further out to teams from New Jersey and Pennsylvania as well," she said.

The Hall of Fame Induction Celebration begins with the induction of Bob Ctvertlik, Kerri Pottharst, Andrea Gardini, Dimitar Zlantanov, Carlos Nuzman and Yuan Weimin into the Volleyball Hall of Fame. The ceremony is Oct. 11 at 1:30 p.m.

The Showcase of Champions continues the celebration Oct. 12 - 14. The matches will be held at Holyoke Community College at 303 Homestead Ave., Holyoke. Tickets for each day of the tournament are $5 in advance, available at each school involved and at the Volleyball Hall of Fame, located at 444 Dwight St., Holyoke. Tickets at the door are $6 for students, $8 for adults.

For more information and a schedule of games, visit the Hall of Fame's Web site at

Reminder Assistant Editor Katelyn Gendron contributed to this story.