Written by: Mason Rooney
Having a bye in the first round this morning gave our team the ability to get lots of rest last night. We knew today would be a long and challenging day, but we prepared well. A four-day tournament is a lot of volleyball leaving everyone pretty worn out by the final day. After playing eight matches our team house last night was full of girls taking ice baths to try and replenish our leg’s strength. This morning we woke up around eight, and were downstairs eating breakfast before nine. We packed our bags and headed to the ESPN Wide World of Sports for championship Monday.
Our first game was the quarterfinals and was against CYC from Saint Louis. Our front row continued to be productive offensively and defensively from all three positions. Paige, our setter, even had a kill or two. Amber MacDonald, our libero, had some fantastic digs to keep the ball in play during long rallies. We won the first set 25-20. The second set our team played exceptionally to win 25-15. Up next is the semifinal match.
Immediately after beating CYC our team sat down in front of the court next to us to watch Vision play Illini Elite. We knew that we would be playing the winner of this game in the semifinals. Illini Elite won in a neck and neck third game, and we began to plan out how to play them. Jing brought us into a stair well to give us techniques on where to block against their players, and to motivate us. “Stay calm and enjoy playing in this game,” Jing told us as we entered the court.
Our warm-up was spot on, and the energy was out the roof. Paige did a fantastic job of setting the outsides, middles, right-side, and back row. She also had some beautiful defensive plays to make it easy for Amber to set one of our pin hitters. We won the first set 25-23. The second set was a battle back and forth until about point 18. Illini Elite widened the gap on us and ended up winning the second set 25-20. The semifinals became intense as we entered into a third set. First to fifteen would move onto the finals against Northern Lights from Minneapolis.
Throughout this tournament our team has stayed on a steady emotional course. Our goal had been to work through all challenges, and to be the winner at the end of the day. It wasn’t until our third set of the final day that I really felt like the volleyball gods turned their wrath on us. We had a series of points that we would have loved baseball’s instant replay rule. Before we knew it we were down 1 to 5, and we felt our backs were up against the wall. Harley, Alyssa, and I each had a passion fueled kill, and Alyssa had a block to even the score at 5-5. Our team focuses on playing mini games to five. Our next goal was ten. However, each time we thought we had our foot in the door it was slammed in our face. Once before we have won the third set being down 9-14, and so we knew never to give up. Jing called a late timeout and we exited the huddle with the word “BELIEVE”. Upon winning the next point the score was 10-14. Our hearts cracked as the right back for Illini Elite finished the game with a kill to advance their team to the finals.
As I said in my first article I have played on this team for four years now. I have never been more proud of a group of girls, and ending with a 9-1 match record I know we will continue to do big things starting Sunday at Nationals in Minneapolis.
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