Tracee Byrd: The Volleyball Life (10-4 through 11-4)
Friday, November 4, 2005

Weeks of 10-4 through 10-26-05


            These past four weeks have been crazy.  With Mid-Con play and midterm tests, we haven’t had time to even sleep.  The first week started off with a much-needed break as school was let out until Wednesday due to Hurricane Rita.  But that just meant that we had more free time to spend at the gym.

            We spent Monday and Tuesday practicing and watching game film to prepare for our upcoming matches.  Then our slow week turned hectic as school started back and our professors loaded us down with work to try to make up for lost time.  A couple of us even had three tests on one day.  As if that wasn’t enough stress, we also had three matches over the next four days.

            The first was Wednesday night versus Prairie View.  We beat Prairie
View the last time we played them, even though they tried to psyche us out with their national anthem flag people.  We ended up winning in three, an improvement over our last two 3-1 victories. 

The next night, we had our last practice of the week and then we raced off to late night in the cafeteria.  This was no ordinary late night though.  This was the night of the big chicken nugget eating contest between Dani and Centenary swimmer Ross Gilbert.  We’d advertised all week and finally the day had come.  Dani and Ross took their places at the end of the table and the entire caf started doing the slow clap.  For some reason this particular night, the caf employees were limiting you to five nuggets at a time, so each competitor selected runners to shuttle plates of nuggets back and forth.  Then the cheering section gathered around waving their signs and Rebecca took her seat as the official scorekeeper.

            An hour later, both Dani and Ross were still eating, with nine plates stacked in front of each of them along with two huge bowls of ketchup and barbecue sauce.  After leading most of the night, Dani finally threw in her last nugget and called it quits, losing with an honorable score of 41 to 43 chicken nuggets.  Dani swears she could have eaten more if her concerned teammates hadn’t cut her off, but it was almost curfew and we didn’t want her sick for the game the next day.  Honestly, I have no idea how she ate 41 chicken nuggets.  That’s got to be like three whole chickens or something.  But sixteen hours later, all that energy came in handy as we played our closest Mid-Con match ever.

            The match was against UMKC on Friday night, and we came out strong, taking the first game 30-24 and leaving the other team with their mouths open in shock.  We had a great crowd and the match grew more exciting as UMKC took games 2 and 3 before we came back from behind to win the fourth and send it to a decisive fifth game.

            Adrenaline was pumping and we hung with them until a few costly errors gave them their final points to seal the game.  The match was very emotionally draining with our hearts jumping into our throats then diving into our stomachs with every change in momentum.  We left the gym proud of our effort, though no less disappointed in the outcome.

            Saturday we awoke tired and achy and went to the gym for an early pass-around at 10:00.  Still asleep, the pass-around did not go well as we shanked balls left and right.  Our lack of intensity carried over to our warm-up and eventually the match, as we were unable to find the team that we were the night before.  Western Illinois easily discarded us in three and we left embarrassed and confused.

            Then Monday rolled around bringing the first week of midterms and we suddenly remembered that we actually do something other than play volleyball.  This was to be a short week for us because we were missing Thursday and Friday classes to travel to Chicago.  Our first game wasn’t until 7:00 Friday, so naturally we took a 5am flight on Thursday, because that makes perfect sense.  We’re usually seated on the plane alphabetically, which means that Dani and I sat next to each other.  So, I quickly learned that Dani hated to fly as she gripped the armrests and started sweating and breathing fast and rambling about how we were about to die.  She then called everyone she knew to tell them she loved them.

But after our layover in Memphis, we landed safely in Chicago around 10am and then spent the day shopping before we had dinner at an amazing pizza place.  Our match the next night was less than satisfactory and we spent the bus road to Indianapolis trying to diagnose what kept happening on the court so that we could fix it.

We stepped up our play the next night and played an amazing first game against IUPUI, but we couldn’t hang on as they pulled away to take the match 3-0.  We spent the night in Indianapolis then flew back to Shreveport on Sunday.  Dani continued to scare everyone seated within 5 rows of her, and the coaches continued to stop at every Starbucks within a 30-mile radius.  

