SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Cosumnes River volleyball head coach Minet Gunther each season is faced with the difficult task of preparing her team for the rigors of play in the Big 8 conference.  The Big 8, the premier volleyball CCCAA conference in northern California, features one of the most difficult conference schedules in the state.  Tournaments during the nonconference schedule, such as tomorrow's CRC Classic, help to prepare a young Hawks roster to play in the Big 8.

Historically, the event has featured the same four teams: host Cosumnes River, Los Medanos, West Hills and Hartnell; Hartnell being the most recent addition to the event four years ago.  Coach Gunther enjoys keeping consistency in the tournament field.  "At the JC level you're losing half your team every year," says Gunther.  "Each year we get to see how each team… their players and the programs develop."  "It's fun."

The event is a particularly good early season test given the format: each team plays three matches in one day, back to back to back.  The Hawks usually compete in the San Jose City College tournament prior to conference play, but with the tournament not scheduled for this year, tomorrow's CRC Classic will be especially important as the team prepares for Big 8 play.  Cosumnes River opens up with Los Medanos, before taking on West Hills, and Hartnell to close.

CRC opens on court one with LMC tomorrow at 2 PM, before taking on West Hills at 4.  Coach Gunther had plenty of positives to say about the tournament field this year.  "They're undersized, but they are a scrappy group who plays tough," Gunther said of West Hills.  "They're good preparation because there are longer rallies."

The Hawks will once again be tested in their final match, the 6 PM finale against Hartnell.  Coach Gunther calls the matchup a "fun rivalry," crediting the team as potentially the "strongest in the field."  "They're pretty strong," said Gunther of Hartnell.  "They have big middles, so we usually have pretty good matches."  CRC usually plays five-game matches against Hartnell, falling last year 3-2 after taking a commanding 2-0 advantage early.

Admission is $6 for general admission, $4 for visiting students with ID, and $2 for senior citizens (over 60) and children 8-12.  Admission is always free for CRC students, staff and faculty with valid ID, as well as children under 8.  Season passes are available at the door as well.