Mack Haines, head boys water polo coach at Live Oak High School, was in a position he had never been before – shut out of the Central Coast Section playoffs.
Haines handled it with aplomb. Following the Acorns’ 13-4 loss to Hollister High in the Tri-County Athletic League championship game, Haines grabbed a microphone near the press table and was all polish, top cabin.
“I’d like to congratulate Hollister for playing a great game,” said Haines. “Best of luck in the CCS tournament.”
It had to be bittersweet for many Baler players. Several of whom – Nik Barr, Greg Henneman, Brannon Wynn, Danny Valenzuela, Kyle Fowles, Greg Wilson, Lucas Zepeda and Robbie Shattuck – played for Haines during the summer on his travel team.
“Those Hollister guys have a lot of class,” said Haines. “They got up early every day in the summer for our 6:45 a.m. practices. They put in the time and paid the price.”
“It’s great Mack opens up his club to everyone, not just Hollister kids,” said Hollister head coach Tom Agan. “It’s not just a Morgan Hill thing. I’m really cool with it. I’ve had these kids a lot longer than he has. There has been about four coaches who have helped these kids out over the years, not just Mack. A couple were at the collegiate level, plus some collegiate-level players help them.”
The connection goes deep with the Barr family and Haines. Larry Barr, father of Nik, went to school with Mack and his older brother, Scott, at Lynbrook High in San Jose. Larry, class of ’71, knew Scott (’70) better than Mack (’70).
“Scott and I played water polo together before Mack was around,” said Larry. “But Mack and I kept in contact over the years.”
Larry Barr eventually had Nik’s older brother Kris, a star player at Hollister (’00), play with Mack’s summer team back in 1995 when Kris was in junior high. From then on, Kris, then eventually Nik, would be on Haines’ summer team which would travel to Los Angeles or Hawaii every other year.
“Mack’s like a second father to me,” said Nik. “I’ve learned almost everything about water polo from him. Mainly because he’s not a big guy in the water like me and he can empathize. He showed me the tricks of the trade.”
Barr, who had seven goals in the Balers’ title win on Saturday, will join his Baler teammates Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Division I CCS tournament. The match, which will be against the No. 6 Dons of Aragon, is set for 1:20 p.m. at St. Francis in Mountain View. The school is located on Miramonte Avenue, just west of Cuesta Drive.
The Balers are seeded third.
“I’m still ecstatic,” said Agan. “We’ll have to play good polo to beat Aragon, but we could have been playing Leland in the first round or someone tougher.”
A victory over the Dons and the Balers will most likely meet No. 2-seed St. Francis in the D-I semifinal.
The No. 10-seeded Baler girls are alive and well and meet No. 7 Lincoln in San Jose today at 3 p.m. in a first round CCS game. Lincoln is located at 555 Dana Ave. off Naglee and a block from the Municipal Rose Garden.
Should the Baler girls win, it would set up a doubleheader at St. Francis on Saturday in the CCS quarterfinals, though the Baler girls would be in tough against probable victor Sacred Heart Prep and star Bailey Samuels.
Controversy ensued at the CCS seeding meetings for volleyball on Saturday. Four teams – Monta Vista, Lynbrook, Menlo-Atherton and Westmont – were disqualfied from the tournament for allegedly falsifying records. Apparently Lynbrook hosted a non-sanctioned tournament and the teams adjusted scores after rally scoring on deciding third games.
“We have had an unfortunate turn of events regarding this year’s girls volleyball championships,” read the memo from CCS Commissioner Nancy Lazenby Blaser.
Hollister head coach Larry Nabzeska can relate.
“I was very close to doing the same thing when we played in a tournament in Sacramento last year,” said Nabzeska. “I thought, ‘How would the CCS know what I’m doing in a tournament in Sacramento?'”
The only score Nabzeska reported was the championship game. That was decided by a third game. The other matches in the tournament were a two-game max. If two teams split, it was labeled a tie.
Nabzeska and his No. 3-seeded Balers must worry about their CCS Division I quarterfinal match this Saturday vs. Live Oak at North Salinas. The No. 6 Acorns won’t travel the distance south to roll over, even though they’ve been defeated by the Balers three times this season.
“People ask me what do I have to do to prepare for Live Oak,” said Nabzeska. “They gave us three tough matches. It’s extremely hard to beat a good team four times in a season. Live Oak is going to come to play. We’d better, too.”
Nabzeska gave his club four consecutive days off – last Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
“That’s something I’ve never done before,” said Nabzeska. “We had matches Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I told them they could have the days off if we won. We needed the rest.”
The Balers practice today and Wednesday before traveling to Los Gatos for a scrimmage. Los Gatos is the No. 1 seed in Division II.
Baler fans will be spread out over the CCS map on Saturday, with water polo in Mountain View and volleyball and cross-country in Salinas.
The Baler cross-country girls are set to go at 1:30 p.m. at Toro Park in the Division I final. The boys are at 2:05 p.m. Expect parking to be at a premium.
And if you feel ambitious, check out the Baler-Palma game Friday at the Salinas Sports Complex at 7:30 p.m. It may be the final game of the year for the Balers, who need a win desperately to stay alive for a CCS berth.
If you want, you can crash somewhere in Salinas and be ready for the volleyball/cross-country extravaganza.
Do I smell overtime?