A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 68

Quite the Jack-in-the-Box game for the Sharks as they exploded in the third period and beat the Nashville Predators 8-5. Yes, there really were 13 goals scored tonight.

It was great watching Nashville practice for 40 minutes; we were all treated to an inter-squad scrimmage. Oh wait, hold on. My sources are telling me the Sharks were actually on the ice for those first 40 minutes. Who knew?

Nashville outshot the Sharks 15-0 in the first 14 minutes of play and outscored 1-0. This crappy play needs to stop. We’ll obviously get to the outstanding third period in a minute, but zoinks this was bad. Preds goalie Dan Ellis vacationed in Cancun, Mexico for a majority of that first frame.

Lo and behold Dany Heatley scored on the Sharks’ first shot of the game.

That didn’t do much for momentum, however, as the Sharks continued popping out rotten eggs like Jon and Kate, in the second period. Nashville increased their lead to 4-2 heading into the final period.

With the music finally exhausted, the weasel popped and jack thrust himself into the world. A six-goal period propelled San Jose to victory. I wonder what coach Todd McLellan said to the guys. Cap that stuff in a bottle and save it for the playoffs, buddy.

Joe Pavelski became a one-man demolition sqaud with four points in twenty minutes (two goals, two assists). Heatley scored his second, Manny Malhotra, Patrick Marleau and Jay Leach tallied goals as well.

It’s the Sharks’ 22nd come-from-behind win, which is now first in the NHL.

Torrey Mitchell received additional playing time, playing alongside Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau at different points in the game. He earned an assist tonight.

I really couldn’t believe that third period. I was chomping at the bit to rip the team for their sorry performances the last seven games or so. They need to finish this homestand off with another win before heading out on a six-game road trip. A winning streak is in the future for this team. I think this is the victory that will spark it.

Nichol/Superman returned to whip his old team again (From SJSHARKS.com)

Who’s Your Nabby?

So I read this article the other day from a Sharks fan about how Nabby’s increased playing time is hurting the Sharks in the playoffs. The horse is not dead yet apparently. The article came complete with pretty-colored line graphs! Oh how I love the visuals. Unfortunately, the stats presented are meaningless. I absolutely love stats, but I know how much they can be manipulated to make any argument. I’ll now try to show stats that cover both sides of the argument, but ultimately I do have a distinct opinion on the matter.

People need to shut their mouths about Nabby’s starts. Seriously. Shut. Up. I love how people will contend Nabby’s play goes down in the playoffs? Really now? Here’s some stats you might want to consider:

In the regular season Nabby has averaged a .913 save percentage and a 2.37 goals against average. Not great, not bad either.

In the playoffs, Nabby has averaged a .915 save percentage and a 2.23 GAA. WHAT?!! Ray, you mean Nabby has better numbers in the playoffs than the regular season? Blasphemy!

Yes, my friends, he does play better in the playoffs. At least, that’s what stats say. Now the eye test is different. Goalies must be able to elevate their play in the postseason or their teams will be doomed. If the Sharks want to win the Stanley Cup, Nabby must elevate his game higher than what he’s been doing. No question.

I just want to rid the world of these ridiculous “Nabby plays too much,” hollow arguments. I’ve seen a few people suggest we let Nabby go and sign goalies like Martin Biron or Dan Ellis. Some of these Sharks “fans” need to check their drinking water. Let’s get rid of a perennial Vezina candidate in favor of Dan flipping Ellis.

I should probably mention that this whole ‘letting Nabby go’ thing is because the Sharks have no cap space to resign all of their free agents this offseason. Nabby commands  a big contract (5.375 mil this year), and Marleau, Pavelski and potentially Blake need to be resigned. Nabby’s contract runs out after this season too, and someone is going to be left out.

San Jose should never have been in this position in the first place. They overpay players like Ryane Clowe (3.625 mil a year) and went out and got Heatley (7.5 mil a year). Trades must happen, regardless if the Sharks win the Cup this year or not. They’re stuck between Douglas Murray and a hard place.

