This is it.
Pardon me if I'm a little emotional.
Riding home alone last night from
the "outer limits" where Normal Community High School is located, I
kept repeating to myself, "It's only just a game." I had almost
convinced myself of that truism… until, that is, I saw nine tearful
senior young ladies climb off their team bus and huddle up in the
cold night air, for probably the last time, on the sidewalk next to
Lincoln Community High School.
It's not just a game. It
certainly isn't about just one or two games in a season. It's not
really even about the game.
It's about the great character,
passionate performance and incredible quality of the young ladies
who play the game of volleyball in a tremendous volleyball program
at Lincoln Community High School. It's about the year-round
commitment of great coaches who do so much more than "just coach"
these ladies. It's about the giving and supporting families who
invest time, money and energy in their daughters and in the entire
program. And it's about the emotions that come especially to the
players and the coaches, but also to their families and their fans,
when that game comes to an end in an unexpected manner and at an
And after the first 20 minutes of
last night's match between the Lady Railers and Normal Community
High School the only expectation in the NCHS gym was that the
Railers' postseason would continue on. It wouldn't. NCHS defeated
the Lady Railers 8-25, 25-16, 25-14, to put an abrupt, heartbreaking
end to Lincoln's season.
In game one the Railers were as
awesome and dominating as I have ever seen them. Nearly every point
was played aggressively and powerfully by the Railers. Every Normal
kill attempt was blocked and nearly every Normal point came as a
result of a long ball hit by the Railers. Every Railer player
fulfilled her role, either serving, passing, setting or hitting.
Twenty-five to eight. It doesn't get much more dominating than that.
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The Railers continued to dominate as
game two began when they jumped out to a 7-2 and an 8-3 lead. It was
about that time when Normal changed their game plan. Normal's change
wasn't normal for them, but it was effective. Instead of fast,
hard-hitting volleyball, Normal began to slow the pace down, tip the
ball and look for holes in the Railer defense. The change worked.
Normal knotted the score at 8-8 and well… the rest is too painful
and too unnecessary to retell. After a third game, the match and the
Railers' season came to an end.
The Lady Railers, Coach Howe, Coach
Conrady and Coach Kutz have a magnificent season to be proud of when
they get a little distance from the emotions of last night. That
amazing 33-6 season should and will be celebrated and recognized as
the coming weeks go by. That celebration has already started, thanks
to Assistant Fire Chief Miller and other fine members of the Lincoln
Fire Department and the Lincoln Police Department, who gave the Lady
Railers a much-deserved escort into Lincoln and to the high school
last night. It will continue, alongside the hurt that the Lady
Railers felt last night, probably still feel today and will continue
to feel for some time in the future.
So please, go ahead and congratulate
all the Lady Railers, recognize and praise them, but whatever you
do, don't say, "It's just a game." Especially not to the
exceptional group of seniors: Michi McFadden, Melanie Boyer,
Brooklyn Robbins, Mia Benitez, Robin Conklen, Katie Green, Megan
Hoffert, Julie Fults and Kendall Paulus. For them, and their
families, friends and fans, it was the "last game" of a great and
successful high school volleyball career. For these seniors, it was
really all about the nine teammates, nine lifelong friends, huddled
together late last night outside of their high school. That's what
it should be about. That part is never over.
It's not about the games; it's about
who you played those games with and how you played
those games. Be assured, ladies, you played with a great team and
you played those games very well. You made your high school, your
families and your community proud!
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