For nearly 20 years, Madisonville’s Judi Delesandri and Rhonda Savage have worked as officials for UIL volleyball in Texas and can often be found at the MHS gym.
The pair were recently two of 20 officials selected out of over 3,000 in the state to referee the UIL Texas State Volleyball Tournament from Nov. 14 through the 17th.
Two officials were selected from 10 chapters to help determine who the top volleyball teams in the state would be over the span of a weekend. Delesandri was selected as the R1/R2 and Savage as the line judge. The two are with the Brazos Valley TASO Chapter.
Delesandri has had a love for it ever since her days as an avid volleyball player. She used to umpire high school softball as well and will also work Little League games when she can.
“Volleyball is my passion,” said Delesandri. “My parents played it and I grew up around it. I started reffing as a player in the USAV. Once my kids got old enough I took it up again just to make some extra money and now I get paid to watch a sport that I love.”
When asked if it is ever difficult to remain impartial, she joked that she actually tended to be harder on the people she knew during softball games and has even called out family members on strikes.
“I strive to be fair and ignore who the teams are,” said Delesandri. “I call what I see. Being consistent and fair is what makes a good official. It is about the girls. It is not about us or where we are from, but doing the best job we can for them.”
In volleyball, the official has the power to penalize a coach with a yellow card for a warning and a red card for ejection. While there have hardly been any issues, Delesandri estimates she has dealt out about five cards in her 17 years. But she admits that the crowd can often be the biggest issue.
“Some parents might not always know that the rules have changed,” said Delesandri. “If they are yelling you just have to work through it. If they are getting too aggressive, you can have an administrator talk to them and tell them to calm down. Honestly, it has been very minimal and I am thankful for that.”
Part of the reason this has not been a problem is her consistency as an official. No referee would be chosen to officiate such a prestigious tournament if they were not just that, which speaks volumes of Delesandri and Savage.
At the state tournament, the pair officiated the 1A Semifinals, 4A Semifinals, 6A Semifinals, 1A Championship, 4A Championship and 6A Championship. Of the 10 officiating chapters represented, none worked more games than Brazos Valley TASO.
“The opportunity gives me chills just thinking about it,” said Delesandri. “Before each game, I prayed that it would be about the girls and not me. I wanted to leave the gym knowing that they would not think I costed them the game. I want the girls to decide the game and not my whistle.”
Delesandri and Savage played volleyball together and have been best friends for years.