I don’t think letting Nabby go is the right decision. Finding a great goalie is so difficult (just ask Philly), and I’m not ready to rely on Thomas Greiss full time. There are a couple interesting prospects in the system in Alex Stalock and Tyson Sexsmith, but there a long way away from being NHL-ready.

I suggest Thornton or Heatley be traded. Keep Marleau. Thornton will always produce points, but his lack of emotion destroys the team in the playoffs. Heatley is undeniably an elite sniper, but Marleau is better than him defensively and in lighting the lamp (this year).

I’d love to keep this team together, but this money situation sucks. But I’ve digressed.

Here’s an intriguing slew of stats to consider about goalie GAA in the playoffs:

Goalie A: 1.98

Goalie B: 2.09

Goalie C: 2.23

Goalie D: 2.30

Goalie E: 2.45

Obviously, you know which goalie Nabby is (C). The others? A is Brodeur, B is Osgood, D is Roy and E is Fleury. Nabby finds himself in the middle of four Cup winners. I think he’s done just fine; he needs more offensive support to win these games (along with the aforementioned elevation of play).

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 26  NSH 25; Niclas Wallin and Brad Staubitz led with four.

Florida visits the tank on Saturday.

–Ray

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March 12, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 47

Quite the S.S.D.D. performance by the Sharks as they once again lose to the Detroit Red Wings, 4-1. There must have been some rule put in place after the lockout not allowing the Sharks to ever beat Detroit. If they do, they get fined.

What’s most annoying is the Wings always play their best against San Jose. The Sharks can never crush them because they always play their worst against Detroit. This completely sucks. I can’t stand Detroit. I really hope they miss the playoffs, but that won’t happen.

Their goalie Jimmy Howard has been hot lately and that continued as he made 31 saves. As much confidence as this may give Wings fans, Howard will ever be a number-one goalie. He is not that good. Just watch how quickly they switch to Chris Osgood in the playoffs.

For the first five minutes, the Sharks looked ready to blow out Detroit. They looked like a Michael Johnson racing Rosie O’Donnell. They cashed in midway through the first, then everything fell apart faster than Tiger Woods’ image. Mailing it in would be an understatement. Nobody shined through the complete dismay. Everyone played poorly.

Jason Demers was called up, but even he played terrible. One of his two dumb turnovers led to a breakaway goal. Turnovers plagued all Sharks though. Ryane Clowe’s big turnover led to a breakout resulting in another Detroit goal. For the second straight game, the Sharks recorded 20 giveaways. Two games is a trend, so if it happens next game, the Sharks are in deep trouble.

Oooooooo, rubbery. (From SJSHARKS.com)

But I want to go back to this mentality the Sharks have against the Red Wings. After all the playoff failures, so many fans, media, and even coaches told the players to mimic the Red Wings. I think it’s wore on them so much and with every game against Detroit, they put so much pressure on themselves to beat them. It backfires; they lose and feel like everything they’ve been taught failed.

The only way the Sharks are going to be successful is to find their own style, and they haven’t done that in coach Todd McLellan’s tenure. He brought over Detroit’s style of play and used it throughout his first year; get people in front of the net, put 40+ shots on net, out-skate people. It worked enough to earn a President’s trophy. After being bounced in the first round, McLellan realized this isn’t Detroit. These are different players.

So this year, he’s emphasized playing the gritty style of play, which I associate mostly with the Nashville Predators. Management even brought over two Predators, Scott Nichol and Jed Ortmeyer, to further bring the tough style to fruition. The jury won’t be out until playoff time, but I don’t like the how the Sharks always strive to be someone else. Ultimately it’s up to the players to decide who they want to be, but that’s not enough. The players must battle to achieve their goals, not wait for it to come to them.