The next week brought more midterms and less sleep.  But thankfully we only had class until Wednesday due to fall break.  The campus was pretty empty for the next few days, but we didn’t notice because once again, we took advantage of not having classes and spent more time at the gym.  We watched game tapes and practiced, preparing for our last two matches in the first round of conference. 

When Friday rolled around, we took the court to face Oakland.  Oakland made error after error, willing to hand us the match, but we matched their 37 errors with 37 of our own and handed it back to them.  Saturday we faced Valpo after spending an hour watching a fuzzy game tape and scouting the wrong team.  We also had a lot of team drama right before the game, and we took the court a little shaken.  Valpo took that game in three.

After only one day off, we once again loaded a bus to head to Houston and face Prairie View for the fourth time this season.  We lost in five as they outplayed us and used their huge crowd to stay pumped up.  Their crowd was yelling very inappropriate comments the entire match, leaving those of us on the bench clinging to each other and too afraid to walk to the end of the bench to get water.  I will have to give them credit for one of their outbursts though.  Chevy had been cheering from the sidelines throughout the match, refusing to take off her jacket for fear that the crowd would see her number and taunt her more.  They had already been riding her about her pig-tails and calling her Bo-peep.  Finally, Coach gave her the signal to go into the game, and she pulled off her jacket and ran onto the court.  The crowd cheered.  The referee had already blown the service whistle though, so she had to come back off and wait until the next sideout.  The crowd booed and started cheering “We want 3, we want 3!!” since that was Chevy’s number.  Then the entire gym starts chanting “Rudy, Rudy!!”  It was awesome.  I started laughing mid-rally. 

The next day we faced TSU and Corpus Christi, which would make five matches in five days.  We beat TSU in four, then lost to Corpus in three.  Bruised and broken, we limped to the bus for our trip back home. 

After missing Monday and Tuesday of classes, we spent the rest of the week catching up and taking tests until our match against Oral Roberts on Friday.  This match was the start of the second round of conference, which means, since I’m a senior, that it’s the last time I will ever play these teams in my life.  We started out on fire, leading 4-0 before Oral Roberts even scored.  But they fought back and then we went back and forth until their tough serving eventually carried them to a victory.  We continued to struggle with our passing for the rest of the match and they took the match in three.

After playing six matches in a week, we finally had a break as Saturday was an off day, the first Saturday off since season began.  We definitely took advantage of it, and we spent the day napping, running errands, and getting caught up with schoolwork.  It’s amazing how much stress is avoided just by having an extra day in the week.  I actually had my first peaceful sleep since school started.

Next week is our infamous road trip to Kansas City and Western Illinois.  That’s right, road trip, not plane trip.  We will be driving to Illinois.  At least we hope so.  Two years ago, our brilliant bus driver drove us to the wrong state and we ended up at the gym twenty minutes before game time.  Now, I know driving to Illinois makes about as much sense as our 5 AM plane trips, but anything that is a bad idea before it even starts has just got to end up being hilarious.  So, undoubtedly, there will be lots to write about next time because there’s no way we can spend that much time together in a tiny space without something going down….and I’ll be there to record all of it. 


Week of 11-3-05


This week was very short since we left Wednesday night for our road trip.  Monday and Tuesday were spent practicing and getting caught up with schoolwork just in time to fall behind again.  Then Wednesday was the night of the big FCA costume party.  Since we had to leave that night and couldn’t go to the party for very long, we decided to turn practice into our own costume party.  So we dressed up, took pictures, and even warmed up in our costumes.  Chevy was a janitor, I was a nun, Ashlee was a soccer player, Stephanie was a cheerleader, Shayla was a hunter, and Dani was a sumo wrestler.  I’m sure we looked absolutely ridiculous to anyone who walked by and saw us practicing, and I could tell by the embarrassed look on Coach’s face that she has never been more proud.   

