Maybe it was some personal and work-related issues. Maybe it was the end of baseball season. Maybe it was the end of Aggie Soccer season. Maybe it was because it was the last Aggie Volleyball home game. I was depressed heading off to the Pan-Am Center for the volleyball girls’ last home game. Certainly not seeing the Aggie seniors playing in-person after today was weighing on me. I didn’t actually think about any of this until afterward, but I was in a malaise going to the game that I normally don’t have.
There was plenty of activity in the Pan-Am parking lot. However, as I didn’t know at the time, there was high school band competition at the football stadium going on at the same time. After the match, a stream of school buses drove past me as I was leaving. Still, there was a good crowd for the volleyball. There was an unprecedented line in the ticket office. I held the door open for a group of Seattle U Redhawks family members. I always try to be nice to opposing fans, so they don’t think we’re a bunch of jerks in Las Cruces. There was a knot of Redhawk fans behind their bench during the game. You wouldn’t pick a Seattle team to travel well.
This was a TV game, so there wasn’t any radio. I thought about bringing my radio to listen to Aggie Football, but that didn’t start for an hour, and I didn’t want the distraction for the last home volleyball game. I did pick up a Tyler Rogers poster at the courtesy table. About time they poster-ized the quarterback.
The Seattle girls looked pretty tall and well-built in practice. The Aggies girls had four girls laid up and injured on the bench. I also noticed Savannah Davison wasn’t with the team. No idea where she went. Jordan Abalos was back on crutches with her left leg in a cast. I guess she finally had the surgery she needed. It just hurts me to write that. Poor thing. At least she looked gorgeous today for Senior Day. Fellow injured players, Brielle Sterns and Hannah Combs, also looked good. I wonder if they all went to the salon together? Jordan and the other senior players were out on court for the starters’ introductions. (Now I’m getting choked up writing this.) I noticed during the team intro video montage, the players on both teams were watching it.
It was all about Tatyana Battle to start the match. The first point was a kill by her and her first two serves also scored, 3-0 Aggies. I’m still not what the technical definition of an ace is. In any case, Taty’s serves weren’t returned. She even got great one-handed emergency dig, though the Aggies lost that point. Unfortunately, the rest of the team looked a bit disorganized to start. Lia Mosher made an uncharacteristic whiff on a swing. Bridgette Lowe, who started, came out and got a long talk from Coach Jordan.
The match was kept tight by the errors. 7-6 KC Tohm buried her first kill. 7-7 there were two great Aggie saves on the point, but Sasha-Lee Thomas shockingly dropped the ball. 8-8 Ari Sierra made an out-of-bounds save, which led to Megan Hart getting a kill. 9-9 Lia got a long kill, hitting the back line on the shot. 11-10 Lia was feeling it and pounded one straight down into the court. 13-10 Tatyana took flight from the back row for a kill.
13-13 a little moment of comedy. The Redhawks’ serve went short and dropped on the top edge of the net and fell over on the Aggie side. Briana Ainsworth was right underneath it. She ducked and put her hands over her head. 14-13 Lia broke up the Redhawks’ run with a kill. 16-14 Bridgette was back in and got a confident kill. 17-14 off an extremely out-of-system set, Tatyana again went airborne for the kill. 18-16 Megan Hart used her height to jam one right into the court.
18-18 still a tight set. The coach exploded on this point on an out call. He sent Taty over to talk to the up official. I’m embarrassed to admit that it hadn’t entirely sunk in until that moment that Tatyana Battle has on been out on the court for every point for several matches now and is the team captain. She’s not a senior and not built to the same heroic proportions as Jordan, KC, or Sasha. Her kills don’t have the same crowd-pleasing heat on them that KC or Sasha’s has, but Tatyana still gets points in bunches every match. Last year, her defense was considered suspect and teams are still hitting at her on that assumption, but she’s really improved. I said somewhere, this would be her team next year. Injuries just moved things up a bit. It’s a bit belated, but congratulations.