As much as I hate to say it, this core of players doesn’t seem like they “want it.” They’re too relaxed and non-confrontational. I’m not talking about on the ice; I’m talking about their personalities. Hopefully I’m wrong.

Setoguchi Steamed

Seto got ticked at Dan Cleary for driving him into the net, and the two dropped the gloves. Seto was pumping him with fists before Cleary chickened out by throwing himself on top of Seto.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 24  DET 18; Nichol led with five.

The Sharks have lost two of three, and they will travel to Los Angeles on Monday.

–Ray

January 10, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 46

Quite the insipid performance by the Sharks in their 2-1 overtime win against the St. Louis Blues. After coming off a blowout loss to the Kings, I expected a bit more heart tonight. There wasn’t much intelligence either.

The Sharks had over 40 shots for the second straight game with the final shot clock being 44-29, but like so many times last year, shots were taken with no traffic in front of the goalie. Chris Mason saw every shot that came to him and didn’t give up many rebounds. Instead of planting themselves right in Mason’s eyes, they’d stay off to the side waiting for a rebound off his pads. That’s just being lazy and cowardly. Maybe Dan Boyle getting hit in the face with the puck earlier in the game got to them, but that’s not an excuse.

For the first time in years, Patrick Marleau was playing really bad. His passes were off the mark and careless. He just didn’t have it. However, he made up for it with in the third period with the game-tying goal. It came off a one-timer from the point that deflected past Mason.

Not too long after that, the Sharks had a fantastic chance to take the lead. The puck flew into the air after a shot, landed behind Mason and was just asking to be slammed home. Barret Jackman, defenseman for the Blues, put his hand over the puck to keep it out — a penalty that should be rewarded with a penalty shot. Of course the referees didn’t see it despite one being right behind the net. Karma’s gotta kick in though right?

It would in overtime. Dany Heatley found himself on a breakaway with a minute left in the extra frame; he sped away from defenders and buried it in the twine.

Hey Winchester, those croissants go right to hips, ya? (From SJSHARKS.com)

That was all fine and dandy, but the four minutes before that, the Sharks played to not lose. I’ve mentioned it before, but something is going on with this prevent defense in overtime. I’d like to know if its coach Todd McLellan’s philosophy or just the players being too tentative. The fans actually started to boo them, which was spectacular. At least they recognize it as well.

This isn’t the way to rebound from a bad loss, but it’s a starting point. And the Sharks better speed up to the finish line because there’s a showdown with Detroit on Saturday.

Spelling Error

So I realized the other day I’ve been spelling Todd McLellan’s name wrong. I’ve been spelling it with an extra ‘C’ because I saw it like that when he first became coach. I don’t know where I saw it, but it’s stuck with me. My brain’s been so used to it, I’ve not noticed the correct spelling. Well, something clicked and I saw it yesterday. I verified it, and now I feel like an idiot. Mistakes happen to everyone I guess.

Torrey Mitchell

He’s been getting good amounts of ice time on the power play lately. Not just seconds at the end either. He’s been playing with Marleau and Heatley. It’s been a good combination as he complements their talent with hard work and determination.

Finally A Fight!

Jody Shelley dropped the gloves with Cam Janssen, in the second period, for a 90 second slugfest. Jersey jabs galore and a few attempted haymakers. Shelley handled Cam pretty well and earned the win.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 29  StL 23; Devin Setoguchi led with five.

Giveaways: SJ 20  StL 6; Yikes. That’s a scary statistic.

Detroit comes to town on Saturday.

–Ray

January 7, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 42

Quite the retribution game for the Sharks as the demolished the Washington Capitals 5-2. Three Sharks missed the first meeting between these two teams — Joe Pavelski, Douglas Murray and Torrey Mitchell. All of them made a huge impact on the game.

Joe Pavelski used his insanely accurate shot to score twice and Douglas Murray shut down Alex Ovechkin for most of the game although OV scored at the end. Mitchell notched his first goal of the season in the first period.

