March 8, 2012
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ƒIt's been a long journey since I started playing volleyball. It all started in 8th grade. I played for the 7th and 8th grade volleyball A team. This was my first time ever playing volleyball. Freshman year came, and I was nervous to try high school volleyball. I heard it was very competitive and I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. Tryouts came and I was put on the freshman court to start out with. Little by little the coaches pulled girls up to the JV and varsity court. Most of my friends were being moved up so I was getting nervous. I didn’t want to be the only one of my friends to be on the freshman volleyball team. Even though I was a freshman, I didn’t want to be on freshman. I felt like that team wasn’t good enough and it would have been like middle school volleyball all over again. I thought I could do better. So that first day of tryouts, I worked my butt off. The next day, I was on freshman court again. Then, I heard my name be called to come up to the JV court! I was so happy. I knew I had to show how good I was so I could play at a higher level. The final day of tryouts came, and I was so nervous. I got pulled into the locker room by the JV coach Courtney.

“Hi Grace. I just want to congratulate you on making JV! You will be playing middle blocker.”

“Really!? Thank you so much! I’m so excited!” I almost jumped out of my seat with all my excitement. I couldn’t think straight.
“Aweome. I’m very excited for this season with you!”

Courtney was probably one of the nicest coaches I have ever had. She was new that year and she was also nervous about being a new coach. I don’t remember what our stats were my freshman and sophomore year, but what I do know is that we weren’t very good. I was ok with that though because I was just starting out and all I wanted to do was have fun.

The banquet at the end of sophomore year was so sad. I didn’t know what was to become of my volleyball career. It was weird knowing that I wasn’t guaranteed a spot on varsity next year.

I didn't start to fall in love with the sport until the end of the season sophomore year. I knew I has to work hard to get on varsity that next year. I had practiced so much and really deserved a spot. They were only taking 4 people that next year, so it was very hard to get a spot. The summer going into junior year is when the training started for varsity. I hadent really ever talked to the coaches before so I thought I should introduce myself. Their names are Heather and Jason. At this point I had no idea that in 2 years, they would become like second parents. They seemed pretty nice, a little mean at first. I was so nervous going to the first conditioning practice. Even though most of my friends were on varsity, it was so different. I felt alone. I felt like I was the weakest on the food chain. I was the oldest and captain on jv, and now I was probably the worst. It was almost embarrassing practicing with the varsity girls. They were just so experienced. So the weeks went on, and finally it was tryouts day. This was very nerve racking. I showed up, worked my butt off. Dug every ball, killed every hit, served all the spots, and was encouraging.

"Thank you everyone for coming. I'm sorry to say that we can't take you all. So we’ll call you guys into this room and of you make it, congrats. I'd you don't, I'm sorry but we don’t have a spot for you. Please come next year and try out again. There might be a spot for you next year" exclaimed heather. I was nervous, but I thought my chances of making the team were 70-30, they were in my favor. My name wasn’t called until 5th. I had just been sitting there, watching everyone come in and out of the room. Most people smiling and all happy, and only a few people were sad, coming out crying and grabbing their stuff to go home. My hands were sweating. Little balls of sweat dripping down my face, legs shaking, an empty pit in my stomach. I kept looking around nervously, waiting in anticipation for my name to get called. Then I heard it.

"Grace, you can come in now!" yelled heather from the room. I got up, light headed and dizzy. I floated across the floor, not feeling anything. I was numb. I didn't know what to think. I walk into the room. I sit down in the chair, thinking I'm about to pass out from holding my breath.

"Grace. I honestly feel so bad for what I'm about to say. You have worked so hard and are just the nicest girl. That's why this is so hard for me. We just don't have a spot for you. I'm so sorry" Heather said, looking as if she was going to cry. I didn't know what to think. I didn't know if this was real. I thought it was almost a dream. I couldn't get a grip of what just happened. I stared right at her, not knowing what to say. I mean, what do you say when someone just cut you off from your dream that you worked so hard on? I almost thought she was joking at first. I didn't know what to say. Was I supposed to say "thank you"? What am I thankful for? Nothing. So that's what I said. Nothing. I just left, without saying a word. Now that I think about it, I could have said a million things, just non that are appropriate to tell an adult... So I left. I got in my car and I drove. I called in sick to work because I just couldn't handle this. I drove around for about an hour. I didn't want to go home. I didn't want to talk to anyone. Finally, I went home, balling y eyes out. I threw my volleyball bag in t closet and layed on my bed. Soon enough, when the volleyball girls were done with practice, my phone blew up. My best friends were on the team, and they had all called me about how pissed they were and how I deserved a spot. I didn't really feel like talking though. So I went to bed, my volleyball career was over. The next day, I come down to my mom on the phone with mrs. Sevec, my best friends mom. They were talking about how ridiculous it was that I didn't make the team. I went right back upstairs and hopped in the shower. I get back to my room, and see Heather calling me. I knew she was calling to say how sorry she was and seeing how I was doing.


