Monday, January 24, 2011

Perseverance Pays Off

We just got back from our longest road trip of the year. Last Thursday we trained from 5:30 to 7pm, and then hit the road (with our women's team) at 7:30, for the trek to London. Nasty weather turned a 5 hour drive into 6 and a bit and we arrived a little after 1:00am. A lovely manor in the wooded hills of Western was our home for 2 nights, and it included a great buffet breakfast and a little sojourn back to nature. At 2:00pm we reboarded the bus for Windsor, dropped the girls at 4:15 and then headed to the box stores for some shopping and a pre-game meal. Back to the gym at 6 to cheer on the girls, in what turned out to be a 5-setter, pushing our start back to 8:40, rather than the scheduled 8pm. No problem. We are used to that. Get ready and wait. It was fan appreciation day in Windsor and the Lancer fans were very rowdy. We needed to stay focused. What great preparation for the playoffs, with fans in our face and testing our ability to tune out. I was very proud of our players as they didn't engage with the crowd. It actually didn't phase them. The team did a good job in tough conditions and we were out of there in an hour and 7 minutes, with a 3-0 victory. Showers, a quick food stop and back on the road. We hit the pillows at 1:30am back in London. I was asleep at 1:31, I think. 9:30am came quickly. Luggage in the bus, breakfast til 10 and then into cabs as we were off to a local high school for passing practice and our game plan session about Western, who we knew would be a much tougher opponent. They were ranked #6 in the CIS and we were #9. We lost 3-0 to them in the pre-season, and 3-2 in our gym in the first half of the regular season. The chatter in the volleyball circles was that it was the game to watch. That speculation turned out to be right. It doesn't get any more entertaining. It was a great match. Even in the first set at 21, we managed to control the last stretch and won 25-23. In the second, we struggled with our passing and serving and Western led by 2 or 3 almost the entire set, taking it 25-22. In the third we again were unable to mount the type of attack we wanted to, due to too many passes at the 3m line, and Western took the set 25-23, and a 2-1 lead.
I don't know what it is about our team, but time and again, when our backs have been to the wall like that, we have responded well. I hate counting on that and I do think we are good enough to not let that happen, but once again, it did. We fought back in the fourth, and were actually leading 21-14 at one point. At 22-16 we got a card for 'excessive cheering'. Even with the free point that made it 22-17, we didn't let down... winning the 4th 25-21. The fifth was a barn-burner. We almost gave it away. Containing Western's rightside and serving well were both challenges. We were down 14-12 and 15-14 and ultimately won the match 18-16. Thank goodness I have a good hairdresser, because these lads continue to give me gray hairs. 11:00pm, back in the bus with 2 'W's under our belt. 2.5 hours of driving, a quick pit stop at Whitby and home at 4:40am after some heroic driving in nasty conditions from our driver, Ivan. Ah, the life of a varsity athlete/coach. Coach, "do we still have spin class tomorrow.... I mean today (since it was 4am). Yes, absolutely. 5pm at the ARC, just 55minutes of go, go, go. After all with winning comes the responsibility to keep winning, and our goal is to be better tomorrow than we were yesterday. We will host the U of T Varsity Blues this Friday night at 8pm, and I hope you will all come out and support the Gaels as we move one step closer to our goal of winning our 6th OUA title, since 2000.

Go Gaels Go