Ovechkin became frustrated in the third trying to drop the gloves with Dan Boyle and getting into it with Murray. That just means the Sharks’ gameplan worked amazingly.

Some Sharks fans were booing Ovechkin every time he touched the puck. I have no clue what that was about; he isn’t Chris Pronger; he hasn’t cheap-shotted any Sharks before; there’s no bad blood. It really disappointed me that some of the Sharks fans did that. Now if they booed Crosby, that would be completely different!

What was odd tonight was the Sharks received two penalty shot opportunities and buried both of them. Ryane Clowe took the first one in the second and used his patented forehand-backhand move to beat young goalie Michal Neuvirth.

Get up man. This is no place for a Playboy pose. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Joe Thornton converted the second chance in the third to seal the game.

The turning point in tonight’s game, though, came at the start of the second period. The Caps got a quick five-on-three chance followed by another power-play, but the Sharks’ penalty kill stifled Washington.

The Sharks are showing no signs of slowing down. They’ve brought their A-game throughout the holidays, and this marks the sixth straight victory.

He Said What?

Capitals analyst Craig Laughlin said Dan Boyle was just a tad bit better than Caps defenseman Mike Green. Yea, right. Boyle is astronomically better.

Stat Central

The Sharks haven’t allowed a first-period goal in seven straight games.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 32  WSH 46; Murray led the team with four.

The Sharks have to turn around quickly and play an early game tomorrow versus Phoenix.

–Ray

December 31, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 26

Quite the suhweeeet performance by the Sharks in their 6-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. The Sharks withstood the punches and counterpunches, both figuratively and literally, and sealed the win.

The man of the match was Dany Heatley who notched his ninth career hat trick and second with the Sharks. Winning co-man of the match was Joe Thornton who received the primary assist on all three Heater goals and added a fourth assist.

It was just an unbelievable game all around. The Flyers haven’t beaten the Sharks since 2000, but the games are always entertaining. They bring out the best in both teams, and I hope this is a Stanley Cup Finals preview.

Everything for the Sharks worked tonight: the even strength forecheck, the power play, the penalty kill. All exceptional. Well, I may be wrong about everything working. The defensive zone giveaways were enough to give fans and coach Todd McClellan migraines. If it weren’t for those, it would be a 6-0 victory.

Philly sure didn’t like Sharks ice. They saw it as a slip-and-slide, with public enemy #1 Chris Pronger as the main slip-and-slider. One of his slips ended up being a Heater goal. It really was home-ice advantage tonight.

Heatley’s hat trick was the EPS Trifecta (trademark pending). Even strength, power play and shorthanded goals. Two were carbon-copies. Joe would receive the puck in what looked like a perfect shooting opportunity, but it he would stop right to the side of the crease, wait, wait, wait for the defenseman to make a move, then BAM! Pass to Heater’s stick and it’s as easy as an Ovechkin toothless smile.

Dany Heatley notched his second hat trick as a Shark (From SJSHARKS.com)

San Jose now has its top two lines set in stone for at least the next month. McClellan saw some great play between Heatley-Thornton-Marleau last game and decided to start them tonight. That choice proved epic as every time they took the ice, something good happened. Remember when everyone shook in fear from the Marleau-Thornton-Cheechoo line? Multiply that by 10,000.

The second line was Malhotra-Pavelski-Clowe and they meshed talent with will. This line will probably be broken up since Devin Setoguchi will come back from injury. Move Clowe to left wing and put Seto on the right. While Malhotra did net a goal tonight, he also netted a goal for the Flyers; for some reason he tried to handle the puck in the crease during a scramble, and instead of just knocking it out, he thought it best to backhand it first — bad idea.

The Sharks still haven’t lost in regulation at home either. Oh, how sweet the confines of HP Pavillion are.

