When you’re the best, there’s that feeling of invincibility, that no one can touch you or ruin your groove. Everything you do is glorified to the point that mistakes don’t matter; you can’t mess up. A mistake is a small bump in the realm of perfection.
That’s how we felt. Our game was impeccable, a never-ending climax. No team could beat us. Nothing could stop us.
The county game hadn’t even started yet, but we were already thinking about the next round. It’d be an easy win, since we were untouchable, unstoppable, and unbeatable. The attitude at halftime was the same. The locker room was buzzing and we were on a roll. We’d had a great first half, making crisp passes, hitting clutch shots, and creating great opportunities from our defense. As I looked around, every one of the girls was smiling as if we had already won. The number 5 rank in the bracket always beats the number 12, right?
The worst part of being on top is the inevitable fall back down. Each game, the expectations grew, the target on our backs grew, and the downfall grew along with us.
The third quarter was a completely different game than the first half. We played messy and scared. Like sharks, our opponents sensed our fear and attacked to gain the upper hand. By the end of the fourth, we were grasping the lead by a hair.
Unfortunately, none of the plays were in our favor, but every single one was in theirs. Our stomachs churned as that last shot went up and the other team won the game. Their 46-point comeback was particularly ironic since we pride ourselves on defense.
Mentally we thought we’d won, so physically we stopped trying. I watched my team – deemed one of the best in the state – let this paramount game slip through our fingers. None of us on the bench had comforting words for those who collapsed in disappointment as the last buzzer rang. It can only be described as gut wrenching.
The locker room was silent except for occasional sniffles caused by the tears. The atmosphere was unbearable; I had never seen my team so dispirited. We wished we could melt into the walls and avoid facing our disappointed supporters waiting outside.
After our highest high, we had hit our lowest low. As a team, we were ready to do anything we could to never feel this dejected again. Now the question was: how do we rise up again?
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.