When practice was over, we rushed over to the FCA party.  They had this maze set up that you had to go through in order to get into the main room.  The problem was that it was completely black so you couldn’t see where you were going at all.  So we got in a line, all of us hiding behind Dani’s huge sumo outfit, and tried to maneuver through the maze, expecting any minute for someone to jump out and scare us.  However, all we ended up doing was knocking over all the walls and tripping over everything.  In fact, they had to stop admitting people for a few minutes after we went through because they had to fix everything that we knocked over.  Yes, leave it to the athletes to be as uncoordinated as possible.  I’m blind to begin with, so putting me in a black room and telling me to go through a maze is just not going to happen.  Eventually we found a light on Chevy’s keychain and used it to make our way; however, even with the light, we still screamed when people jumped out and scared us. 

After we made it to the main room, we socialized and took pictures.  I thought it was funny that while most of the people were hanging out on the couches and chairs or in the middle of the room, the volleyball players were all hovering over the snack table.  But eating is what we do best.  We then hurried off to take showers and pack before we had to catch the bus for our road trip.

The bus left around 11:00pm and we all fell asleep pretty quickly.  We stopped two hours short of our destination for lunch the next day and then continued on to our hotel.  I think it was about a fourteen hour trip.  We rested at the hotel for awhile, and then had dinner.  The next morning we had breakfast then headed to Western Illinois University a few hours early to use their library for study hall.   The computers were so slow, and in the two-hour study hall, all I managed to do was check my email.  It’s a good thing I didn’t have any homework.  Gretchen, a girl who had played volleyball at Centenary two years ago, met us there and we caught up and retold stories of earlier years.  By the time the internet finally got to, it was time to go, so we left for lunch at Subway and then headed to the gym for the game. 

The game started off slow, but we improved as the match went on.  We couldn’t pull out the victory though as they beat us in every statistical category to take the match in three.  We took our showers and climbed back aboard our traveling home to drive to Kansas City.  Then next day, we once again used the campus library for study hall before we ate our pre-game meal and drove to the gym to face UMKC.  We had a short pass-around and then took the court ready to get revenge for the tough five game loss they handed us earlier this year.  But their one dominant hitter continued to frustrate us, and we couldn’t shut her down.  They took the match in three.

We drove through the night and arrived home mid-morning on Sunday.  We spent the day resting and catching up, knowing that we had a full week of classes ahead of us since all our upcoming games were at home. 

Monday was Halloween, and there was a basketball maroon vs. white scrimmage right after our practice.  So, people started piling into the gym before we were done.  It was fun though, because it made it seem like we were playing an actual game instead of just a practice scrimmage, even though they weren’t there to watch us, and most of them weren’t even paying attention.  But the practice went really well, one of our best practices this year.   However, we couldn’t seem to carry that intensity over to the next day when we hosted a tri-match with ULM and Grambling.  We lost both the matches in three.

The day did bring some good news though.  Kelley returned from Houston with the announcement that she was engaged.  However, getting married this May means that she will be graduating and not returning to play her fourth year of volleyball.  So, to everyone’s surprise, she runs out in the middle of our second match dressed out in all her gear.  The plan is that if her doctor allows her, she’s going to finish out the rest of the matches this year since it’s her last chance to play.  We’re all really excited for her…and probably a little jealous at the same time.   And it’s fun to see her back on the court.  I didn’t think I’d get to ever play with her again.

We have two matches this weekend with Saturday being senior night.  Now that Kelley is graduating, I won’t be the only senior.  It will be our last collegiate home match ever, and I’m sure a few tears will be shed.  But Kelley and I have already decided that we’re winning no matter what, because we want to be a part of the team that gets that first ever Mid-Con win.  We always said that we wanted a ring before we graduated, meaning a championship ring, but it looks like she got her ring, and I couldn’t be happier for her.  Kelley steps back on the court this weekend bringing senior leadership and amazing talent, which means I can promise that there will be some exciting volleyball.  So come support us this weekend in our last two home matches of the year.  This is your last chance to win a pizza or gear in the serving contest, so work on those skills and bring your best game and spirit to the Gold Dome this Friday and Saturday night.