Friday Night Fights

Frazer McLaren, up from Worcester took on Daniel Carcillo and McMan-handled him. I this kid is better than Staubitz and should get a few more looks. And he will because Staubitz is out for a couple weeks with an injury. I wish it were under better circumstances, but whatever the situation, cease your opportunity F-Mac.

Wait…Who? And he’s fighting who?

That’s right, my friends. Marc-Edouard Vlasic showed a nasty side tonight. Don’t know if someone stole this pickles from the pickle jar, but he was angry tonight. He dropped the gloves for the first time in his career with Daniel Briere and earned the win. Vlasic was the only one to throw a punch, and he also took Briere down. Vlasic also was featured in some scrums. I really hope this continues; I don’t want another Thornton situation where a guy plays better angry, but chooses to be angry once every leap year.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 25  PHI 26; Jed Ortmeyer (6) and Douglas Murray (5) led the team.

With the amazing play of the top two lines, the fourth line saw as much action as a young Bill Gates. McLaren played for two minutes, Benn Ferriero played four and Logan Couture played six. That’s fine with me if I can get first-line production like this every game.

The Sharks travel to Anaheim to face the Ducks. In their first meeting, the second game of the Sharks’ season, San Jose pummeled Anaheim 4-1.

–Ray

November 21, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 19

Quite the courageous performance by the Sharks, despite losing to the Detroit Red Wings 2-1, in a shootout. It ends their six-game winning streak, but they keep in-tact their seven-game point streak. Thinking about all the adversity the Sharks face coming into this game, it’s hard to be mad at them for not pulling this one out.

Allow me to discuss some of that opposition.

Let’s start with the obvious: the Sharks are injured. It’s like Stalingrad in San Jose. Players injured consist of Ryan Vesce, Devin Setoguchi, Torrey Mitchell, Joe Pavelski and Rob Blake. None of those guys are expendable. Maybe Vesce, but remember he was scoring like crazy on the top line. Dany Heatley got hit hard in tonight’s game and all fans held their breath. He returned and looked fine, however.

The Sharks called up Derek Joslin and Joe Callahan. Yea, that creates a hell of a lot of opposition when you call up those two.

This was the second of back-to-back games.

The Sharks have been on the road seemingly the whole season. Constant travel and stinky motel rooms will do a number on you.

The Sharks never win in Detroit. This is just a weird fact of life. They have a few wins at the Joe, but San Jose always finds a way to come out with a loss there.

And this is all before opening faceoff! Yet, these guys came out, exhausted, lethargic and earned a point. Outstanding.

Logan Couture scored his first goal of his career tonight on a wrister between the legs of goalie Chris Osgood. I really wish this kid could get a better opportunity with a higher line rather than meandering around with Jody Shelley. With the injuries, he’s going to be sent back down to Worcester, so put him on the top or second line for a few shifts. See what happens.

Picture 9

Logan Couture celebrates his first NHL goal (From SJSHARKS.com)

OK, so let’s jump out of Optimismville and get into some criticism, shall we? Goalie Evgeni Nabokov gives me heart attacks with his puck handling. He’s been giving the puck away to opposition on a consistent basis lately. I realize he wants a quick breakout — maybe because the Sharks’ breakouts have struggled — but Nabby, don’t put your team behind by doing something you aren’t required to do.

The Sharks power play forecheck was abismal tonight. I’m sure part of it was exhaustion, but they allowed a bunch of 2-on-1s and 3-on-2s tonight, while on the man advantage. Patch that up pronto.

The shootout was ugly for the Sharks. They didn’t convert on either chance and Nabby allowed two out of 3 chances. Ryane Clowe used the same exact move he’s used in the last two shootouts. It worked the first time, but the last two chances were easy stops for the goalie. Either come up with a new move for stay on the bench.

