Men’s NCAA division III Volleyball Tournament – Day 2

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Thursday April 26,2012
Stanley and I rose up early to grab breakfast. We were the first ones down. We found an endless supply of pancakes, sausages, eggs, orange juice, bacon and muffins amongst us. After three plates each we made our way back upstairs to get ready for community service. We had to be at the high school at bright and early. I took the opportunity to snap the first group team picture. We were then walked towards the school and into the gymnasium. As we walked through the halls, I imagined what the students were thinking of us. I heard some whispering, “they are so tall” while others held doors for us as we passed. I recalled my days in high school. Any break from an identical daily routine was rewarding, and I could only imagine what the kids in gym class were feeling. We were greeted by gym class students, volleyball team members and teaching staff. We warmly introduced ourselves and began teaching as soon as attendance was taken. We worked in groups. Stan and I took a group to a volleyball net quietly stacked away in the corner of the gym. We were lucky to have pupils who had some volleyball experience. We therefore started a game in the corner of the gym. While we were playing I glanced around the gym to see that my teammates were connecting very well with the rest of the groups around them.

As we were playing I noticed something. I asked my group what their plans were for the future. They replied stating that they were seniors and that they had plans to get into college. I’m not sure if they were lying or not, but either way they were very nice to be around. Though some had tattoos, spoke in slang, and had street nicknames for each other, they were very warm. They treated us with respect and more or less were willing to do anything we suggested. Another thing I noted were the groups around the gym. There were students who chose not to participate, others who had never touched a volleyball and were very eager to join in playing with us. We had move the court from the corner of the gym to the middle in an attempt to play triples.

After about an hour or so we concluded by saying bye to everyone and making our way back into the bus. Once in the bus we were in search of food. I had suggested to Ray that we try something which we would not find in New York. I thought some local food would give us an idea of how different this town was to the one we were used to. We decided to head over to a local restaurant/bar to grab some wraps, salads and some soft drinks. We had received a hefty budget and for the first time ever we could order anything we wanted (as long as we finished it). I tried some local grape juice, and a chicken wrap (since our cashier told us it was most popular).

We were now on our way to Practice at the Blake Arena in Springfield College. We arrived a bit early and therefore received a tour around the school’s campus. Stacey had began by showing us the schools work out room and athletic facilities. We then toured around the campus to visit the different buildings and landmarks. We had visited the room in which volleyball got it’s name. We took a picture next to a sculpture of the man who invented volleyball. We were shown a time capsule which the school had found buried beneath its grounds. We found the students on campus to be very pleasing. Many of them wished us luck and others had welcomed us with open arms onto campus.

Shortly after, we made our way onto the court to start a 55-minute practice. Before we started warming up a photographer had taken our team photo. It was a closed gym practice with Ray, Elvis, Terry and Anita (she was our administrator/athletic trainer on the trip). I had no complaints. The sports court which was laid down was perfect. The net was perfect, and the feeling of being in the gym and playing with my team was great. We worked on serve receive passing and on our rotations. After practice we were given refreshments and an NCAA bag filled with goodies. The bag was filled with a water bottle, towel, small ball, bathroom accessories and some more treats. We took them into the our locker room and quickly changed.

We then made our way back to the hotel room to get some rest and get ready for the Inaugural athletic Banquet. I had ironed my clothes, taken a shower, and revised my speech. We all met in the Lobby and drove back down to Springfield. We were one of the first teams on location. We waited a bit and then took a team portrait upstairs before we made out way to our tables. Our tables were filled with even more goodies. We were saw a disposable NCAA camera, photo album, the picture we snapped earlier in practice, and best of all we found cupcakes. The banquet began with some short speeches and then led into dinner. Oh my, we had very good food. After dinner appropriate team representatives began giving speeches about their teams. Stanley and I volunteered and therefore went up to give a word. My speech went something like:

I began playing volleyball many years ago as a playful hobby, and today, my hobby has brought me very far. I would have been baffled if someone hinted that I would be here today. It truly has been a long road. My presence here today is not only a result of our team’s perseverance, but also the guidance and support we’ve had along the way. A unique style of coaching, diversity amongst teammates, and a great season schedule have all aided in reaching this location today. My teammates, as well as myself, are all very humbled to be a part of a select few to receive the chance of playing in our first Men’s NCAA division III tournament.

Tonight I stand amongst a wealth of talented individuals. We all had different beginnings, took different paths, yet we all share one thing in common. We represent the best in the nation. We’ve each had our up’s and down’s and as a team we’ve been through thick and thin. We’ve lost a couple of players, had season crushing injuries, and were still able to enter into the tournament at a good seed. Above all, we finished our season with a great record and won games against teams who otherwise might have occupied these seats before us. We are honored to represent Hunter College during this phase of its history.

After our speeches, and the other team’s speeches, the banquet held it’s first award ceremony. After Second Team All American Players were called up, it was time to pay respect to the First Team all American Players. After a couple of unimportant names, the first meaningful one was called up, Christopher Newcomb. I have to admit it has been a pleasure playing with him. He’s very serious about the game when it’s time to play. Off the court he a very nice person to be around. Though everyone is equally important, I am sure that without him being on our team we might not have made it as far as we did. Throughout the season he was given several awards. National player of the week, CUNY player of the week, and now he has acquired his First Team All American Award.

The banquet concluded with one more award. The Elite 89 Award. Once they were announcing some credentials (3.897 GPA, majoring in the sciences) of the winner, I could have sworn I won, but I was wrong. I was off by .006. Oh well. I don’t think not obtaining the award hurt as much as knowing it was awarded to someone on Baruch’s team. This warrior had a paw print on the back of his head during CUNY finals. I guess I should be happy for him, but I’m not. We ended the night by snapping some images with the camera’s which were given to us. Soon after we got bored, we started bursting the flash into each others eyes. We drove back to the hotel to get some sleep for the next day ahead.