I was lucky. Not only was I able to win a National Championship, I won two. By no means were either one of those easy, especially the last. Underdogs often can pull an upset because there is no pressure to win. The pressure always lies on the shoulders of the team who is supposed to win. Not only because many ‘expect you to win,’ but many also want to see the ‘better’ team fall.
I don’t really remember a lot about the finals in the NCAA, but I remember a lot of the losses, and the struggles that came with getting to that point. I remember my freshman year, losing in the Sweet Sixteen, 19 kills 19 errors and the feeling of failure not just because we lost, but because for the seniors, their careers were over. I remember losing in the Elite Eight, wishing that I could take back some moments in hopes that the outcome would have been different. I remember making it to the final four and no one thinking we were capable of winning. I remember the stress that Christa and I had my final year because no one wants to be that team that beats everyone in the season, and not pulling it off when it matters the most.
It sounds morbid. At the time, it kinda was. But I look back on it and I see how it shaped our team and more importantly, how it shaped me. Sure, I can say that I have won two national championships, but personally, I am more proud that I can be placed in those situations again and handle them the way I wish I did in the first place.
The NCAA is such a cool thing to be a part of because you are not only playing volleyball for something bigger than you, you also are learning life lessons that will stay with you forever. You are pushed past the uncomfortable point and then you REALLY learn the true importance of team work.
This is the first time that you have had to truly juggle your life without the help from mom and dad and still perform to the best of your ability. Everyone has a different experience, but not one person will tell you they didn’t learn anything from it. THAT is what makes the NCAA so special for me. It’s not the destination, but the journey.
I have been blessed to be able to still apply much of what I learned in that journey with the people who taught me. I never thought that I would one day have the chance to play with the people that I always played against, and a few I did play with.
Being on the USA team with them has been awesome. I still get to learn every day from them, and know I get better because of who they are not only as a player, but a person as well. That is the greatness that encompasses the National team. We embrace all of it, and I still remind a few of them of the rings I have, sitting nice and pretty at home.
Enjoy every moment, the little things will be your fondest memories!