Brad Staubitz

Bitz was a healthy scratch tonight, presumably because coach Todd McClellan was angry with his penalties against the Blue Jackets last game. He received 17 minutes worth of penalties after a fight with Jared Boll. He was eligible to return in the game, but Todd kept him benched. As a result, Couture only had Shelley as a linemate. Bitz better keep his head together. I haven’t see Todd keep anyone in a doghouse, but there’s a first for everything.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 27  DET 32; Scott Nichol, Joe Thornton and Douglas Murray combined for 14 of those.

The Sharks go home for a week, and they will play three games at HP Pavillion against Pittsburgh, Nashville and Dallas, in that order. I think Thomas Greiss needs to spell Nabby for Pittsburgh on Saturday. I know it’s baptism by fire, but Nabby needs a break.

–Ray

November 6, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gergen sisters not an ordinary duo

Wednesday, September 9, 2009; 10:01 PM

Two young sisters visit the Grand Canyon and enjoy a masterpiece of nature.

Jill Gergen walks ahead of her family, and the view inspires her. Noticing a chipmunk in a nearby tree, she smiles and meanders along the canyon’s edge. She continues ahead, looking left and right, allowing her feet to instinctively lead the way.

She is in no danger. She knows how close she is to the edge.

No fear.

Her older sister Jayme stays back with the family and carefully observes her younger sister. The more important masterpiece of nature – the sisterly bond – begins to exert itself. Muscles tense up and nerves tingle.

Jayme is nervous. She wonders if Jill knows how close she is to the edge.

Jayme expresses her anxiety to her mother who reassures her everything is all right.

As different as people can be from their siblings, the bond between them created at birth never goes away. It’s no different for Jill and Jayme, but that bond might be stronger than most.

“I won’t let anything bad happen to her,” Jayme said.

That sisterly bond comes with a side effect of sibling rivalry, though. Ask your doctor before starting your daily dose of Gergen attitude.

A game of dodgeball showcased the attitude. “Keep your eye on the ball” is the motto. Jill wasn’t looking, and Jayme pegged her right in the face. No “I’m sorry.” Just “That’s why you keep your head on a swivel.”

Never-say-never is an incorrect phrase for the Gergen sisters. They definitely have ‘never’ in their vocabulary, except ‘never’ is followed by ‘quit,’ ‘die’ and ‘stop.’

Jayme is in her fifth year as an assistant coach for Virginia Tech volleyball. Jill, a redshirt senior, plays libero on the team.

The two come from Topeka, Kan. – almost one thousand miles from Blacksburg, Va. How did they end up here?

The journey began for Jayme when she signed to play with Georgia Tech and started her career there in 2001. During her tenure, she was an American Volleyball Coaches Association honorable mention All-American, first-team All-ACC honoree, and Academic All-District selection.

She finished her career ranked second in career hitting percentage for Georgia Tech (.353), fifth for career block assists (426), and total blocks (473).

Jayme Gergen during her career at Georgia Tech

Jayme Gergen during her career at Georgia Tech

Meanwhile, Jill was anything but jealous. She wanted to be just like her sister. When she stopped growing at 5 feet 6 inches, the realization came that her goal would not come true.

“My mom wrote me this letter before a tournament, one time,” Jill said. “(My mom) said, ‘Jillian, you’ve got to jump out of (Jayme’s) footsteps and start making your own.’ I think that really just inspired me, and I think I’ve done a great job making my own. Hers are great to follow – they’re just a little too big for me.”

Current Hokies head coach Chris Riley was the head coach for Towson University at the time, and Riley wanted to bring Jill there. Unfortunately, Riley didn’t have a scholarship for the libero position, so Jill was left to find a school elsewhere.

She landed at the University of Nebraska-Kearney for her freshman year in 2005, but the experience wasn’t what she had hoped for. Luckily, Riley became the head coach at Tech, and she talked to him about joining the team.

Her sister, Jayme, had been an assistant coach with Virginia Tech the year prior to Riley’s arrival, so it was an added bonus.

