Notebook: Indoor Sports Allowed Brief Season

Former Elk Grove High School volleyball player Madison Neola is currently receiving radiation and chemotherapy treatment in Arizona for a rare kind of tumor at the base of her brain stem. She graduated from Elk Grove in 2017. (photo by John Hull) | 

By John Hull |  @JohnHullEG

Just a few weeks back local school and county health officials got together with the CIF’s Sac-Joaquin Section and decided that high school indoor sports – basketball, volleyball and wrestling – could have a competitive season this academic year.

Up until now most basketball teams were working outdoors on the blacktop, but now the high school squads are beginning to play games indoors to limited crowds.

Irv Ladines is beginning his tenth season coaching girls volleyball at Elk Grove High School, typically a fall semester sport. He told me Monday he’s had now about four weeks with his girls, allowed to only play games with other Sacramento County schools. Plus, everyone has to be tested weekly for COVID-19.

We reminisced about his 2016 Thundering Herd team that finished second in the Section’s Division I championship that year in a memorable five-set nail bitter before losing to Whitney. In the NorCal Tournament, Elk Grove made it to the semi-finals. His frontline that season included talented players Ashley Vanderpan and Madison Neola.

Just days after the conclusion of that season Vanderpan became critically ill with an auto immune blood disorder. She spent three months in the hospital. Yet, she walked out in March, 2017 just in time for her Junior Prom and was healthy enough to play volleyball her senior season. And, just a few weeks ago Vanderpan finished her junior season at San Diego State.

Ashley Vanderpan, a former Elk Grove High School
volleyball player, is now a starter at San Diego State.
Like her former teammate Neola, Vanderpan has
experienced serious health issues which up to this spring
had kept her from competing in volleyball.
(photo courtesy Aztec Sports)

“It’s really my first full season and I started and did pretty well,” she said.

Vanderpan had some health issues crop up the year prior and sat out the season, taking a medical redshirt year. When the COVID-19 pandemic began to grow, she quickly moved back home to Elk Grove and she and the family quarantined for several months, primarily because of Ashley’s medical history.

College volleyball is a fall sport for the women, but the NCAA allowed for a late-winter season and Vanderpan moved back to San Diego and competed for the Aztecs.

“It took a little bit for me to get medically approved for play, but once I did I had a great season and I feel good right now,” she said.

All NCAA athletes are getting a “COVID – eligibility” season, or in other words, another year to play their sport. Vanderpan is close to finishing her Speech Pathology major and may go after a Masters degree, so she’s not certain how many more years she’ll play for the Aztecs, but right now she has three more years of eligibility.

Neola is now experiencing a health crisis of her own. She was recently diagnosed with a rare tumor on the base of her brain stem and has moved to Arizona to receive radiation and chemo treatments, hoping the tumor shrinks. She recently posted on Twitter the severity of the challenge ahead.

“Please continue praying for me! I’m ready for this fight!” Neola recently tweeted just prior to her first series of treatments last week. You can send your well wishes to Maddy @Neola_Madison.

Vanderpan is very much aware of her high school teammate’s serious situation and was optimistic.

“She has a great support system around her, just I did around me when I was going through my (health condition),” Vanderpan said.

Back to Ladines who says his most promising volleyball player this spring is 5-10 freshman Hadley Gray.

“She is likely going to grow a couple more inches and will be a great player for us,” Ladines said.

Hadley is the younger sister of Carlee Gray, an outstanding softball player at Elk Grove who played collegiately at George Washington University.

Follow us on Twitter @ElkGroveNews
Copyright by Elk Grove News © 2021. All right reserved.


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