Column: Treasure in the sand

Shortly, the games of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will come to an end.

This two-week melodrama is always filled with great moments every four years that we will always remember.

Sometimes, a sport comes to the forefront for an Olympics and will keep you on the edge of your seats. For these Olympic games, it was beach volleyball. Gone was Misty May Treanor, who retired after winning three straight Summer golds with American teammate Kerri Walsh Jennings. May was replaced by a talented young lady named April Ross, who took silver with partner Jennifer Kesey behind the Treanor-Jennings pairing in 2012 in London.

While there are those who enjoy the team aspect of the indoor game that most everyone is used to seeing, there were those who were fascinated by the beach aspect of the open game played outdoors on sand where the rallies aren’t as long. The play of the Jennings-Ross team kept things fascinating. But on Tuesday, they ran into the wrong team in the wrong setting as Brazil’s pair of Agatha Bednarczuk Rippel and Barbara Seixus played a brilliant defensive game to frustrate the American pair and advance to the final. Jennings and Ross recovered to win the bronze medal as gold eventually went to Germany’s Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst.

And how fascinating was the beach volleyball? It was fascinating enough for a pair of Putnam County girls team volleyball coaches to watch.

“All of us were into the beach volleyball, especially that it’s been on TV more,” said Holly Pickens, starting her 34th season as Crescent City’s coach. “I’ve seen the men play once, the women a little bit, but not as much because the matches were on so late. The students playing volleyball were watching it, though, and getting into it.”

“I watched a lot of beach volleyball,” said Tonya Hays, Interlachen’s head coach beginning her fifth season with the Rams after a 19-win 2015 campaign. “With my schedule being what it was, the matches have come in the right time.”

Asked what the appeal of the outdoor game was, Hays answered, “You’re focused on the two players and when they make the moves, it’s really outstanding play. The other night, a ball went across April Ross and she recovered to knock the ball to the other side of the pole and put the ball between the (out-of-bounds) antennas. We won that point off of hustle.”

n Speaking of volleyball, here’s the first fact of the year ... and this may make some feel very, very old.

With Terry Goodwin, the longtime head coach at Peniel Baptist Academy and current athletic director, moving over to coach six-man football this fall and leaving the job to 27-year-old assistant Richard Adams, Pickens has now been coaching Crescent City’s program longer than the three other county coaches have been alive.

Pickens started with the Raiders in 1983 – that’s four years before both Hays and Palatka coach Vicki Newton were born and six years before Adams was born.

Pickens has 405 career wins. The other three coaches combined: 40.

n With Adams taking over for Goodwin, he becomes the first male coach hired for a county volleyball program since Jeff Finch at Interlachen. Finch served from 2009-11 before stepping down ... and allowing Hays to take over. In 2015, the Rams went to the state tournament for the first time since 2007 and she earned Daily News Coach of the Fall season.

By the way, the previous time Interlachen reached the state tournament in volleyball, their head coach was Hays’ current boss at IHS, Ron Whitehurst.

n This year’s county volleyball tournament is being held again at Interlachen High School, but will be held later in the season.

It will be on Oct. 1, a big difference from last year’s event held early on Sept. 12. A year ago, Crescent City was involved in an annual tournament at Pierson Taylor during that weekend, but without that event being held this year, it freed Crescent City for the other teams to have the event later.

Still, don’t feel bad for Pickens and the Raiders for a lack of another outside tournament. They travel to Bell for a tournament on Sept. 16-17.

n And finally, when I needed positions for our soon-to-be-released prep volleyball preview for Peniel’s team after Goodwin had faxed the roster for his coach, I told my boss, Andy, “I need to finish this up by getting positions.”

This was at 10:40 at night on Thursday. He thought I would be calling Goodwin at that hour for help and tried to shy me away from it. I told him, “No. This is not something I need Terry for.”

So I called up Adams, who had some free time to give me what I was looking for.

It was 7:40 p.m. where he was – vacationing in Las Vegas.

Hey, he did say I could call him if I needed something.

Mark Blumenthal is a writer for the Palatka Daily News. You can reach him on Twitter @diabolicalmarky.

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