When Valley Center volleyball coach Bryan Otte drove to practice last week, he said he was going to therapy.
That's what volleyball has been for a while now. Especially since his wife, Cindy, died two weeks ago at age 46 after a five-year battle with cancer. Their daughter Emily is the Hornets' sophomore setter.
" (Volleyball) helps out a lot, especially because Emily is in the gym, and we're surrounded by all the young kids and their smiles and enthusiasm," Otte said.
The past five years have been rough on the Ottes, as Cindy Otte dealt with angiosarcoma, cancer of the blood cells.
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"It's just a very rare, aggressive cancer," Bryan Otte said."... One of her cancer doctors in Houston, who we had consulted with, said, 'If having angiosarcoma was an Olympic event, you'd be a gold medalist.' "
The outpouring of support since Cindy Otte's death shocked Bryan Otte. Around 600 people packed in for Cindy Otte's funeral; former players of Bryan Otte's showed up.
Volleyball teams have sent cards, some from teams Otte has never played, including Wabaunsee and Uniontown. Coaching friends contacted him, and officials have, too.
"Volleyball is full of good people," he said.
Valley Center improved to 33-4 after winning the Goddard tournament on Saturday. The Hornets will host a Class 4A sub-state on Saturday.
It's been an emotional time for Otte and the team, but he's insistent on not turning his wife's death into a 'win one for the Gipper,' type of thing.
"I don't want this to be some type of shallow-minded rallying cry for motivation or some other type of thing," Otte said. "I think it's been a really personal experience for us and the girls.
"I think that Cindy had a positive effect on a lot of the girls that she met over the years. At the funeral service, the place had a lot of young girls there.... (The pastor) and I talked and I said, 'You're going to have a lot of young girls, turn it into a positive message: look at how full the church is and how you can have that effect on other people's lives.' "
Regionals — Pairings for Saturday's regionals will be released on Wednesday.
Clearwater, as usual, is in a tough regional. Instead of Andover and Circle, as the Indians have had in the past, they get Valley Center.
The Bishop Carroll regional is tough, with Kapaun Mount Carmel and Andover Central. It will be split in two sub-states, but one talented team won't be going to state.
Goddard (30-7) may see Maize (26-12) yet again. The Lions have lost to Maize twice this season. Northwest is in the same regional.
Despite their record, the Lions have struggled this season, primarily with adapting to a new setter. Kayla Zoglman graduated after being a three-year starter in the 5-1 offense, but now Kjia Hart has taken over.
She had shared time in a 6-2 offense, but coach David Gardner made her the team's only setter midway through the season.
"With Kayla, she was consistent and you knew where the ball was going to be," Gardner said. "That's what we're working on continually, and the hitters are getting used to Kjia being the setter."