"Hey grace it's heather. I just wanted to say that in so sorry."
Knew it.

And I wanted to see if, well, if your still interested in joining the team? We could really use you."
Wait a second, was this really happening? I didn't know what to think. My mind was going in circles. It all didn’t feel real. My breath was taken away. I couldn’t speak. Words would not come out of my mouth.

“Yes!” I yelled. That’s all that I could think of.

“Thank you so much Heather. I really appreciate it.”

“No problem. You deserve to be on this team. I’m sorry that we had to cut you. I’m glad you said
yes, we can really use you. So, do you think you can make it up north today with the team or no?”

“Well, I didn’t take off work so no I can’t. Sorry.”

“It’s ok. I’ll text you Monday for practice details.”

“Ok, thank you so much.” I was so excited. I was shaking I was so excited! Then, once again, my phone blew up. Except this time, it was good. It seemed like the whole team just all texted me at once. It was nice to know that everyone was there for me.

So that next week Heather had contacted me about practice, games, tournaments and what not. The weeks went by, and I was so happy I was on the team. This is where I belong. These are my friends and I couldn’t imagine not being on the team. Our first game the Thursday the first week of school. I knew I wouldn’t be playing a lot because I was a junior new to varsity. We were playing Clarkston, and they were number one in our district. We were number two. It was not a very good game for us. Almost embarrassing. This is not how I hoped the rest of the season was going to go. The scores were 14-25, 16-25, and 10-25. In volleyball you play up to 25, unless it’s tied at 24-24, then you have to win by 2. Also, the games are best out of 5. So we had a rough practice that next day. Heather and Jason were very mad at us for not doing our best. It was only our first game, and I think they over reacted.

We had a tournament every weekend, from August through the end of October. Volleyball was my life in the fall. We were a good team this year. This had been our best season in a long time. So, we were at a tournament at Marian in late September. They have 2 gyms, and we had yet to see Marian’s team. As soon as I knew it, we were beating, no, killing teams left and right. Teams that we would lose to at other tournaments. This was getting our energy up.

We were fired up to beat Marian and would do anything to achieve this goal. Finally, we walked into the other gym. There they were. Blue and yellow jerseys on the court. This was the final game of the tournament. The game started, and soon enough we were being crushed. It was embarrassing. I don’t remember the scores, but they were bad. We knew we would see them in another tournament soon, and we would play them in districts. This is the one time they were going to beat us, and we would make sure of this. Soon enough, the weekend before district finals came. We were at Bedford for yet another tournament. This was going to be the last tournament this year, and we wanted to end it with a bang. We knew Marian would be there, and we wanted to win so badly because that mean we could beat them Friday in the district finals game. So, the game was on. We were crushing all the other teams there, even Bedford who is top 10 in the state. Finally, it was us against Marian in the tournament finals game once again. We lost the first set, 23-25. The beginning of the second set is where we came out strong. The score was 25-15, and we had won. Now, the 3rd game. The game to decide who wins or who loses. In tournaments games are best out of 3. Before I knew it, Paige killed the ball straight down into the ground. It hit a girl right in the face. We had won, 25-22. We were jumping around like crazy. This was going to be history in the making. Our team hadn’t beaten Marian in 10 years. This means we could beat them Friday, October 31st, Halloween. District Finals. That week we worked so hard at practice. We were ready to beat Marian. Finally, Friday came in a flash. I could remember it like it was yesterday. The news about the game was all over Facebook. Everyone was coming to the game. We wore out district shirts to school that day.
They said “Volleyball” on the front with our nicknames and the saying “Hide Ya Kids, Hide Ya Wife” on the back.

We wrote all over our cars that week for the game. We had a dance party in the parking lot Friday before the game. We played our team’s cd, which contained “All We Do is Win”, “It’s Our Time”, “Change”, “Last Play”, and “Transform You”. I was so excited for my first district finals game. I was picturing the winning point over and over in my head. I was getting a swarm of texts from my friends, wishing me good luck. This was the day we would beat Marian. As we pulled into Groves, all our radios were in sync to “It’s Our Time”. We all walked in, stepping each stride together, looking like a team. I pictured this all in slow motion as we walked down the hall at Groves High School. We were all matching, wearing our maroon spandex, black long sleeve jerseys, and all black shoes, socks, and knee pads. We walked into the gym with pride. We saw Marian on the other side of the net, but paid them no attention, not wanting to raise their already huge ego. We pretended like they were just another team. We warmed up on the other side of the net. We could see a crowd of parents start to gather, but no students yet. 15 minutes until game time. All of a sudden, we heard a large roar coming towards the gym. We heard a chant start to form. “We Are!” Then, probably 100 kids came into the gym, dressed up in crazy outfits for Halloween. This pumped us up. Then, the time to shake hands was here. We walked around the net, shaking hands and saying “Good Luck”, neither team really meaning it. Then, the first game began. The score was tied, 15-15 at one point. We were doing awesome. At the end the score was 24-25, us losing. They seved th ball, and it went between 2 of our players, giving them the game point to end with a score of 24-26.