19-19 the coach was still in a bad mood as Megan Hart came over to the bench and got a lashing for serving a ball out. I have to mention Megan’s height again. Even with her simple standing serving motion, she can get a lot of power and angle on her serves. She’s pretty good at it usually. 21-19 Tatyana and Lia teamed up on a block and were fired up. 22-20 the Redhawks whiffed on a swing at the net. I wondered if the Aggies managed to intimidate them with their blocking. 23-20 Lia may have had the shot of the match on an overpass which she tipped with a soft touch.
The Redhawks came out of a timeout chanting, though there was another stoppage to mop up sweat on the court. They took the next couple of the points to 23-22. Timeout Aggies. The Aggies came back to take it to set point. Julianna Salanoa on the sidelines was all smiles and high-fived the reserves and the staff women who hand out the towels. 25-22 KC finished it with a kill.
Set 2: Aggies 1, Redhawks 0
The cheerleaders and Aggie Kids Club members tossed little balls into the stands. A fan below me intercepted one heading my way. I think the group of Seattle fans got about three or four of them. The teams exchanged sides and I got a good look at the Redhawks. They have a lovely red-head on their staff with great hair. Their libero, Tijana Milojevic, is pretty cute. The PA was having trouble with her name. These teams with a bunch of Slavic players are killing the announcers.
This set started well for the Aggies as Briana dropped an untouched ace right on to court, 1-0 Aggies. 4-4 this was sneaky. Megan jumped up and reared back and then just tipped the ball for a point. 5-4 the treachery continued as Briana made a great dump shot for the point. 9-7 Lia crammed one on a short set. 12-8 KC and Lia on a block. Timeout Seattle U. Pistol Pete grooved on the sidelines to the music.
14-9 Bridgette got a solo block and rev’ed up the crowd. 15-9 Bridgette got a kill that painted the sideline. The Seattle coach got good and angry with the officials after that. He’d been upset for much of the match. Honestly, he may have had a point here. It looked out. 19-12 there was more mopping on the court as Ari and Kaylee Neal both went sliding across the court for a dig. 20-12 a kill by Megan Hart, and then an ace at 21-12. Sweet Analyssa Acosta came into to serve at 22-12 to a big round of applause. 23-12 Julianna came in, which paid off on the next point with a big kill. 25-13 for the Aggies. Seattle was in complete disarray by the end of the set.
Set 3: Aggies 2, Redhawks 0
Halftime was uneventful. Jordan looked loose and happy on the sidelines. The first point of the set was absolutely epic. It felt like it went on for 30 seconds. The Aggies took it for 1-0 start to the set. 3-1 Lia smashed a kill. 5-2 KC muscled one in. 8-6 Tatyana put down a great kill on the back line. Timeout Seattle after the Aggies took the next point. Some middle school girls were working it in unison to get on camera for Dance Cam. 11-7 Lia and Taty combined on a block.
12-8 this may have been the best play of the year. I think a bug somehow got on to the middle of the court. Don’t ask me how. The girls on both teams recoiled from it and backed away, stopping play before the next point. I’ve recounted how fearless I think these girls are, but apparently they have their limits. The down official, a guy, walked over and stepped on and picked it up with a Kleenex to a round of applause. This was baseball-level in-game weirdness.
12-9 the girls returned to play and had another epic point with several great shots, including one that hit the tape on the net. Seattle would take the point. 13-9 Lia seemed to defy gravity for a moment as she took flight for a kill. 14-9 Megan and Bridgette combined on a block. The Aggies have been a wall today. 16-10 Bridgette got a hard kill. 18-12 there wasn’t a lot of disguise here as everyone could hear as Seattle called out to serve it at Tatyana. She braced herself for it, but muffed the return. Taty managed to get it high enough in the air for Ari to save it. Tatyana would finish the point for a kill. It was that kind of day for the Aggies and for the Redhawks.
18-15 Sasha fired one into the net for the second time in the set. She might not have been jumping well today. Timeout Aggies. I worry about Associate Coach Ben Wallis. While Coach Jordan feels that the team should win every match, Coach Wallis was getting upset on every lost point. Coach, pace yourself. Don’t burn out. During the break, the cheerleaders tossed hats into the crowd along with more little balls. Hey, I got one this time. Sweet. 23-18 KC smacked one. 24-19 KC again. Megan Hart finished the match on an overpass kill. Aggies win 25-19 and 3-0 in the match.
