April 20, 2009
Monday: April 20, 2009 --
The Fiesta on Siesta Key was probably one of the most memorable moments I've had here at UT so far. Hopefully we can continue to build upon our performance this year when we return to the tournament next year. It will really be hard to top the experience we had at this tournament, but I'm looking forward to trying in the years to come. Here is a daily recap of our stay at the tournament that I hope will give you some insight into all of the activities and events that went on.
Sunday: April 19, 2009 --
Ouch. The sunburn finally set in and as our bright red faces and blackened bodies slowly made their way back into our Caravans and back to the airport, we all felt a feeling of sorrow as we drove away from the beach we had come to love, despite the countless amount of sand still in our ears and horrible tan lines. The ride back wasn't as easy to recall. All I remember is falling asleep to turbulence and a flight attendant stomping down the aisle as if she was on "America's Next Top Model."
Overall, this weekend was a great experience. After watching all the different teams, it confirms my beliefs that beach volleyball should become a collegiate sport. With continuous training and possible recruiting for beach players, it could become one of the better sports available for both genders. We'll be coming back for more next year and this time I'll be prepared for the wind...lol.
Saturday: April 18, 2009 --
With a good night's rest and the welcoming sun pouring into each of our rooms, we sluggishly, but anxiously, made our way down to the continental breakfast provided, filled up on muffins, juice and waffles and were off to Siesta Key beach. The day started off pretty rough actually, but all of the teams progressed and became a lot more comfortable with the wind and the blinding sun as the day went on. As we passed high noon, we had a few rough times in pool play, but Kylie Marshall and Nikki Fowler held it down for UT as they advanced to the finals and took home the SEC Coaches Beach Volleyball Gold Division Championship, an improvement of great leaps and bounds from last year. Between spending a day on one of the most beautiful beaches in the country and winning the title, the day couldn't have been any better...but a little ice cream was the cherry on top.
Friday: April 17, 2009 --
With no practice and just a 30 minute workout on Friday, all seven of us that were traveling were full of feelings of excitement and anticipation as we prepared to travel to Siesta Key later that afternoon. Once Rob made it to our meeting spot at Stokely and the three car train commenced to the airport, it was time to get into beach mode. Besides the lines of people waiting for tickets, waiting in line for security and the flight itself, travel wasn't that bad. When we arrived, we picked up our twin sleek forest green Dodge Grand Caravans (yes, the one in the commercial with swivel seats, a camera to see behind the car, Sirius satellite radio and a remote key that did everything besides make coffee...lol) it was off to our hotel, which of course took a woman to find despite the fact that Rob had the GPS (sorry guys...lol). Once we arrived at AmericInn, it was time to change, hit the beach and go out to dinner at Carrabba's...a good beginning to a great weekend.
Thursday: April 16, 2009 --
The sun has finally decided to grace the University of Tennessee campus with its warmth and motivating energy, which is the perfect ending to a long week at the TRECS sand courts. Now, before I get to exactly how we ended up at this point, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on our spring season as a whole.
As a freshman, I really did not know what to expect from postseason training when we started in early January, but I can honestly say I was quite nervous. Between me working to become more consistent as a player, those efforts being stunted by the removal of my gall bladder and then jumping back into the game at the end of season, I was pretty unsure of how I would progress. Practice began pretty simple with a lot of individual work and focus on technique. Basically, I was just doing some tweaking and refining versus game play. I found this extremely helpful, not only because there were just three outside hitters, which allowed for more reps, but it also made me to take a look at my own technique and perfect what needed more work.
When individuals were over, team practice began, which was something all of us were ready for. Practices reinforced what was learned during individuals and it seemed as if everything was coming together, but then the courts got shorter, the antennas were moved in and the group of six was decreased to two...it was double's time.
Besides playing the occasional triples in high school and progressive during practice here at Tennessee, I've never really played doubles. The concept of two people covering an entire court of wood let alone a SAND court was something I tried to stay away from at the rock-filled courts in Ohio, but I couldn't escape it here...it's clearly too warm...lol. Due to freak weather (I personally blame global warming, especially when it snowed in April), our outdoor practice was limited until this current week.
For the past few weeks, we've had mock doubles games during practice. The duct tape was pulled out to create beach-like court lines, tips were given to get us accustomed to beach rules and teams were put together. Now, I know it may seem simple: two people, smaller court, indoor...not so much my friend. Learning your partner's strengths and weaknesses, as well as having to be more conscious of the court and not using your hands for ANYTHING (a personal struggle), took a while to become used to. The more we played though, the more competitive the matches became, and then we moved to the sand. Ugh.
Making the transition even more awkward was the chilly weather and cold sand. Words can't explain how unappealing that sounds, but it's all for the love of the sport. : Besides, it's a perfect situation to build and maintain mental toughness. At first, we all were a little rough except for Kylie (Marshall), Carol (Cheade), Nikki (Fowler) and Chloe (Goldman), who were obviously sand veterans, so the freshman just sat back and tried to pick up a few tricks here and there and then put them to work when we played...it paid off. As the week progressed, matches went past the "bump over" and "cheap shot" stages and players started taking some pretty good swings. It's the last day of doubles practice before we're off to Siesta Key and I'm pretty sure we'll start to see some diving out there...plus it's suppose to be 70 degrees today :.
As a whole, I'm not really sure what to expect. From talking to the upperclassmen, all I've heard is:
- Bring sun block...the more the better
- Bring sun glasses... your eyes will fry
- Be ready for other teams to be ready to PLAY
- Just play and have fun
I can honestly say I'm very excited for this weekend. Although the idea of being sweaty, diving in sand and probably having my already horrible eyes possibly get worse isn't my idea of a day on the beach, it'll be an AMAZING experience and, besides, we're playing against SEC rivals and the playing field is more level with two players rather than six. And, on the super plus side, we get to come back with AWESOME farmer tans : Haha!
Now, I'm sure we've all seen random groups of people playing sand volleyball, either at local courts or during family reunions, but beach volleyball as a college sport is a perfect time to test one's inner athlete. Sure, defensive reading technique and the ability to use beach rules and tips to one's advantage always makes a team good, but partner connection, heart and overall athleticism plays a larger role in my eyes.
With all the hard work put in during season, off-season and especially in the weight room, with the goal of increasing overall strength, endurance and speed, beach volleyball seems like a perfect scenario to put all of that to the test. Spring season provides the opportunity to bond and situations where athletes need to find their inner competitor to push through even the most impossible exercises, which is perfectly apropos for sand volleyball and the opponents one may face. It's a great way to take a sport many of us have played since a very young age and take us back to the innocent youth while combining it with our competitive spirit.
As 2:30 and our final practice for the SEC Beach Tournament draws near, I can only go into this weekend with an open mind, positive attitude, competitive sprit and a lot of sun screen.
Until next time--
Kayla Jeter #14