Building from the ground up

My freshman year, I arrived on campus two weeks early. The campus was empty, except for the men’s and women’s soccer teams and the volleyball team. I got recruited to come to Brandeis for volleyball by a coach who had only one season at the school under her belt. I was a part of her first recruiting class, meaning the program was in the developing phase. They had only won five games the previous season and my goal was to win half of our games my first. That did not happen, nor did it happen the next season. This made it hard to wake up in the morning to go to 6:30 a.m. practice and lifts. It was hard to invite friends to games because you knew you would lose. It was hard to be proud to be on the volleyball team because the first question I got was “how’s your season going?” It was hard to work hard day in and day out without any sort of positive return on our record.

It wasn’t until my junior year that the team gained any traction in the region and in the league. As the number 8 team in the conference going into the playoffs, we faced the number one seat, which was Carnegie Mellon, who was also nationally ranked number 9. Unexpectedly, we won the first set. No one said anything; we kept our eyes on the next 25 points ahead because the match was not over. We lost the next two sets, but there was a shift in the energy around our team. Carnegie was playing their starting line-up and we were holding our own. Every point they wanted, they had to earn. The other teams who had games after ours were watching and cheering us on, which had never happened before. The coaches of teams who were warming up on the court next to us were watching our game, instead of focusing on their own team.

It was down to the fifth set and the whole gym was cheering for the upset of the season. Never before had an eighth seat team beat a number one seat in UAA volleyball history, and that still remains true today. We didn’t win the game, but we won respect in our conference. We were able to see the improvement that we worked so hard for. We were able to see how the change in our program created a positive impact on the court. We didn’t win the game, but we walked away with more than just another loss on our schedule.

I have played volleyball since I was 10. Now 22, I wasn’t sure how I was going to process all of the lasts I would experience my senior year. The last preseason, the last fitness test, the last 6:30 a.m. practice, the last team lift, the last home game, the last travel trip, my last match and the last point. I didn’t know how I would come to terms with concluding something that has been so integral to my life, and college experience.

It didn’t feel like it was ending until around October. With the end of the road closing in on me, I so desperately wanted more time. The 117 matches, 392 sets and 253 practices didn’t feel like enough. I wanted one more game, one more point; I just didn’t want it to end. Now having not been to practice or lift for close to seven months, I know I did all that I could. I know there was nothing more I could do or give to the program. I left the program better than when I came in, which is what I came here to do. All I could have done was my best and that is exactly what I did for four years.

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