Memories for the First City Championship - free from striving, no one could strive with

At the beginning of my 9th grade volleyball season, it was very common to find our team predicted to be a mediocre team at best.  After all, we lacked consistent and strong hitters, height, and team chemistry at the time.  Unfortunately, through most of the season this held true.  However, when "clutch time" came, we shone, and ultimately, having no expectations became the difference maker.

The regular season went by extremely fast.   We were ignored and looked down upon during the entire season, and finished as a lousy 5th in the standings.  Our chances at a title were slim, and it looked like another dismal season for Vernon Barford Blues.

Soon after, playoffs came along.  There are no participation awards in tier one; only gold, silver, or bronze.  Our coach made us prepare for the upcoming storm by having practice almost every day.  We did not want to go out without a fight, so nobody complained or talked about nonsense, and practices  became much more focused and intense.

The quarterfinal was a win or go home game.  Our opponent boasted arguably the best blocker in the league: a tall, flexible, well rounded player, who had arguably the best vertical in the league.  He once blocked my hit with his head, because he over jumped the block!  To our surprise, the beginning of the game went very well.  At the start of the third set, we saw ourselves up 2-0, our opponents with their backs against the wall.  However, we were the less talented team, so we found ourselves down 17-23 in the pivotal third set.  At this point, time seemed to stop.  Everyone could tell our opponent was relaxed.  The libero had locked his legs, and the blocker was joking with his setter.  On the other side of the net, a sense of calm and urgency arose, and any thoughts of losing seemed like a distant memory.  It was as if it was a 23-23 tie game, with each and every point pivotal to the final score.  We were focused, and everyone on the team began playing one of the best stretches of the season.  Quickly, it started to pay dividends; 1 point, 2 points, 3, 4, 5 and 6 points, and suddenly, the game was tied!  By this time, they finally realized something was wrong, and began fighting back.  But our team had the momentum advantage, and we squeaked out a 29-27 victory.  The last point was truly one that belonged in the highlight reel, as I smashed down a powerful hit that aimed perfectly towards the deep corner of the court, miles out of the reach of the sprawling libero.

Next up was a dance with the unbeaten #1 seed.  To be honest, we were very much alike, except that they were just a better version.  We stole the first set and barely scraped out the third, but they always had an answer, taking the second and fourth.  Nearing the end of the game, they were leading 13-11 in the fifth.  However, we felt no pressure and no expectations.  After all, we had been used to close games, but on the contrary, they had become accustomed to sweeping away teams in 3 straight sets.  To them, we were just that pesky little fly that would never go away.  Similar to the previous game, we took our time, and gained traction one point at a time.  Starting to panick, preventable mistakes such as miscommunication and lack of focus started to take their toll, and the game was tied, 13-13.  I scored twice after, and we handed them their first and only loss of the season. 

After these 2 enormous wins, our final obstacle separating us from the city championship was the team equipped with the scariest hitters in the league.  However, every team has a weak link, and that was their setter.  We launched powerful serves to disrupt their deadly attacks, we played some of the best defence that I have ever been a part of.  Our libero even scored one point by digging up a hard hit.  The ball went across the whole court and landed perfectly on the far corner of their side.  They still got off hard hits though, and that is how they killed us 25-10 in the 2nd set.  Humiliated, we came out with even greater force in the 3rd set.  Unfortunately but fascinatingly, so did our opponents, as they rode their momentum into 24-18 lead.  At the moment, our team was unfazed.  After all, we had been in this scenario already, twice! Slowly, we gained points, and found ourselves up 1 point.  My teammate served, and immediately, the opponents hit a rocket towards us.  The libero dug it up, our right side ran out of the court to save it, and finally, with a stroke of luck, a high, curved ball landed perfectly on the line to end the exhilarating set.  Riding on our new high, we went to work and took the 4th set with ease.  Game over, we had won!

Although this seems like a Cinderella story for the ages, this had even more meaning for us as a team.  We were in tier one, the highest tier in the city, and therefore, the hardest competition.  By having a lousy season, but turning up big time in the playoffs taught the whole team a key lesson:  it isn't over till the whistle blows.  This will have even more meaning for me as an individual, because this is the first city championship squad that I have ever been on.  The experiences will stay with me for a lifetime, and as I move into basketball season, these lessons will carry on, and hopefully become success in the near future.

Game Winner at Semi-final Game


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