My heart was already breaking, even though I could tell the momentum was slowly shifting.
The Volleycats had just dropped set two against Ohio State. I told myself that they’d almost come back to win the first set after falling into a hole from which nobody should reasonably be able to escape. I told myself they’d stayed close in the second set.
But I couldn’t escape the fact that tonight might have to be the night I’d have to write this farewell.
And damned if they didn’t almost spare me.
Greg Woods provided the recap, so we don’t need to go into the details. This isn’t a game story. This is an editorial. A hagiography. A love letter. Choose your term. We are, after all, a fan site above all else, even if we don’t always act like it. So tonight, I’m indulging for once.
I’ve never ignored volleyball, by any means. I mean, I don’t ignore anything involving the purple and white. But for whatever reason, it wasn’t until this year, this team, that I really locked in and started truly appreciating the game.
It’s a beautiful game. It’s exciting, it’s tense, it has personality. During tonight’s match, I asked Twitter a question that apparently turned out to be entirely rhetorical:
Is there anyone who's actually watched volleyball who thinks it's boring? This game needs more attention.— Jon Morse (@jonfmorse) December 4, 2016
Not one person argued the point, and if my Twitter feed is any indication (it usually is), volleyball had more attention tonight than even the men’s basketball game in Saint Louis.
I mention this because when it comes to most collegiate sports classified as “non-revenue”, people give you excuses why they don’t pay attention. There are people who will tell you that women’s basketball is an “inferior” product. That college baseball is just batting practice. That other sports, well, you can’t actually watch them anyway.
There is no such excuse for volleyball. With the exception of the Olympics, volleyball isn’t played at a higher level than it is in a Division I power conference. It just isn’t. This is the apex.
It’s time, now, for us to stand up and declare volleyball a major sport. It’s time to fill Ahearn — hell, it’s time to make it necessary to move the volleyball team to Bramlage because tickets are too hard to get. It’s time to get on Oklahoma State’s ass about not having a team, because seriously, Cowboys?
(It’s also time I figured out how the heck you calculate hitting percentage, but that’s another discussion entirely.)
My greatest regret in regard to this team is that we didn’t have the resources to fully cover their exploits, and more to the point that I didn’t have the means to do it myself, personally. Going forward, our intention is that this no longer be the case. We may not succeed in that 100%, but we’re going to do our best.
Because tonight, that’s what K-State volleyball did for us.
This season as a whole has changed my appreciation for the game. It started back at the beginning of the season when it became obvious we had something special going on. It ramped up hard the weekend of the OU football game, when we stuck around to spend a special couple of hours at McCasland Auditorium. I won’t lie — the fact that the team itself noticed we were paying attention and really seemed to appreciate it just increased the buy-in.
And then tonight happened.
Fighting back to take the third set. Then the fourth. Coming within two points of closing out the match. Heart. Determination. Guts.
Doing their best.
Thank you, Volleycats.
Thank you, Kylee, Bryna, Elle, Alyssa, Macy, Mattie, Devan, Sarah, Zsofia, Cheyenne, Kylie, Maureen, Rachel, McKenzi, and Peyton. We’ll see you all next year. You’ll be great.
Thank you, Coach Fritz. I sometimes think your importance to the university we love isn’t sold hard enough. You’re such an ingrained part of our pursuit of excellence with honor, and while Bill Snyder’s a hard shadow to escape, you’re no less important.
But most of all, thank you Kersten, and Brooke, and Katie, and, well, Katie. There is nothing I wanted more than to not write this tonight. I wanted to be able to save this until at least next weekend, if not the weekend after.
I didn’t want to have to say goodbye yet.
But if there’s one thing above all I learned tonight, it’s that you guys had zero interest in leaving yet either. You went out on your shields, taking things to the absolute limit.
You did your best for us. We’re going to do our best to return the favor.