Jayme as assistant coach for Virginia Tech. Photo is from her first year at VT

Jayme as assistant coach for Virginia Tech. Photo is from her first year at VT coaching against GT

“Everything happened the way it was supposed to happen,” Jill said, looking at her sister.

Not wanting to appear a coach’s favorite, Jill and Jayme decided to keep their sisterhood quiet in the beginning.

“We really wanted to keep that separate for her,” Jayme said. “It was going to be better for her experience to establish herself as a teammate and player.”

The sisters easily kept the secret. They sound alike, but Jayme talks much faster than Jill. They don’t look too much alike, Jayme being 6-feet tall and Jill 5-feet-6-inches, so no one noticed.

Since then, the two of them are easy to recognize and remember, but for different reasons.

“If you have Jayme Gergen as a friend, you’ll have her as a friend for life,” Riley said. “She’ll never forget you. She’ll always be there.”

When asked what each admired about the other, their eyes met, and, within half a second, all the memories and stories of their lives were unlocked.

Both of them said, “You go first.”

“No, you go first.”

“I’ve met very few people who have such a sunny disposition,” Jill said, “and are just so sweet to everyone. I think her personality is one of a kind.”

Jayme smiled and pondered her admirations of Jill.

“What I value most about Jill is her fight,” Jayme said. “It’s the size of the fight in the dog here. This kid has battled it out in a lot of different ways in life. She never quits. She never gives up. She just keeps working because she knows if she works hard, good things are going to happen for her, and they have … and she’s amazing.”

Jill going for a dig during a match

Jill going for a dig during a match

Maybe the most admirable trait both have is their love of their family. So many times people mention family as the most important part of their lives. The love these sisters have for their mom, dad and brother is palpable.

Jill talked about taking a characteristic from her family members and using them in all aspects of her life. She chose her dad’s patience, her mom’s persistence, Jayme’s dedication and her brother Jake’s fearlessness.

“If I could take a little bit of every single person in my family, I think I’d be superwoman,” Jill said.

Jill digging a ball

Jill digging a ball

If that’s the case, superwoman is a closet mathematician. Jill loves being a math major and teaching math to people who don’t understand it.

She’s finishing her undergraduate program in math and starting her master’s degree in education. Yes, that’s right, Jill wants to be a math teacher. The reasoning behind it, though, may not be what you’d expect.

Teachers used to tell her she wasn’t good at math, and she took the lowest math courses in grade school.

“When I tell people I’m a math major back home, they just drop their jaws,” Jill said. “I’m not good at it, but I love it.”

It sounds modest, but Jill doesn’t always understand the math at first, and it takes a while to click in her head. That’s precisely why she believes she can be a good teacher –  understanding how the student thinks.

Jayme also understands how players and people think. She majored in psychology at Georgia Tech, and it’s paid dividends in her coaching career. Trying to get a group of players to commit to the same goal can be tough for any coach, but Jayme does it well. Besides coaching during the season, she also coaches a club team in the spring and is the volleyball camp coordinator for the many summer camps at Virginia Tech.

“Jayme’s willingness to help people is completely based on her personality,” Riley said. “She’s going to be a great head coach some day. She’s going to win more games than I’ve ever won. Her kids will run through walls for her, no question.”

Having both Jill and Jayme on the same coaching staff after Jill graduates could be an interesting team, much like Seth and Brad Greenberg years ago for Tech basketball, but it probably won’t happen.

Jill’s passion is teaching, but volleyball is something she will always love. She is still considering coaching high school volleyball along with being a math teacher. The dynamic duo might not be completely separated after this year.

“I always told Jayme she should be a high school psychology teacher – that way we can have lunch breaks together,” Jill said jokingly.

Either way, the Gergen sisters will always be a pedal-to-the-metal pair, ready to take on the world – but watch out for cliffs and canyons.

September 11, 2009 Posted by | Volleyball | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment