A Love Letter to Knoch Volleyball

A+Love+Letter+to+Knoch+Volleyball

Alyssa Gallagher, Staff Writer

If you know me, you know that it seems like I’m always playing volleyball.  For the past five years, I’ve played volleyball 10 months out of the year; that’s 50 months of volleyball.  Now after finishing my 6th year, I have some reflecting to do on my middle school and high school career.

First of all, I can’t believe it’s already over.  It seems like it was just yesterday that I was a quiet and lanky 13-year-old with hopes that this would finally be my sport.  I’d dreamed of playing since I was six, and I was excited to finally get started and hopefully become a good player.  At this point in my life, I’d already tried soccer, gymnastics, swimming, and basketball, and I wasn’t particularly good at any of them, even after lots of time spent practicing.  Like I mentioned before, I was pretty shy and wasn’t the aggressive type when it came to sports.  

Volleyball brought out the competitor in me.

It took a little while, but I realized if I ever wanted to be good, I had to get out of my comfort zone.  I started talking more, and I got more confident in myself.  It’s crazy to think that this was the only sport that ever changed me.  Granted, this is the sport I’ve played the longest, but no other sport has ever had an effect this strong on me.  I quickly grew a love for the sport, and decided I’d play it for the rest of middle and high school.

Learning volleyball wasn’t easy.  When I was in 7th grade, my coach decided to make me an outside hitter.  Looking back, learning to hit was the hardest part of volleyball.  It takes a lot of time and practice to do everything right.  Seventh Grade volleyball was a frustrating year.  I wanted to be good right away, even though it doesn’t work like that.  You’d never believe how long it took me to get my timing, control, aim, and footwork down pat.  It took me so long that one day during 8th grade practice, my coach got tired of me being inconsistent in my hitting and forced me to be a libero (a backrow specialist) for the practice.  I may not have been great at hitting, but I was even worse at passing.  My coach hit lots of balls at me, and I barely got any of them up.  I got so frustrated with myself I cried.  Once I pulled myself together, she (exasperatedly) asked me what position I wanted to play.  I told her I wanted to be a hitter and she gave me another chance.  She tossed me a ball to hit, and I hit it harder and more accurately than I ever had.  From that day on, I was an outside hitter.

Some of my best memories from volleyball happened off the court.  Team bonding at Cal U, team dinners, bus rides, and the varsity sleepover were some of my favorite experiences in volleyball.  Playing the sport was fun, but hanging out with the team outside of the gym was a one of a kind experience.  

Another unique experience that few players can say they were able to do is play with their sister.  Over the summer, my younger sister, sophomore Kristen Gallagher, was pulled up to play on the varsity summer league team.  I got a kill off her first set to me and that was one of the most exciting moments of my career.  That was my “we’ve made it” moment, so to speak.

My two favorite years of high school volleyball were my freshman and senior season.  My freshman season, we had Hannah Rowe, Skylar Burkett, and Kennedy Christy on the team, who were players that everyone looked up to.  Not only were they exceptional players, but they were perfect examples to learn from.  Hannah was my assigned big sister that season and I developed so much from her teaching.  

Our varsity team that season was so fun to watch.  JV and varsity won almost every game and varsity made a deep run in playoffs, as expected.  I was chosen to keep the scorebook during the playoffs, which meant I sat on the bench during the games.  This not only offered me a different perspective of the game, but it also allowed me to hear what the coaches were saying and talk to the team.  To this day, I’m grateful I had that opportunity.

My senior season was all I could’ve asked for and more.  It was kind of funny how things came full circle.  Not only did we make it back into the playoffs for the first time since my freshman year, but we had a lot of fun together.  Our returning varsity team was mostly the same people, so we had an easier time understanding how we played together.  We did, however, make a stronger effort to be closer as a team and be more transparent with each other, which helped us to be closer on and off the court.  I got so close with my teammates this season that they became family.  I hadn’t felt that way about my team since freshman year.  We played together months before the season started without any interruptions from covid.  Between open gyms twice a week, summer league games, Cal U team camp, and our two week preseason camp, we had lots of opportunities to fully get to know each other.  We bonded over how sore and tired we were during Cal U, our injuries during preseason, and our hatred for certain drills and Saturday practices.  

I had the most fun I’ve ever had playing volleyball this season.  But I didn’t always feel that way.  In fact, by the end of my junior season, I was ready to quit volleyball for good.  To put it briefly, last season was awful.  We had a young and inexperienced varsity team and faced some tough and talented teams in our section.  It was frustrating to lose and it was difficult to be positive.  Our coach changed the lineup constantly and not everyone got playing time with each lineup, which caused tension and bitterness between players.  You were not only competing against your opponent, but you were also competing against your teammates for a spot on the court.  I think that was what broke us as a team.  

Last season wasn’t only awful for me because of our losing record; it was also awful because I was inconsistent as a hitter and I got yelled at a lot for it.  I was tired of feeling terrible about myself, and I cried a lot during the season.  By the end of the season, I’d lost my love for the sport.  I couldn’t picture myself back on the court.  

Thankfully I didn’t quit because I’d have missed the best year of my life.  I’m glad I was able to take a break to reassess my feelings.  This past season, I typically led the team in kills per game.  I can’t say I was even close to that last season.  As I mentioned before, we were able to make it back into the playoffs.  Additionally, this season I was selected to be on the 3A First Team Section 4 All Star list.  If you told me a year ago that I would’ve accomplished this, I would’ve laughed in your face.  Still now, I think first team is an honor I don’t deserve.  It doesn’t really matter what I think though.  Four of my other teammates also made All Star teams, which goes to show how much better we were this season.  Additionally, I was selected to play in an All Star game, which is coming up in a few weeks.  I could’ve never imagined I would receive all these honors after last season.

I’m grateful for all the growth I’ve experienced in my career.  I’ve grown a lot both mentally and physically from the time I started until now.  Volleyball is a mental sport, which is something a lot of people don’t recognize.  You have to be strong-willed, quick to think and act, be able to shake off your mistakes, and have a tough shell, so to speak.  I used to dwell on the things I did wrong, and I’d let it get to my head.  Doing that distracted me from the next play and often, I’d end up making the same mistake again.  I’ve gotten a lot better at moving on from my mistakes and focusing on the play in the moment.

I’m going to miss Knoch volleyball a lot.  The memories I’ve made here are some I’ll remember and cherish for the rest of my life.  I’m proud of how far I’ve come and I can’t wait to continue my career at BC3.  I also can’t wait to come back and watch this team for seasons to come.  There’s a lot of talent here, and I can see the program continuing to be successful in the future.  Thank you to my wonderful teammates and coaches for all the support, help, and fun throughout the years.  Two seven is out!