“It’s ok guys, it was just the first game. Shake it off and come back strong” Heather said to us. The second game started. The score was 20-24, our match point. Erin did her awesome, jump top spin serve. It went to mary Henry, their setter, then Anna, then Jessie hit it back over the net, nut it went out. Our point, and we won the second game! We let this get to our heads though. We lost the second game badly with a score of 15-25. This was it, our last chance to win. Game 4 was our game. As soon as we knew it, the score was 9-24, Marian. This was horrible. I honestly couldn’t think of anything worse. It was embarrassing. I just wanted to run out of that gym and never come back. We served the ball over. There was a look of shame and defeat on our faces. They bumped, set, and spike the ball over, and they killed it in the left back former on our side. We had lost. Tears filled our eyes as we shook hands again, saying “good game”. We silently walked into the locker room, heads down. Anger and sadness in all of our faces. Our coach said a few words to us, plain and simple.

“Guys. I don’t know what to say to you. You beat yourselves out there. You could have beaten them, but you gave up. Simple. You didn’t do your best and now you have to wait another year to beat them.” Heather was disappointed in us. I felt bad for letting her down, even though I didn’t even play. Marian ended up winning states that year, their 2nd win in a row. Senior year we were going to finally beat them.

Finally, my last year of high school was here. Summer leading up to tryouts was hard. 4 hours a day practicing, and practicing twice a day every other day. Seniors automatically made the team, which was very good. It took all the pressure off. After tryouts, that weekend we went up north as a team. It was probably the most fun I’ve had in a very long time. Our parents drove all of us up on Friday. We stayed at Andrea’s cottage on Indian River. It was so much fun. We went tubing, wake boarding, swimming, on the boat, and just spent time as a team. We played many stupid games that we made up, like leg wrestling and lifting people with only out fingers.

I’m so happy that I got to go up north with the team this year. Last year I didn’t get to go because I had to work. When we were up there, we even started a twitter trend of #SHSvball that is still going on to this day. Also, our group chat checks in now and again to see how everyone is doing. Then, it was time to head home for a long week of practice. As the season went on, we were winning everything. We had 13 wins and only 1 loss. Then, the team hit a bad point. We were at an overnight tournament in the middle of nowhere in northern Michigan when things started to turn. Throughout the season, a few things had gone missing from everyone. A pair of shorts here, $10 there, but no one thought nothing of it. When we were up north, Annie had noticed that her sister’s ipod was missing, and she found it in a suitcase that belonged to Rachel* (name has been changed). Annie questioned Rachel about it, and Rachel said she had just borrowed it. So at this overnight tournament, my mom pulled Sara and I into a room. She had told us that Rachel has been stealing from us, her job, and anything else she can get her hands on. We found out that she had been fired because she stole $300 from one of the registers. Also, we found out many other things about this “so-called” friend of ours. She had stolen $200 from another girl’s mom’s purse, countless items of clothing, $2,000 from the lacrosse team she was on, and money from all of our wallets. This was devastating. Here, I thought she was one of my best friends. This all changed. I couldn’t take it all in. I didn’t know what to think. My mom told us not to tell anyone else on the team for now, because we didn’t want to ruin the relationships of the team. Somehow, it did get out that night though. The girls that were supposed to stay in her room with her refused too, and the team chemistry just crashed. We didn’t trust each other. This is not how a team should be. At the tournament the next day, we played horrible. I don’t want to blame it on what had happened the previous night, but that’s what it was. We had lost all of our games badly. Everyone was fighting on the court and we were just sick of each other. We all then went home that night, barely saying anything to each other. We didn’t know what to say. As the season went on, we all became really good friends again, except for Rachel. To this day I still don’t know why she stayed on the team. She was hated and obviously wasn’t included in anything. None of us have talked to her since volleyball. I hear rumors about her. My mom told me she is possibly being prosecuted for stealing from the house she babysits at. She stole 2 of their lap tops. Anyway, districts were coming up soon once again. We were working as a team again. We played it off that nothing ever happened because we didn’t want to jeopardize our chances at losing to Marian again.
Then, as fast as the season had started, senior night was here. Our last home game ever, or atleast for the seniors. It was so sad. The game was against Groves. That was a guaranteed win. It was fun because all the seniors played the whole game, and we won in 3 games. That was one of the best games I’ve ever played. I got 12 aces in a row! (That’s when you serve and no one on the other team even touches it. It just hits the floor.) I was so excited after that game. I felt invincible. I felt like we could beat any team anywhere. After that game, we did our senior speeches. Those were so sad. My little sister did mine for me. This was it:
“Hi, my name is Maddie and Grace is my older sister. I’ve known her for about 15 years now and there is so much I could say about her. Starting with when we were both young and how you would always boss me around and always wanted to get your way… that hasen’t really changed. We made countless home videos and you would always get to be the director. Also, you always made me the ugly boy and you would get to be the pretty girl. Even now when I take a shirt without asking you threaten my life and say you’ll never take me to Dairy Mat again, your place of employment. Throughout the years you have been able to keep good grades, have many friends that I actually like, and keep a job while playing 2 years of JV volleyball and 2 years of varsity. Even though we fight a lot, and many people have witnessed you punching me, I’m going to miss you a lot. From our memorable car rides up north, singing barefoot blue jean nigh, windows rolled down and shades on, to the fast rap songs that we spend countless hours trying to learn. There are many things that you have done for me over the years. You have established a future job at Dairy Mat for me, you have made me known as “Little Varlese”, and lastly, you have made my 15 years living with you very memorable. I’ll miss you while you’re gone at Central and I love you. Remember, SIC for life.”
When I heard her give that speech, I had a flash back of all the years here in Birmingham. It made me realize how much I am going to miss my friends and family. I have had the best times of my life here, and volleyball was just one of them. This last game was fantastic because of all the fans that came and made it very memorable.
The next day at school, everyone kept coming up to us and asking when the big Marian game was. “Next Friday” we would all say. On Saturday we had the Bedford tournament once again. And once again, Marian was there. We played amazing that day, getting into finals with Marian once again. This time went a little different though. We lost. It was a huge shocker, because they had lost their 3 best players this year and weren’t as good anymore. That was a huge let down for us. So, district week was just around the corner. We got a “by” on Monday and played Andover on Wed. That was a joke. We crushed them. Every year, Marian kicks us out of the state tournament. We had district shirts made once again this year, this time maroon and white.

