Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - September 23, 2011

It's a family affair

Sisters will be pitted against each other in Menlo-Castilleja volleyball showdown

by Keith Peters

It was one big happy family for the Hubbards last fall as dad and three of his four daughters coached at all levels of the Castilleja volleyball program.

Second-oldest daughter, Tracie Meskell, was head varsity coach. Second-youngest daughter, Gwen, was a varsity assistant. Youngest daughter, Atlee, was coach of the JV and freshman squads while proud papa, Tom, assisted all three while their mom, Lyndal, rooted for them all.

That one big happy family is now a family divided, if only for two matches every season.

Tracie, Gwen and Tom still make up Castilleja's coaching staff but Atlee has moved to rival Menlo School and is the Knights' varsity head coach this season.

On Tuesday, Atlee will bring her Menlo squad to Castilleja to face her family members in a West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) opener at 5:45 p.m. It should be an interesting affair, to say the least.

"It'll be interesting and fun," said Tom. "I'll be sad either way, unless there's a power outage."

Last year was a dream for Tom and his wife, having three of their four daughters together at Castilleja.

"Being in the gym with your three daughters, it's like one of those commercials — priceless," Tom said.

Atlee, who played professional volleyball in Spain for two years and in Indonesia before landing at Castilleja, wanted to test herself as a head coach and thus her flight from the family nest.

"I was searching for a head coach position at the varsity level and Menlo happened to have the opening," Atlee said. "Facing my sister just adds to the excitement of coaching at Menlo."

Tracie couldn't believe it when she heard the news of Atlee landing at Menlo.

"My first thoughts were, 'Oh great, she had to pick a team in our league!" Tracie said. "I figured she would coach a team that we might play against, but never a team within our own league. Perhaps it is better that we are not in the same (Central Coast Section) division, although we might be moving up to D4 in a few years."

Tuesday's opening showdown will be one of two WBAL regular-season meetings between the teams. Atlee will host Tracie on Oct. 18. Tracie, however, is scheduled to give birth to her first child, a boy, on Oct. 15, and Gwen likely will be the interim head coach in the second family coaching reunion.

Right now, both teams have tournaments to deal with before Tuesday. Castilleja (10-5) has upwards of five matches on Saturday at the D5 NorCal Showcase at City College of San Francisco, while Menlo (11-3) plays host to the Chris Chandler Invitational the same day.

Then, it's time for the Family Feud.

"Atlee is a good coach and has a slight advantage in that she knows our players since she coached our JV team and helped out the varsity last year," Tracie said. "I just know that it will be fun to compete against her."

"Tracie has helped me a lot with the league and CCS system and rules, which I really needed to learn about so that I can have an easier transition," said Atlee. "Castilleja is a great school and there's no doubt that my family is a big part of the volleyball program there. But, they know that I have my goals for coaching and that I want to establish myself as a head varsity coach.

"The game next week against Casti is much anticipated, but I don't want it to distract me or my team from the goals we have set. I am looking forward to seeing both sides have a solid performance."

Tracie, for one, knows that facing her little sister makes Tuesday's match something less than normal.

"The match is different in that I know that Atlee will make a difference being the coach on the other side of the net," Tracie said. "My team will have to beat not only Menlo, but the coach's strategy, as well. I don't know if 'little' is the right adjective for her any more. She is taller than all of us now!"

Atlee, however, is still the youngest. She turned 26 last week. Gwen is next at 29 followed by Tracie at 32 and Summer (Hensley) at 35. All four have played competitive volleyball and were standouts at Menlo-Atherton High, even though Gwen graduated from Los Altos High. All were multiple-sport athletes and all are still in the area — Summer helps run the Hubbards' family business at Webb Ranch on the Stanford campus, which has been in the family since 1922.

Remaining geographically close allowed Tracie, Gwen and Atlee to play together last spring on an indoor Industrial Volleyball League (IVL) team, "which was a lot of fun and included a lot of competitive, but friendly bickering," Tracie said.

"It was an experience that I think every team in the league had to share, as well," added Atlee. "We push each other and sometimes get riled up, but it always ends with laughter. We are just that competitive and I love that we all share that spirit and can be comfortable with it."

Tracie also has played against Atlee in the NCVA women's adult league.

"In either situation it is competitive and friendly," said Tracie. "Usually, we compliment each other on a good hit or dig, regardless of which side of the net we are on."

Tuesday's match could be a first for the area, with family members pitted against each other in the coaching ranks. Atlee, for one, should be used to getting picked on.

"I'm the youngest. Of course I get ganged up on!" she said. "Their coaching staff happens to be my family and that shouldn't change because we are facing each other. We are all competitive people and are very comfortable competing against each other.

"I was very excited and surprised to hear that I got the position at Menlo," Atlee continued. "When I told Tracie and my family, there were congratulations and playful threats made all at once . . . although it was more about what do we do with dad!"

Ah, yes, dad. Tom Hubbard actually has been in this situation before. Prior to arriving at Castilleja to help Tracie and Gwen, Tom assisted at Menlo-Atherton. Tuesday, however, will be a little different because the battle lines are drawn.

"I've got two real daughters and like 11 step-daughters with Castilleja," he said, making it quite clear where his rooting interest will be.

And as much as she loves her younger sister, Tracie has her line clearly drawn in the sand, as well.

"My dad and sister are still on my staff and will be there next week," Tracie said. "My dad will be on the bench with the team unless he starts getting too competitive (which he did show a tendency for when he was assisting M-A and was playing against us 5-6 years ago at a tournament). Last thing the team will need is a distraction! The Menlo game is already an intense rivalry as it is and we don't need a family battle to make it even more so. I think everyone will keep their cool.

"My mom likes to come to our games and watch, so I am sure she will be there. But, she likely won't be picking sides. She does know our team better, so I would like to think she would secretly be rooting us on. I think she, like all of us, just want a good match and not one team imploding."

Atlee agrees.

"I know Tracie and I will be focused on our teams executing our game strategies and players playing well," she said. I don't think we have anything to prove to each other. I think knowing more about the Casti players should help our team, but I'm not sure if it will have a big effect or not on the outcome."

And once the outcome is decided?

"I'm looking forward to a big hug (from Atlee), win or lose," said Tom.

"If we win, I will be happy for my team and let Tracie know that she still has a chance to even the score at our gym," said Atlee. "If we lose, I will congratulate her and tell her to be ready for the next one in our gym."

"If we lose, I will likely blame her for picking on a player during serve-receive," Tracie said. "And, if we win, I will probably tell her that she should have stayed at Casti!"

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