By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP —
Madison volleyball coach Brynn Ryan is a teacher, therefore has heard a lot of excuses for why her students didn’t do something.
Ryan, though, over the last week had quite the whopper herself. And, strangely, it was completely true.
Calls to Ryan’s cell phone went unanswered. Text messages and voicemails were ignored.
Ryan wasn’t on the run. Her dog, however, was. And he had her phone with him.
“Unfortunately, my dog took my phone and we are unable to identify where it is at, so if anyone has tried to contact me, I have been unable to retrieve it,” Ryan said in an email to the Star Beacon late last week.
It’s not the first time the dog has made off with valuables. Ryan’s boyfriend has not been able to find his watch for about a year and a half.
“He is a smart one,” Ryan said of the dog.
The canine still has a home and is not tied to a tree out in the rain.
“He’s in the house for now,” Ryan said. “To be honest, I needed a new one (phone, not dog), anyway.”
Spirit of the season
Riverside coach Brandy Thomas arrived for the Star Beacon-Frank Roskovics Senior Volleyball Classic at Lakeside Gymnasium on Wednesday dressed as a whoopie cushion.
Thomas had come straight from her job as a teacher, still wearing her halloween costume. Instead of changing, as she had planned to do, she talked Ryan into donning her costume for the match, as well.
Ryan was dressed as Michaelangelo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
“It shows our personalities,” Thomas said. “With the girls who didn’t know us, it put them at ease.”
“It helped them relax a little more,” Ryan said.
The little voice singing the national anthem belonged to 4-year-old Nathan Jernigan of Roaming Shores.
“I’d say it’s in his blood to put on a show,” Jernigan’s uncle, Pymatuning Valley coach Rob Wludyga said.
Jernigan, the son of Luke and Katie Jernigan, punctuated his rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner with a pump of his fist as he sang, “and the home of the brave.”
“I never smile so much as when he sings the national anthem,” Wludyga said. “When someone so young is that much into it, it’s exciting when he sings.”
Jernigan had sung the anthem, as he had done at several of the Lakers’ home matches during the season, from memory.
Like any star, Jernigan made sure to show off his sponsor. He was dressed in a T-shirt from his dad’s company, Intimidation Clothing.
Strike a pose
The Slammers caught the perfect spirit of what The Classic is supposed to be.
After the first point of the match, the Slammers surrounded Haley Dake, who had just made a kill, and dropped to their knees all around her. Dake struck a pose and the Slammers all made the sounds of a camera taking pictures, having fun in the moment
“We made it that way,” Thomas said. “Tonight was about them. This is supposed to showcase their skills and their talents. We don’t have a practice. We just show up and we’re given a list of players and have to put a lineup together.
“We had to try and convince them tonight was just about having fun and playing hard.”
There’s no better way for a coach to convince players of something than to threaten them.
“I told them they had to do it or they would run between games,” Thomas said.
Actually, the move was to help the girls settle into place with a group of new people.
“We try to be goofy,” Ryan said. “We know how it is, being a girl thrown in with girls you don’t know. We told them if there was an ace or a kill, they should pose for the camera.”
The Slammers almost forgot what they were supposed to do after that first point.
“That’s when we shouted at them that they had already forgotten the gameplan,” Thomas said.
Dake was a natural, having fun with it. Others weren’t quite so comfortable hamming it up in front of a crowd.
Jefferson’s Giulia Giancola was one of the more self-conscious.
“Giulia, pose girl,” Ryan shouted at one point in the match. “Pose!”
As the match played out, the rest of the players began to get into the spirit of the ritual, as evidenced by once-shy Emily Gehring of Lakeside.
At first, Gehring, like Giancola, was a bit self-conscious. By the end of the night, she was posing with attitude.
The first three games of the best-of-five match finished with the same score. The Slammers won the first and third games, 25-23, with the Spikers winning the second by the same count.
“I’m excited,” St. John coach Stephanie Kubec told her team after the second game.
Kubec, who had coached her daughter, Brenna, the last two seasons at St. John, had one final chance to coach her offspring.
Both were members of the Spikers.
Giancola has spent her career rarely ever crossing the 10-foot line as a libero. Wednesday, she made one last effort to get out of the back row and into one of the glamour positions at the net.
Thomas and Ryan were having none of it.
“Giulia, you’re trying to sneak into the front row,” one of them shouted. “We’ve got you!”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.
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