Thursday was Senior Night for the nine Oak Ridge seniors and it marked the final regular season match of volleyball coach Tom Van Der Wende’s career.
After a rousing send-off for Jon Tuttle, Tim Spykerman, Connor Dunham, Nathan Lambert, Chris Gomm, Connor Blakeman, Luke Whitcomb, Jack Hoisington and Mike Whitcomb, the Trojans took the floor against Vista and despite shaking up the lineup in all three sets, Oak Ridge won the match 25-17, 32-30, 25-23.
“It was Senior Night so we wanted all the seniors to play and just have some fun,” said Spykerman, who will play football and some club volleyball at Azusa Pacific this fall. “We play Jesuit Tuesday for the league championship so we wanted to have some fun before we had to get serious.
“I’ve been with him (Van Der Wende) for three years and I’ve come a long way. I’ve learned a lot. He’s a good guy.”
The Eagles, who had just two substitutes, took advantage of Troy’s lack of focus in game two, as the set lead went back and forth with neither team able to put it away until Lambert served up an ace that landed just in. Line judge Devin Hansen’s flag signaled in and he stuck by his call despite some arguement from the Eagles.
“It was definitely in,” Devin said.
The win woke up the Trojans, who played with more energy in the third set and polished off the Folsom team in regulation, ending it with Spykerman’s kill for match point.
For the night, Tuttle had 12 kills, 11 digs, two aces and two blocks; Hoisington had nine kills; Blakeman had 21 assists; Dunham had 16 assists; Lambert had 19 digs; Alex Gavin served up two aces; and Mike Whitcomb had two blocks.
“It was a lot of fun to mix things up,” said Tuttle, who just signed to play for California Baptist University. “It’s been enjoyable playing here — we’ve been at the top of the league every year. It’s been a good experience. Now I’m excited about playing for a big school. They play a lot of good teams.”
While the Trojans will advance to the playoffs as either the first or second seed depending on Tuesday’s outcome, Van Der Wende coached his last league match at Oak Ridge.
“I was thinking of the seniors and what we were going to do for them and didn’t realize it was my last match too,” said Van Der Wende, who is retiring from teaching after a 29-year career teaching and coaching at Oak Ridge.
Since 1982 Van Der Wende has coached softball, freshman boys basketball, football, track, girls volleyball and now boys volleyball.
“We held (girls) volleyball tryouts on the blacktop the first year and practiced all over. Ponderosa was our home court,” Van Der Wende said. “The freshman basketball also practiced on the blacktop.”
His softball team, at the time all juniors, won the Sac-Joaquin Section title in 1983-84 and the girls volleyball team brought home the section championship in 2003, with his daughter Katie the team’s setter.
“It’s been busy around here,” Van Der Wende said.
After hanging up his clipboard for a couple of years, Van Der Wende took the boys volleyball team and together they won the Sierra Valley Conference in 2009 and 2010 with perfect 14-0 records. This season in the Division I Delta River League, the Trojans are 5-1, one game behind Jesuit, and 24-7 overall.
Van Der Wende would like to go out with another section title before he retires. “That’s the goal,” he said.