Two young women from Latvia, Elina Strautneice and her younger sister, Liga, are fans of the television movie “High School Musical.”
So, naturally, the two were thrilled to be able to come to the United States for the 2007-08 school year.
“I overheard students talking about ‘High School Musical,’” North Olmsted head coach Jason Krucek said. “Elina tells the other girl that she loves ‘High School Musical.’ I ask her, ‘Elina, did you think high school in America would be like ‘High School Musical?’
“She said, ‘Yes.’ It’s not like we break out in song in the middle of volleyball practice.”
You are now leaving perception. Welcome to reality.
There were a lot of things the Strautneice sisters didn’t know about high schools in their temporary home. For one thing, Elina and Liga weren’t aware that competitive athletics went on between rival schools.
“Sports aren’t played in high schools in Europe,” Krucek said. “The girls had no notion of what school colors were. They didn’t know what a mascot was. They’re now thrilled to have anything black and orange with North Olmsted written on it.”
They will bring something else back from North Olmsted High School when they return to Latvia next year — varsity letters.
The Strautneices came to North Olmsted with their mother, an English teacher who took part in a program of the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation. The girls were excited when they learned there was a volleyball team waiting for them to join.
Not that it has all been a breeze. The Strautneices — junior middle hitter Elina and sophomore outside hitter Liga — have to compete with girls who’ve spent years in the North Olmsted volleyball program.
“They have been adjusting to things we do that they don’t do on their (Lativian) teams,” They said to me, ‘Your setters are so good.’ I don’t know if the game’s faster over there, but they were impressed with the setting.
“But to just come in with no experience in the program and play varsity is really saying something,” Krucek added. “It says they have some talent.”
They have that. Liga was a member of a Latvian national team in her age group back in the old country.
“They’ve been very easy to have around,” Krucek said. “They’re both nice girls. To my knowledge they’re ‘A’ students. They’re only here for the one year. We’ll miss them next season.”
Cutting the Cards
Brookside lost its first match outside the Patriot Athletic Conference on Saturday. The loss came against a Division III team, but certainly no ordinary small-school outfit.
So just how good is Huron, that school just beyond Lorain County?
“They were very good against us and they were still missing a player,” said Ted Whitsel, the Brookside coach.
The player Huron was lacking at the Oregon Clay Invitational is not quickly replaced. It was senior middle hitter Sara Sage, who’ll attend UCLA on a volleyball scholarship next year. She teams with another hitter bound for Division I college ball next year — Bowling Green State recruit Susie Isphording.
Brookside is the only Lorain County team Huron will play this year unless one manages to get to the state finals. The Tigers do not shy away from tough competition. They have beaten Padua, ranked No. 19 in Division II. After knocking off the Cardinals, 25-20, 25-10, Huron beat Kenston, the No. 10 Division II team, in the Clay Invitational title match. On Wednesday, the Tigers will travel to fourth-ranked Division I Magnificat.
Is Huron, now ranked No. 1 in Division III, the best team Brookside has seen?
“That’s not fair to say,” Whitsel said. “Keystone (PAC rival) is very good, as you know. I’d say without Sage, Keystone (No. 4 in Division II) would win. With that girl playing, Huron has to be absolutely amazing.”
Brookside’s senior outside hitter Taryn Leonard was named to the Clay all-tournament team. She had 17 hits with nine kills, seven blocks, five aces and nine digs in six games.
Westlake’s outstanding showing in its quadrangular match on Saturday might have won the Demons the No. 5 seed at the Midview sectional/district next week.
The Demons downed Avon, Valley Forge (second in the River Division of the Northeast Ohio Conference) and Normandy to improve to 12-8. Coach Dan Berkheimer lauded the play of senior libero Heather Pyle as one reason for the sweep.
Pyle, who missed playing in losses to Brecksville and Olmsted Falls the previous week, had 72 digs in six games.
Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7135 or email@example.com with news for this notebook and nominations for player of the week.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Melanie Bowes, Columbia
POSITION: Middle hitter
LAST WEEK: In a five-game loss to Rocky River and a four-game win over Brooklyn, Bowes was
116-of-127 hitting with 47 kills. She served 47 of 50 chances with seven aces and had 11 blocks.
PARENTS: Julie and Tom Bowes
OTHER SPORT: Basketball
DOWN TIME: Melanie was this year’s Homecoming Queen. “I was very shocked when I got named to the court,” she said. “And when I won, I was just speechless.”
She is also a member of the Leaders Club (responsible for homecoming and Spirit Week events), Youth For Youth and Students Against Destructive Decisions. Likes to go to the malls with her friends, watch movies (comedies) and listen to music (favorite band is Audioslave).
FUTURE PLANS: Would like to work for the Environmental Protection Agency, calling it her “dream job.” Plans to attend the University of Florida and major in environmental engineering.