Long Beach State coach Brian Gimmillaro says he looks for players with a strong family background: young women whose parents have taught them to improve upon the successes that have come from the generation before them.
Gimmillaro is reminded of the success of that philosophy every day at practice when he watches Misty May.
May is the daughter of Butch May, one of the top American players in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Misty, a junior two-time Big West Conference player of the year and first-team All-American setter this year, is one of the top American players of the ‘90s.
It’s easy to see why May is the key player for the 49ers, even if she is the setter.
“It’s very unusual to have a setter as the center of a team,” Gimmillaro said. But he knows what he’s up to.
“We’ve got our hands full, there’s no doubt about that,” said Stanford coach Don Shaw, whose Cardinal plays the 49ers in the second semifinal tonight. “I remember watching her kick around in the sand when I played in beach tournaments with her dad.”
And Shaw would prefer she didn’t kick sand in his face tonight. But’s he’s not worrying. The daughter of Butch May would be gracious in victory, as well as defeat.
“There’s that competitive spirit, never-quit attitude,” U.S. Women’s National Team coach Mick Haley said he first saw in Butch May and now sees in Misty. “Butch was quiet. She’s a little quiet. Butch was one of those guys, who if you make a nice play, he’s going to say ‘Nice play, but I’m still going to beat you,”’ Haley said.
“Misty has been a fun youngster to watch,” Haley said. “Certainly, she has attracted the attention of all of us.”
A two-time state MVP in California, May was a star hitter in high school. But her father had taught her all aspects of the game, making her a natural and willing participant in Gimmillaro’s plan for her to become a setter.
“I like the mental aspect,” May said. “It was something I wanted to do.”
And being coached by Hall of Famer and two-time Olympic setter Debbie Green, a 12th-year assistant at Long Beach, doesn’t hurt.
“Everything that you’ll see (tonight), she taught me,” May said.
Former Gonzaga University coach Sean Madden, who will be the courtside announcer, said May’s experience as a hitter makes her a better setter, “because she knows what they go through. She understands what frustrates them. One of the keys to being a great setter is to have a feel for the game.”
Coaches just want to have fun
Top-seeded Penn State is in the semifinals for the first time since 1994 and Nittany Lions coach Russ Rose wants to be sure his players not only appreciate their accomplishment but realize it is important to have fun, too.
“They really need to have fun,” Rose said. “I want people that want to have fun.”
Rose’s staff, too, sees the importance of having a good time. Mike Schall, a three-time Final Four participant with the Nittany Lions men’s team and seventh-year assistant under Rose, showed by example how to have fun while he participated in some of the team’s scrimmage-situation drills.
“If they don’t have fun at something like this, they’re here for the wrong reason,” said Schall, echoing Rose’s philosophy.
“I guess having played in three Final Fours, looking back on it, something I wish I would have done more is enjoy it. I think our players understand that.”
Perhaps Florida football coach Steve Spurrier knows a thing or two about volleyball, too.
After seeing a photo of a particularly harried-looking Wise during a late-season match, he knew what to do.
“He had cut it out and he wrote, ‘Relax, coach, you have them right where you want them,”’ Wise said.
A word from the Wise
Penn State had better be Wise to the Gators.
Florida coach Mary Wise and her players seem to be in agreement that it’s fun to be the underdog.
“We’re going to take on the role of underdog. We enjoy that,” said Gators senior first-team All-American Nina Foster.
“It’s definitely a different role for us,” Wise said. “We go through most of the season having the big target on our back. I think that our players enjoy being the underdog because it’s so foreign to us and we’ll play that up.”
And what an underdog. Florida is making its fourth Final Four appearance since 1992 and boasts a record of 34-3. The Gators are the only team to defeat topranked and second-seeded Long Beach State.
USA Women’s National Team coach Mick Haley saw plenty of Wise’s Gators when he was coach of Texas, winning two national championships before leaving after last season to direct the national team.
Twice, Florida defeated Texas to advance to the Final Four and Haley understands full well how the Gators got here.
“I’ve felt all along the top four teams are the ones that got here,” Haley said. “If anyone is going to upset somebody, it’s Florida.”
Six first-team and three second-team American Volleyball Coaches Association All-Americans are in the field of four teams.
The All-America team, announced Wednesday, includes first-teamers setter Bonnie Bremner, soph., Penn State; middle blocker Katie Crawford, jr., UC Santa Barbara; middle blocker Makare Desilets, sr., Washington; outside hitter Kristin Folkl, sr., Stanford; middle blocker Nina Foster, sr., Florida; middle blocker Jasmina Marinkovic, jr., Southern California; setter Misty May, jr., Long Beach State; OPP Sarah Noriega, sr., Loyola Marymount; outside hitter Demetria Sance, jr., Texas; middle blocker Amy Steele Gant, sr., Brigham Young; OPP Kerri Walsh, so., Stanford; middle blocker Terri Zemaitis, sr., Penn State.
Penn State’s Russ Rose was awarded coach of the year. The national player of the year will be announced Friday.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
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