Before every game, we do a chant and say “Who’s gonna bring that blood and pain!?” from the movie “She’s the Man”. What was unusual about this year’s record was that it was exactly the same as last years, even down to the pool play games in tournaments. 38 wins, 7 losses. It was very ironic. Before the game, we had a dance party in the school parking lot on top of all the cars.

When we pulled into Groves, we were all having flashbacks of the year before. Same place, same day, same team. We walked into the gym, once again not showing any emotion. Just another game. Once again, we had an amazing student section. It was even better than last years. They all painted our numbers on their chests and held up signs with all of our names. They were dressed in a “safari” theme. They also painted their bodies to look like animals. Many people were wearing our extra tournament jerseys, which was very funny because they were skin tight and very small. The crowd of students was almost doubled this year. It was all over Facebook

Probably about 200 kids were all cheering for us. Marian had a meer 30 girls, tops. Many chants were being said amongst our student section, such as “we have boys!”, “Jesus is on our side!” “Holy night”, “If you are a Maple”, “7 Nation Army”, and many others mocking Marian’s team. The ref blew his whistle, and we shook hands. This time, we said “have fun”. Then, the game began. Marian was up with a quick 4 points, us trailing behind at 0. We pushed hard and the score was then 4-4, tied. Into the 1st game, it was 20-20. So close. Then, 27-26, Marian up by 1. Their match point. They got it. We would win the 2nd game, just like last year. That didn’t turn out like we wanted. We lost the second game. Badly. It was so bad. It was 10-25, Marian. We could feel the win slipping through our fingers. The 3rd game started, and we pretty much gave up by now. I don’t know why, but we just did. The score was 13-24, Marian’s game point. Our student section was still loud as ever on that last point. We ended up losing that last game. We all walked off the court, heads slouched and shame on our faces. This was not how we wanted to end. The student section was still cheering for us, even though we lost. They were true fans and were there for all of our games. I wouldn’t believe this was happening again. I thought we could win this year. I thought we had it in us. We walked behind the curtain and all cried as a team. This was the last time I would ever play volleyball again. That was a scary thought. We then walked back out and watched Marian receive the district championship trophy. We then went to Andrea’s house to be with the team in this sad time. We all talked about what a great season we had and how sad it was. This would never happen again. As we all left that night, we knew that was the last time we’d be together as a team. I will always love the volleyball team of 2011. They are my best friends and I couldn’t ask for a better way to end my last, final season.

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