Photo by Nick Baker – The Clovis volleyball team won the 2nd Annual John Riding Hard Driven Volleyball Challenge held at Clovis North, beating Mission Prep 25-22 and 25-18 to move to 25-0 on the season. The Cougars are also ranked No. 18 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports.
By Paul Meadors | Sports Editor
Clovis High improved their impressive overall volleyball record to 25-0 in winning the 2nd Annual John Riding Hard Driven Volleyball Challenge on September 24, a local tournament with a bigger purpose held at Clovis North.
Led by MVP and outside hitter Taylen Ballard, Clovis beat Mission Prep 25-22 and 25-18 to capture the tournament named after John Riding, a revered member of the volleyball community who passed away suddenly in May of 2014.
The tournament featured 17 total teams up and down the state, including TRAC schools Clovis North, Clovis, Buchanan and Clovis East.
Furthermore, the heart of the tournament was honoring the beloved John Riding, who in addition to teaching at Burroughs Elementary for eight years was the Boys’ Varsity volleyball coach at Hoover High for ten years and impacted hundreds of lives through volleyball. His wife, Leicia attended the tournament and his three children, Ashlyn, Logan and Parker all graduated from Buchanan.
Tournament director Travis Herb, the first-year head coach at Clovis North, had a vision to host a highly competitive volleyball tournament as well as honor a friend. Not only has the tournament been extremely competitive but it has grown by leaps and bounds.
“The tournament already has a reputation to where people want to be a part of it,” said Herb. “People want to play in it because of the great competition but also to honor the person
that everyone loved and cared about.”
“It’s a labor of love and a lot of work but it’s very exciting to be a part of.”
The tournament covered three days with Clovis reaching the final against Mission Prep of the Central Coast by beating Buchanan 25-21, 19-25 and 15-13 in the semi-finals. Buchanan beat Clovis East for third place.
“Anytime you win is great,” said Clovis head coach Rich Lake, who mentioned they started off sluggish in an opening pool play match of Stockdale. “To find our way back in this tournament after struggling early feels really good.”
And it helps to have the 6-foot-2 Ballard, who is ranked at the No. 21 best player in the nation for her class. The BYU verbal commit has 304 kills on the season.
“No matter where she is she’s an offensive threat for us,” said Lake. “Front row or back row, Taylen can terminate from anywhere.”
The tournament also awarded two $300 scholarships to two deserving players of character from donations made in the name of John Riding. The recipients were Shelby Cathey of North High in Bakersfield and Chesley Berry from Tracy High.
Named to the All-tournament team were senior Erin Mossette and sophomore Jasmine Heu of Clovis, Myca Mitchell of Buchanan, Taylor Dilley of Clovis East and Eleri Perryman and Jennifer Laird of Mission Prep.
The Cougars travel to Arizona the weekend of September 30 to play in the Nike Tournament of Champions, considered one of the strongest tournaments in the United States.