Going Out in Style

Hey! Another super long post about kids sports! This one is a little special, though.

After five years, M’s CYO sports – and likely all sports – career is over. It was not a bad ending.

Her volleyball team came back from the brink of losing twice in their tournament, closed out their arch-rivals in the championship game, and ended the season as B-league City champs!

First off, they got very lucky with how their tournament worked. Her team had a bye so started play on Saturday. A quarterfinal Sunday, semis and finals Monday night. The tournament that C’s team played in, on the other hand, stretches over three weeks for some reason. They won’t be done until a week from tomorrow. That’s just stupid.

Anyway, the games…

Saturday’s quarterfinal was an easy, two game win. They were way better than the girls they were playing, and it was a good sign they didn’t mess around and make it close. The only bummer to the day was the inevitable scheduling issues. We were match five or six of the day, with 45 minutes allotted for each match. I think we started about an hour and 15 minutes late. Sitting in a hot, crowded lobby with hyper kids running around was fun.

Sunday’s quarterfinal only started about 15 minutes late, which was much better. The competition was better, too. We lost the first game 25–20 but it really wasn’t that close. St. M was really good and seemed to never let a ball hit the floor. In the second game we were up most of the time but hit a lull in the middle of the game and dug a hole. We were down 21–18 and parents were getting nervous. We got the ball back, though, and one of our best servers won six-straight points to force the third game.

The third game was sensational. Our girls played the best they’ve ever played together. We started out 6–0 and never let St. M get back into it. We were up 9–3 and you could see the St. M girls getting frustrated. Meanwhile our girls were all giddy and bouncing and confident. They knew they were winning that game and closing out the match. They were running down every ball, getting last-second tips at the net, and our best hitter was putting balls away. We ended up winning 15–5.

M was so pumped after the game. She kept talking about how badly she wanted to go to the championship game and win it. The other St. P’s B team, made up of 7th graders, reached the opposite semifinal and she kept saying how she hoped they would win so it could be an all St. P’s final. Seriously, she said this same thing at least five times Sunday night and then again Monday morning before school.

Late Sunday night the team got an email from our hitter’s mom saying she had come home from the game, pretty much collapsed in bed, and now had a 102-degree fever. Not good. If you can’t go to school, you are ineligible to participate in any after-school activities. She’s probably our fifth or sixth best player overall, but she’s also the only girl who can play above the net. We would need her to win.

Around noon Monday the mom sent out a message saying the fever had broke, her daughter was up and feeling fine, and they were headed into school so she could be cleared for the game. It didn’t matter if she played well or not. If she wasn’t there I think it would have gotten in our girls’ heads, so her mere presence was all we needed.

Onto the evening semis. Our girls’ old nemesis, St. B, cruised pretty easily in their semifinal against our 7th graders. The first game was close but the second was something bad like 25–5.

We were playing HM, a team we had beaten 15–11 in the third game earlier in the season. This match ended up being almost exactly like our quarterfinal match. We lost the first set 25–20, although this one was back-and-forth until the very end. The second set was also very tight until HM squeezed out a couple points to go up 21–18. I leaned over to S and pointed out this was the same score that we started our comeback in Sunday. She looked at me like I was dumb. We ended up winning 25–22.

WHO IS THE DUMB ONE NOW, MY DEAR????

(I did not say that to her.)

Our girls were pumped. But they had also just played a very tight, stressful, three-game match while St. B had been resting for an hour after an easy win. A couple of our girls looked totally gassed. The girl who was sick had not played well at all. Oh, and our girls had never beaten St. B’s in an even-talent competition in five years.

St. B’s beat us 26–1 for a City title in kickball in sixth grade. They beat us two other times in the kickball regular seasons. They knocked us out of the semifinals in the fifth grade volleyball tournament. They had beaten us earlier in the season in two very close games. Hell, their A team had given our A team their only loss of the year. The only time M’s class had beaten them was in 6th grade spring kickball, and that was against a St. B’s team that was mostly fifth graders. And we still barely won.

I guess you could say we were due.

Surprisingly, our girls looked fresher to start the match. St. B’s big hitters kept putting it into the net. Our girls built up an early lead but then had three-straight servers put their first ball into the net. It was back-and-forth for a bit but we pulled out the first set, I believe it was 25–20.

The second set both teams looked tired. Play was a little more ragged than in the first game. We got a little margin and then it was a lot of point for us, point for them. Which was fine since we were up. Avoid the big run and we can nickel-dime our way to the win. They got within one point at 20–19 before a mis-hit gave us the ball with a 21–19 lead. We had a server who is capable of serving quite well but has a tendency to crumble in tough spots. So of course she had four perfect serves. On match point a hit sailed just long and our girls went crazy. They jumped on each other for a moment, collected themselves for the handshake line, and then piled on each other again. M’s voice clearly rang out above the shouting, “WE JUST WON CITY!!!!!” There are benefits to being a loud talker.

In the stands parents were high-fiving and hugging each other. There were tons of other St. P’s parents there between the other B team playing earlier and many of the A team families coming to watch. It was all very cool.[1]

The best thing about the weekend, beyond the results, was that M played the best volleyball of her life. This year she’s been a front-row only player and doesn’t get many chances to set because our best player is a setter. But she’s gotten better and hangs in there on points. In the third game on Sunday, she made a couple huge plays, including one punch of a ball that was headed into the net that avoided the defense and landed for a point. She set our hitters for a couple kills. She ran down a ball that was headed toward the stands. In the second game of the championship match, she made probably the three best sets she’s ever made, which her best friend put away for kills all three times. She’s always been one of those kids who was just on the team. A good teammate for sure, and a good friend. But often she had little to do with the final outcome. It was great to see her contribute, and I could tell she was proud of herself.

I thought it was funny that somehow she wiggled her way to the middle of her team and when the CYO director handed over the trophy, it went to her first. She paid her dues!

Unless something crazy happens, I can’t see her trying out for any sports next year. So after 10 seasons of kickball, five of volleyball, a few of soccer way back, and three summers of swimming, this was it for her competitive athletic career. It was a pretty great way to end it.


  1. A few miles away our C team was winning their tournament at the same time. And our A team plays tonight in their semifinals.  ↩