SPORTS

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November 22, 2002

IM Insider

At long last the preseason is over and my secret can be revealed: the rankings meant nothing, other than an excuse for collective ego stroking, smack talk, funnel teams and other such juvenile antics. In other words, they were designed to trick you into thinking you had a genuine cohort experience, on the order of Harry Potter, filled with cordially hateful rivalries against the Hyde Park equivalent of Gryffindor and Ravenclaw, both of whom cackle with malice at the Hufflepuffs returning to frat row. But alas, my non-Muggles, we have no flying brooms, you cannot get to your swank rooms by providing a secret password to the talking picture of Hugo in Hutch, and there is no three-headed dog lurking in the East Asian Library, rumors to the contrary not withstanding.

We had these things once. Well, all except the picture of Hugo, but Hannah Gray's would unfold its massive, contorted claws and choke the death out of the poor souls who had forgotten their house password. All were banished when they ran against the University plan to eliminate anything that has the slightest whiff of liability. Aside: word is, the NSF grant the comsci department received for grid computing and the electronic locks on the Palevsky doors are the first steps in the U of C's plan to build the "Campus of the 21st century"; a chilling matrix-like world of students encased in "life-of-the-mind pods," sustained by a delicious and cost-effective ARA-supplied nutrient solution, and wired into the master database of courses as a node in the intellectual community. No liability to be found there, and President Lovejoy and his ilk will thrill to the achievement of a true society of atomistic individuals bound through the social contract of the U of C offer of admission (with its rider: the master promissory note).

But this is all in the future; these are not the droids you're looking for, and we must focus instead on those who immediately threaten the security of the hive: playoff opponents. Far from virtual combat, these all important tests of community prestige will be passed only through a liberal application of grunting bodies, mud-soaked sneakers, red and chilblained hands, faces streaked with frozen snot, sprained ankles, and floor burns.

The first of these tests is well underway at Henry Crown, where Woodward is making a fine showing in the volleyball tournament. Woodward defeated Graham House 6-15, 15-2, 15-10 on Wednesday to earn a trip to the WUG final against Filbey. Of course, it wouldn't be IMs without a controversy involving Graham House, but in this case they were not at fault. After beating Hitchcock-Snell earlier in the season, the Graham players were quite surprised to find out they had to play Hitchcock-Snell in a 1978 Red Sox/Yankees-style playoff to get to the playoffs. Hitchcock came prepared to battle, bringing an entourage of 11 fans, two photographers, and an armadillo. That's right, a pristine, human-sized armadillo complete with a very well-drawn sign of an armadillo eating a graham (get it?) cracker.

What armadillos actually have to do with Hitchcock-Snell, no one could say, unless it speaks to a propensity on the part of H-S residents to carry leprosy, leap up when they should lie down, or to their cute, round, armor-covered bodies. There must be some connection, however, since the gods of sports mascots did not strike the players dead but allowed them to roll to a 15-7, 16-14 win over Graham.

Graham, understandably, filed two protests with the Campus Sports Office, arguing they never should have had to play the match because they had beaten HS previously and so had the better record, and, more seriously, that H-S played with an ineligible player. Fortunately, the CSO did some house cleaning and discovered the lost results, enabling Graham to win its protest without resorting to the dreaded "snitch play." The elated players took their momentum into Wednesday's game against a rested Woodward team and jumped out to a 1-0 lead, but the veteran Woodies came back to triumph, 2-1 behind a ridiculous display of serving prowess by their beloved RA, the Peruvian Rocket.

In the bottom half of the bracket, Filbey managed to ignore the insane spectacle presented by the Graham/Hitchcock match and hand Alper a tight 15-12, 15-13 defeat. Both teams suffered from weak passing and so could never get their offenses going, but Filbey executed just well enough to overcome the scrappy Alper squad. Cynthia Breckenridge played particularly well in defeat, serving as a dominant presence at the net that simplified her teammates' defensive tasks.

Filbey's passing woes continued in last night's game against Woodward , however, enabling Woodward to coast to a 2-0 win and bragging rights as the best undergraduate women's volleyball team. Mariya Orlova set the tone in the first game with what can only be described as an evil serve, Judy Briant seemed to take over the entire net in the second game, Woodward's record breaking crowd of 25 yelled all manner of spirited things, and Filbey was unable to come up with an answer, despite the best efforts of Sun Mi Fontaine, Leslie Bradshaw, and the house trumpeter. [note: House trumpeters tend to gain more sympathy than armadillos] Can anyone stop Woodward, who appear to be this year's team of destiny? We will find out Monday night when they play the winner of the SSA-Geunion Dogs match for the all-University title.

On the men's side of the tournament, May knocked off Filbey, and earned a spot in the residence championship game against Alper, who had won by forfeit over Hoover before eliminating Linn. Despite using five players, May proved too much for the Red Army to handle and rode the arm of savvy veteran Kei Kondo to 15-12, 15-9 victory. Last night proved to be a more difficult test for May, who were visibly tense when Kondo did not appear for their game against Pike. Their futile wait for Kondo may also explain their willingness to give Pike an extra ten minutes to avoid forfeiting the match.

This made all the difference as May was forced to play extremely scrappy defense against the strong hitting of Pike's Dirk Jonske. Imran Ahmad played an excellent all-around game to pace May and after two, the teams had battled to a 1-1 tie. May actually blew an excellent chance to take the match, leading late in the second game, but they fell flat, victim of too many weak tips to waiting Pike players. The decisive game three, looked to be a Pike blowout, but May refused to die and overcame a 12-4 deficit to tie the match at 12-12. Pike quickly recovered and took the match with a 15-12 victory. Pike faces one more threat on Monday in the form of the grad league champion Volleydogs, but they are no longer thinking about volleyball

Flush from being crowned undergraduate champions, with all the power and responsibility attached to the position, Pike was in a boastful mood and strangely, thinking about football. Paul Grana guaranteed a football championship for Pike fans everywhere, vowing that "we have conquered that beast [sloppiness]. We will win because Phi Delt is afraid of us."

Strong words, worthy of a Hufflepuff. The master plan is working.