Tracee Byrd: The Volleyball Life (9-27-05)
Saturday, October 1, 2005

Another week gone by and once again it was full of adventure and laughs.  I’d say that the one thing our team is definitely not missing is humor.  Something always happens that makes our lives more interesting, and for some reason it usually happens to me or Chevy, but I haven’t figured out why. 


School was the same, and our routines continued.  After last week’s marathon training and a four-match weekend, we were all too tired to do anything.  So, I dressed in sweats and t-shirts everyday and ambled wearily around campus, stopping at the base of each hill to mentally prepare myself for the challenge.  I was too tired to even dodge the sprinklers, so I just let them spray me and kept on walking.  I walked into class one day with muddy shoes and a dotted water line across my shirt and everyone just nodded in understanding, no questions asked.  I think I even saw a few others who suffered the same fate.


After spending three decades practicing in the fitness center, we finally got back into our original home, the Gold Dome.  They had re-waxed the floor while we were away, and it was so sticky that you could trip just trying to walk…but I do that anyway, so maybe it had nothing to do with the floor.  But I will say that the first time we tried to dive on it, there was no sliding, and all you heard was the screech of skin sticking to the wood.   It’s much better than before though; they did a really good job.  In fact, cutting no corners, they even waxed over the holes for the volleyball net, and it took us an extra twenty minutes to pry open the hole cover.  Also, the crank on our new set of poles had somehow been broken in the transfer from the fitness center, and we had to use our old poles.  But after only wasting an hour of practice time, we pressed on in preparation for our first conference match.


After practice, Chevy wasn’t feeling well, so I went to sit with her at the doctor’s office.  Once they called her back, we sat there for an hour marveling at the different buttons and utensils everywhere, one of which was a two foot long Q-tip.  Bored out of our minds, we decided to take some funny pictures.  So, I put on a rubber glove and my reading glasses, then I held the overhead light above Chevy’s face and pretended to clean her ear from three feet away with the ginormous Q-tip.  Luckily, the doctor walked in just as Shayla was about to take the picture.  I tried to play it off, but I don’t think it went so well. 


After one more practice on Tuesday, we were used to the new floor and net and ready to take on Alcorn in our first home match of the year.  Some of the girls had made signs and posted them all over campus, and we’d been inviting everyone to come for the last two weeks.  But the day finally arrived, and we were more than excited.  We had our warm-up and the fans started appearing.  When it was time to announce the line-ups, we had a pretty good-sized crowd, and we threw our autographed miniature volleyballs as our names were called.  This seems simple enough, but it’s actually harder than it sounds.  My ball almost pegged a professor in the face, Dani’s went flying into the nosebleed section, and I don’t think Lili’s even cleared the volleyball court.  But after getting our embarrassing moments out of the way, we stepped onto the court with confidence ready to show our fans the new and improved Centenary Ladies. 


We came out strong and dominated Alcorn in three games to move our record to 8-8.  Then we stripped down the net and carpooled to McAlister’s for our post-game meal. 


The next day we left for Tulsa.  We got a good night’s sleep and then awoke for breakfast before we drove to the gym for a short pass-around.  After the practice, we filed back on the bus and went to Bennigan’s for our pre-game meal.  Now Bennigan’s is one of my favorite places, simply because they have this sandwich called the Monte Cristo.  However, we have this rule that we can’t have anything fried before games, so the sandwich was off limits.  Well, I just happened to sit across from Coach Fry at the table, and she just happened to order a Monte Cristo.  It was torture.  But, since she only ate like a fourth of it, we made this deal that if we won the match that night, I could have the rest of it.  So, with that newfound motivation, I headed into the match. 


I was pretty nervous before we played, which is a good thing because it makes me more into the match.  But between every play, I just kept telling myself, “Monte Cristo…Monte Cristo.”  Sadly, bribing me with food actually works, and I played well even though we didn’t pull out the win.  So, Coach let me have the sandwich anyway.  I tell you this only to set up the next story.  You see, when we stopped at Quizno’s to eat dinner, I was in the back of the bus still eating my Monte Cristo, so I told them I’d come in later when I finished eating.  However, when I tried to leave, I couldn’t open the door of the bus.  So I sunk down in the driver’s seat and blankly stared at all the buttons and levers, trying to decide which one I should test first.  But after considering the fact that the bus was still running, and pushing the wrong button might send me plowing down a hill into someone’s house with me still trapped inside, I decided I’d try another method.  So I searched through everyone’s bed until I found a cell phone.  We’re usually not supposed to bring our phones into restaurants, but I was praying that someone had so I could contact them.  After thirteen calls gave me nothing but busy signals, I decided to try using another phone.  I finally got a hold of Coach, who just laughed at me, and then the bus driver came out to unlock the door and rescue me.  I walked into the restaurant to a chorus of laughter, and sheepishly sat at the nearest table.  Like I was saying, for some reason these things always happen to me.


That night we drove to Missouri.  The next morning we awoke to news that the Centenary campus had been shut down until Wednesday due to the hurricane, and we might not be able to return for a few days.  Needless to say, when you get a few days off of school, the last place you want to be stuck is in the middle of nowhere five states from your family. 


We had breakfast at IHOP and then drove to Missouri State’s campus to scout North Dakota State’s game against Wichita.  After watching a few games and getting some helpful advice from some Wichita fans, we left to grab some lunch and chill at the hotel until we came back to the gym.  North Dakota hadn’t impressed us much, and they actually hadn’t won a game all year.  We knew we were the better team, and started off the first game strong.  But somewhere in the middle we started breaking down, and they took advantage of it.  We never recovered the momentum after that, and they easily took the next two games.  Dejected and confused, we spent the next hour or more in the locker room talking about what went wrong.  There’s no way we should have lost that game.  Then after we left, several of us had individual meetings with the coaches to find out what we individually could do to better the team. 


We spent the night in northern Arkansas to cut a few hours off our drive.  The next morning, we finally found out we could go back to campus.  So, we climbed back on the bus that had become our home and spent the entire day driving back to Centenary.  There’s not much to do on the road except watch TV and eat, so that’s what we do.  Even though we’re not hungry, we still pig out on all the food on the bus because there’s nothing else to do.  The coaches stock the bus with so much snack food that I swear we gain five pounds every road trip.  This trip I happened to bring my guitar though, and that helped pass the time.  Four of the girls even learned how to play a song. 


Even though our results don’t show it, I think we gained a lot from this weekend.  We learned what it was that was hindering our team, and we talked about how to fix it.  Each of us now knows ways that we can individually help the team, and putting all of those things together is going to make an enormous difference.  I’m excited just thinking about it.  We have an amazing amount of potential and the ability to do some great things in conference this year.  With our first conference game under our belt, we now know what we’re up against, and we’re ready to apply what we learned this weekend the next time we step on the court.