Tracee Byrd: The Volleyball Life (8-30-05)
Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Monday brought the first day of the new school year, so we strapped on our backpacks and trekked around campus.  You can always tell who the freshmen are because they carry their schedules around and stick their heads into at least six classrooms before they realize they’re in the wrong building. 


Now, I know Centenary has a small campus, so you would think that walking to class would be an easy task.  However, it actually requires a few hard-learned skills and some precise timing techniques.  First of all, the sprinklers always seem to be watering the sidewalks, so you have to stop and wait until they turn away and then sprint to the next dry patch of sidewalk before you get sprayed.  But here’s what usually happens to me:  I watch the sprinkler and then take off as soon as it clears the sidewalk.  But two steps into my sprint, my heel gets stuck in the crack of the sidewalk and I totally eat it.  Luckily, this only happens when a crowd of people walk by, and I get up just in time to catch a stream of water in my face.  Meanwhile, the squirrel population has gathered to throw pinecones and laugh at me before they bounce off to terrorize someone else.  By the time I get to class, my hair has taken on the shape of an afro due to the humidity, my makeup is running, my pants are ripped, and I’ve been mocked by at least three squirrels…And the professors wonder why I’m late to class.


Anyway, after a long day of classes, we head to the caf for dinner and then hurry to the training room to get treatment before practice.  (As a sidenote, I think I get injured more from the impossible to move chairs in the caf than from my sport.)  So, after a hard practice and some light weightlifting, we head back to our dorms to shower off before we get to the highlight of our day…LATE NIGHT!!  Late night is a period of time between 10 and 11 when the cafeteria reopens its doors to serve the starving students who haven’t eaten since 5.  Having just worked out, we volleyball girls clean out the joint.  One night I think we went through five pizzas, two boxes of cereal, a gallon of milk, and a couple of sandwiches.  It was pretty impressive. When 11:00 rolls around, those of us who didn’t have afternoon breaks get to begin our homework.  Then we get up in the morning and start all over.


On Thursday we finally broke the routine and packed our bags to head to Southeastern for our first tournament.  The drive was pretty long, but we pulled out a guitar and had some praise and worship to help pass the time.  After a late dinner we arrived at the hotel and immediately climbed into bed, our bodies aching from the contorted sleeping positions on the bus.  As always, I had the trusty camera on the bus, ready to video any and every person who fell asleep.


We awoke early for the continental breakfast.  I, of course, slept through my alarm and almost missed breakfast, setting a great example for the underclassmen.  But then again, punctuality is my middle name.  After a short practice, we suited up for the first match and tried to calm our nerves, while those of us who were somehow already injured (probably from trying to dodge sprinklers and squirrels) headed off to the training room to get prepped for the game.  Just our luck, we ran into a line of fifteen people waiting to use the one muscle stim machine.  And the worst part is that the four leads that came off the machine had to be turned up to the same level.  So, when one person had it turned up so they could feel it, the person using the other two leads would be on the other table twitching.


But once all that drama was over, we warmed up and started our match against UNO.  Our warm up had been a little sketchy and we even gave the other team five points right off the bat before we scored.  I think it was just nerves though, and we eventually put some points on the board.  However, UNO continued to frustrate us with their big block and tough serves, and they pulled out the win in three games.


We then wrapped on some ice and ate our Subway lunch while we scouted the other teams’ match from the stands.  We had a two match break before we played again and most of us got to visit with our families who drove in for the weekend.  I even sent my parents on covert food runs because I was forever hungry, and it always made me feel like the kid who sneaks the chocolate cake into fat camp…especially when my grandma came in carrying two trays of cupcakes for my birthday.


In the second match against Alcorn, we made a few changes and switched some positions around.  I think by then everyone’s nerves were finally settled and we really started playing more to our potential.  We took that match in three games, had dinner, and headed back to the hotel to crash.


Saturday proved just as exciting as we won one game vs. Alabama State and lost the other to Southeastern.  The best part of the day, however, was when I video taped Alcorn’s trainer rocking his air guitar during a time out.  Man, I must have watched that thirty times, and it never gets old, especially the part where he sees me filming and immediately sits down and tries to play it off.  Anyway, our match against Southeastern was one we should have won, and all the games were fairly close.  But then we came back and beat Alabama State in the later match and left the tourney on a happy note…That is, until we tried to leave the parking lot.  Because of the hurricane evacuations, it took us three hours to go all of twenty miles.  We were going so slow that Andy, our campus FCA leader who came with us on the trip, actually got off the bus and walked into a gas station to use the bathroom while we were still on the road.  Unfortunately, the second he left, traffic actually started moving and he had to sprint a mile to catch back up with us. 


Since the trip was taking so long, we decided to stop and buy some videos and a few snacks.  We debated over some movies while Andy tried to talk me into hurdling two buggies so he could watch me bust my face open on the store surveillance screen.  But I politely declined because I didn’t want to explain to my coaches that I broke my ankle trying to hurdle a buggy in Walmart.  We eventually chose a movie and went up to the counter to find our coaches with a basket full of every snack food imaginable.  Meanwhile Andy befriended a Walmart employee named Philip who, in the thickest Cajun accent I’ve ever heard in my life, informed us that it would take twelve hours to get back to Shreveport.  So with Philip’s advice, we headed back for more movies.  When we got back on the bus, we passed around lunchables, fruit snacks, crackers and squeeze cheese, wheat thins, Gatorade, Capri suns, beef jerky, and even chicken dunks, whatever those are.  I did not get to experience the chicken dunk because they were gone when the empty box got passed to me.  Believe me, I was indignant.  We then watched a movie, slept, or studied until we arrived back in Shreveport at 3AM.


So, everyone had fun, and we returned with a record of 2-2.  I was extremely proud of how well the freshmen performed in their first tournament.  Ashlee and Dani stepped up and got some big swings and blocks while Lili played solid defense in the back.  And Rebecca and Chevy kept everyone excited and came through with some clutch serves and kills right when we needed them.  We even left with a few honors as Dani was named to the All-Tournament Team and Lili received Mid-Con Defensive Player of the Week.  Overall, everyone contributed and did great, and we’re off to one of our best starts in a few years.  I can’t wait to see what else is in store for us this season.