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Prep volleyball: Coaching legend Buzzie Welch to be remembered at 25th Linda Sheridan Volleyball Classic

Back for its 25th year, the Linda Sheridan Volleyball Classic begins Friday featuring 64 teams.

Six years ago, the tournament received a facelift and was renamed after the Hall of Famer. The former Greater Spokane League Crossover Tournament was named after Sheridan the year she died.

“It is one of the reasons I changed the name to that,” Ferris athletic director Stacey Ward said. “I want kids in volleyball today who didn’t know her to be wearing shirts with her name on it, to say her name, for people to talk about her and to get the program out to tell her story.”

This time around, another name will be honored. Buzzie Welch the former Rogers, Ferris and Lewis and Clark volleyball coach died in May after battling cancer.

Ward, who cherished Welch and saw him as a dear friend and mentor, wanted the ‘patriarch and matriarch’ of Spokane volleyball to be remembered at the tournament together.

“I played for Sheridan and when I was first coaching at Ferris, Buzzie was very much my mentor,” Ward said. “He was the one I could call when things were hard and I wanted to quit. He would always talk me up when I was a little bit down. He just loved volleyball and would teach it to anyone.”

Sheridan and Welch, the founders of the tournament, were instrumental in expanding volleyball in Spokane. It only makes sense to name arguably the best regular-season tournament in the state after Spokane’s most famous coaches.

“The T-shirts will be black, kind of a shout-out to Buzzie (and his time at Lewis and Clark, his most successful stop) – I couldn’t quite bring myself to do orange being the athletic director at Ferris,” Ward said. “Then we have Buzzie’s five rules of volleyball will make a guest appearance on the tournament shirts, which is really cool.”

Those rules are: 1, Seek fun and enjoyment. 2, Win with humility. 3, Lose with dignity. 4, Deal with your anger and frustrations in a socially acceptable manner. 5, Coach is the boss.

After 25 years of high-level volleyball, the rest of the state always looks forward to this weekend.

“Now it is just not a part of the GSL volleyball culture, but the state volleyball culture as well,” Ward said.

For Ward, she is planning on passing the tournament planning torch on to Jill Benson, the coach at Gonzaga Prep, and Brooke Meyer, the coach at Shadle.

“My plan is that this will be the last year that I am running it all completely,” Ward said. “Next year, Jill Benson and Brooke Meyer at Shadle have volunteered to learn the ropes, so next year will be a joint project and the following year, hopefully, they can do it without me, get some of the youngsters to run the show.”

It has been a long time coming for Ward, who has been key to the tournament running so smoothly in years past.

“It is kind of a beast, there are just so many teams,” she said. “At one point about a week ago, we had 60 teams, then we had 61 teams and then 64 teams and then we had two teams that I hadn’t heard anything from.”

Each year, she gets to reconnect with friends from the area who she doesn’t have the opportunity to see in her athletic director role.

“For me, since I am not coaching high school anymore, one of my favorite things about this tournament is just getting to see a lot of my friends from the volleyball community that I now just see once a year,” she said.

As for passing it on, it won’t be an easy transition for Ward, but it will be in other ways.

“It will be hard, I mean it will be hard, but it will be a few headaches gone by,” she said.

The first matches are Friday at 7:30 p.m. on all 16 courts. The tourney starts up again at 8 a.m. Saturday.

Welch’s family will be in attendance for the championship match, which was moved to LC in his honor. The final games are scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday.

All GSL schools will participate in the tournament.