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The Big Game

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I wake up on a Saturday morning from the buzzing of my alarm clock, and I slowly roll over to check my phone. As the bright screen shines in my morning eyes, I read the blurry date November 12, 2016. Today’s the day, my first time ever playing in a state championship game. Yes, I have been apart of a state winning team, but never before have I played on the court for a state title. I would have never thought that November 12, 2016 would be the date that impacted my volleyball career completely.


The time is 8:30 a.m., and I have to be at school for noon. I jump out of bed as if the time were 11:59, and I have exactly one minute to get to school. The adrenaline is already rushing through my body, and I have not even started playing yet. I rush to my bathroom, look in the mirror, and scream with excitement. After I get myself together, I speed down my stairs to the smell of my omelette my mom made for me. Downstairs I gather all my volleyball necessities: stinky shoes, sweaty knee pads, my brown uniform, my glittery team ribbon, and my water jug. After what felt like twelve hours, I was on route to school. I pull up, park my car, and sprint into the Duplantis gym to meet my teammates. Exactly seven hours until the big game, and we all are anxious as ever. To prepare for game time, the team watches film on St. Joseph’s, an inspirational movie, peppered, and then ate a delicious cheesy pasta and a caesar salad prepared by the moms. After the long wait, we finally gather our bags, load the bus, and start our journey to the Pontchartrain Center. The speaker is blaring music so loud I cannot hear myself scream the song lyrics. We all pump up before the game and listen to all of our favorite songs on full blast. By the time we roll up to the gym my ears are ringing from the loud music. Before the bus lets us out, we ride pass the tailgate where all our families, friends, and fans stand holding fat heads and cheering with excitement. The whole team tries to cram through the bus windows on one side because we are all so eager to see everything that is going on. As I squeeze my way out of the tiny window, a flash blinds me. My eyes clear up and there I see my mom with her camera and my dad and my brothers to her left. The sight of everyone cheering and supporting us makes me all the more excited. We hop off the bus and start to make our way to enter the gym. Right as we walk in I can feel the intensity in the room increase drastically. Stares were coming from our opponent, St. Joseph’s. The strong looks they gave did not intimidate me, rather they motivate me even more. We wonder to our tent designated for our team and start our game day routine. We stretch out, listen to our game day playlist on full blast, and warm up our bodies. Finally. The time has come. The clock reads 6:50 and coach Hagadone walks in with her baby bump sticking out and says, “Let’s go girls. We’ve got a state game to win.” The words send chills down my body that trigger my nerves. I had not been nervous all day until this moment. I sprint to the bathroom out in the hall to try to keep myself from throwing up. I look in the mirror and say to myself, “You can do this. This is what you have been working so hard for all year.” I gather my nerves and sprint back to my team. We all walk two by two holding hands towards the entrance to the court. The tournament host lines us up parallel from St. Joseph’s. I am first in line. The host looks at me and waves his big hands for me to head out the door. The doors open. I cannot get my feet to move from the sight I am seeing. My teammate nudges me from the back, and I stumble to walk out. I am in awe at the sight of people jumping up screaming, waving signs, and clapping. The whole gym is vibrating from the noise. We get out onto the court and immediately start warming up. After we warm up, I have sweat dripping off the side of my face and am ready to play. The sound of the whistle to start the game makes my heart beat even faster. I take my spot on the court along with the other five starters on my team. The ref blows his whistle and signals for St. Joseph’s to serve. The game goes back and forth point for point, but at 26-24 we take the first set. The relief of winning the first game feels like a boulder is lifted off my shoulders. Now onto set two. We start off slow, and St. Joseph’s has the lead. The St. Joseph’s fans are screaming loud with excitement for their team. Sadly, we lost that set 22-25. The feeling of defeat sunk in. The thought of feeling like that again fires me up and makes me want to play better. The ref blows his whistle to start the third set. The fans can see our anger from the previous loss being taken out on the ball. I made sure I did not let a single ball hit the ground. The adrenaline is extremely high I cannot even feel my skin rubbing off on the court when I dive. Our anger from the last set paid off, and we dominate the third set 25-18. The sweat rolls down my face and drops onto the court, and my heart continues to beat faster as the nerves build up. Set four begins. If we win this set, we win it all. Set four starts and once again we start off slow. I am now starting to lose my nerves and just get angry. I try my best to get everyone to have confidence and to fight as hard as they can. As I am on the court, I can see our bench jumping up cheering for every point we make. The fourth set comes to an end, and we lose our second set to St. Joseph’s 20-25. Now the pressure is on. The fifth and final set of the State Championship is about to begin. Our trainor, David, gives us two options. He tells us we can either win or lose and that we decide the outcome. I can see the determination and fight in all of my teammates eyes, and I know that they can see that look in my eyes. The whistle blows, and the fifth set starts. I do not let a single ball get passed me that set. We are on fire, but so is St. Joseph’s. Back and forth we fight point for point. As I transition out of my base to play defense I see the gigantic middle hitter jump above the height of the net to hit. She is facing straight towards me, so I know that she is gonna smash the ball at me. I have been struggling digging her all game, but not this set. She hits the ball straight at my chest as hard as she can. The ball repels off of me as I get knocked onto my back from the power of her swing. I look up and the ball is flying in the air. I did it. I dug their best hitter. Our setter, Katie, sets my dig and Ellie slams the ball into the ground. The momentum is on our side after that. The score is now 14-11. One point and we are state champs. I am on the court and Kellie, our libero, serves the ball. The ball goes over, and the fight for the last point begins. Back and forth both teams are trying to put the ball away. St. Joseph’s setter goes to set their middle and Ellie jumps up right with the hitter. St. Joseph’s swings and Ellie blocks the ball. I stare as the ball falls and hits the court. I am in shock. I cannot believe we just won state. I jump higher than I ever have before on top of my teammate Sofia, and we all collapse to the floor. The bench comes sprinting to join, and they all pile on top. Tears of joy fill my eyes along with everyone else. All the blood, sweat, and tears have finally paid off. We are state champs.

 

After the game, I hurry to go find my family and friends. As I look in the crowd of people, I spot my dad with the biggest smile across his face. I rush over to him, and he squeezes me as hard as ever. I hear in his voice the tears forming as he says how proud he is of his babygirl. The date November 12, 2016 will forever change me as a person and will be an experience that I will always remember. The feeling of nerves before the big game, adrenaline throughout the match, and hard work paying off will continue to motivate me to fight to win another state title next year. Winning state changed me as a person and an athlete, and I will forever be inspired by the first time I played and won a state championship game.






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