As I mentioned, there was no radio call for the match. Also, there weren’t any stats on the scoreboard for this match, other than the score. Thus, I don’t have any final stats in my notes. The paper had Tatyana Battle leading with 14 kills and 10 digs. Briana Ainsworth also had a double-double in assists and digs. KC Tohm and Lia Mosher had good games, along with Megan Hart and Bridgette Lowe. I felt bad for Seattle U. They had their moments and had a good first set, but this one never really felt in doubt. They were just overpowered.
Senior Day Ceremony
Maybe it didn’t feel like a good victory, since I knew this was going to be how it would end. I was feeling genuinely sad as the Senior Day preparations were made. I was also confused by the music they were playing, an instrumental version of Sympathy for the Devil. The Seattle girls hung out on the other side of the court, stretching. The Aggie team sat down in front of the scorer’s table. Coach Jordan walked by and fist bumped all of them.
Off to the side, the seniors and their families assembled. Jordan Abalos was first up. While she’d been in a good mood before, as the PA read off her mile-long list of player accomplishments, she started wiping away tears. Darn it. Now I’m getting choked up again. It was just heartbreaking watching her go across the court on crutches with her leg in a cast. She’d given everything she’d had to the program. Jordan had her final battle at the Pan-Am Center trying to get through her speech while crying. Her disappointment was so keen at not being able to play through her senior season, you could tangibly feel it.
Ever emotional Ariadnne Sierra came out with her family. She had thanked her family in Spanish, since none of them spoke English. Ari thanked the Coach for his instruction, “It only took me two years to listen to what you were saying.” The Coach gave her a hug and a big smile. He must like her. He even liked her Halloween costume. There was a short video congratulations from the libero from the US Men’s Volleyball team to her. Ari’s got connections.
Kassandra “KC” Tohm may have gotten the biggest applause for her academic achievements (you could see her playing ability for yourself during the match). She was beaming and all smiles in her speech for a moment and then she lost it. She thanked the fans for helping her not feel so homesick for her native Canada. Then she almost forgot to thank her parents, who were standing right next to her. Sasha-Lee Thomas was a wreck before she started talking. She had been living here with a host family. “You made me feel like I was your own daughter.” It was the most beautiful moment in the ceremony.
Kaylee Neal came up last. Kaylee was announced to have a 4.0 in Accounting and was working on a masters degree. She came out with her family and her husband. For her speech, she was perky and happy. It was a jarring contrast, but that was fine. She thanked her husband for his support, which was cool. I’d wondered why she was the last one. It was because Coach Jordan announced a new award, the Kaylee Neal Award. He wanted to start recognizing the player who was the best teammate every year. There’s an MVP award for good playing, but this was for good actions for the team done between games. Kaylee was first at practice, last to leave, and helped set up the court every time. Between a husband, studies, and playing, her schedule must be a tight ship.
Coach Jordan spoke last. He praised the players individually. I wonder if this was the first time he’d ever said something nice to them. Lastly, he told Jordan that this wasn’t the “fairy tale” ending to her Aggie career that they’d hoped for, but they were going to try to win a championship for her. A large number of friends and family went on to the court afterward. Analyssa Acosta came up into the stands to her family nearby me. I smiled and waved at her and congratulated her for getting into the game. Part of me wanted to go down and congratulate the seniors, but I didn’t want to intrude. Also, this was sad enough without a more personal experience to go with it.
Outside, it was cold and overcast, the first real fall day in Las Cruces this year. Even a good sandwich and ice cream at Schlotzsky’s didn’t help my depression (but it also didn’t hurt). Last year, there wasn’t a Senior Day to get depressed over. Now that I’ve been here for one with the volleyball girls, I’m not sure how I’m going to be able to sit through another without blubbering. This was hard. The other Senior Days in other sports I’ve been to were nowhere near this emotional. My only interaction with the team has just watching from the stands for a couple of years and getting autographs. I can’t imagine what it’s like for people more invested in the team. Of course the players’ reaction was crying in front of a crowd. It’s a warning not to get too attached to these girls. Good luck for the rest of this season ladies. I’ll follow along as best I can.