Perspectives: Playing through the pain

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I’ve been healthy for almost my entire volleyball career. No injuries have ever prevented me from playing in big games. On Thursday Nov. 13, I thought that streak would come to an end. I landed on a teammate during practice and was almost immediately rushed to the doctor, terrified because the game of my life was scheduled for the next day. 

As I sat in the X-ray room, tears ran down my face. Not from pain, but from nerves. My athletic trainer said to me, “Deatsch, I think it’s broken” echoed in my ears. I couldn’t miss the game the next day. My teammates were counting on me. I couldn’t miss this game. 

All season long, Oakland Volleyball has been giving it their all for a chance to make history. To be the first Oakland Volleyball team to win a Division I conference championship, that’s been the goal all year. All the hard work at practice, all the tough losses, all the five-set match wins, it all came down to one match. It came down to one game against Milwaukee to determine who will be crowned regular season Horizon League champions.

The doctor came into the room and announced “no break.” That was all I needed to hear. I spent the next 24 hours rehabbing. It was a game-time decision and when game time finally came, my number was in the lineup. 

During warm ups I was asked how I was feeling from everyone on the team at least once. But when the game started there was no injury anymore. There was no time to focus on anything but the task at hand: beating Milwaukee.

We began the match with our usual routine, losing the first set. That seems to have been a trend all season. As the team huddled up before the second set, it was obvious that no one was discouraged. 

“How many times have we done this before?” “If anyone knows how to bounce back it’s us” were some of the things said in the huddle. That’s exactly what we did. We bounced back and took the second set 25-22. 

Entering the third game it felt like we had all the momentum. We knew that if we kept focusing on our side of the net, the game would be under our control. This team has learned throughout the season that when we keep the energy on our side positive and determined, we perform our best. That’s exactly how the energy felt when we took the third set 25-21.

After dropping a close fourth set 25-23, we huddled as a team to discuss our mindset going into the fifth and final set. No coaches, just players. No talking strategy, just mindset. It was obvious after leaving that huddle. No one felt discouraged. No one was nervous we were going to lose. We were confident. We trusted our teammates. 

This was it. This was something we worked for all season. This fifth set decided who was named regular season Horizon League champions. I was up to serve to start the match. We broke from our huddle in the middle of the court and I walked behind the end line. I saw the men’s swim team dressed in only their speedos holding signs, I heard members of the men’s soccer team cheering my name. To me, it felt like the crowd was as confident in our ability as we were. 

Halfway through the game we found ourselves with an 8-5 lead. We rode that lead for the rest of the game and with a kill by Jessica Dood on matchpoint, we became regular season conference champions.