.. ike an eternity for him to be sitting on that sideline as his team continued play, in what would probably be the most important match of their lives. See, there was way more riding on this match than just another state championship. There was also a great deal of pride too. The volleyball program had never ever lost to the same opponent twice in the same season. And when the team had lost to this western school earlier in April, Minnachaug didnt accept the win graciously.
All they did was talk smack and degrade the defending state champions. All number nine could think about was getting back in there and continuing his performance. He sat there for what seemed like an eternity icing his ankle to control the swelling. But the pain momentarily stopped, the crowd erupted suddenly and it startled him. He looked up and he saw his team euphoric, they had just won the first game so that meant that they were only thirty points away from the three-peat and revenge.
He slowly began to stand up, so he could go down to the other side. After every game the two teams switch sides just as a measure of equality, so no team can complain about the side they were given. But when he first put his wait on he right ankle, it gave out and he fell to the ground in pain. It was as if he were a newborn learning how to walk for the first time, or someone who had been in a horrible accident and they had to start all over from scratch. He slowly made his way back up and with the help of the trainer he slowly hobbled over to the other side. He knew the only chance he would have to get back into the game was in the third or fourth game if there was one.
He wanted to play so badly; he was willing to do anything. After icing for another twenty minutes, he looked up at the scoreboard and saw it was only 7-4, his team leading. He still had some time to recuperate. Using his persuasive manner he began to badger the trainer trying to convince him that he was ready to go back in, even though he really wasnt. The trainer was won over by the charismatic youth.
He said that the only way he would allow the player to return to the match was if he passed a series of strength and mobility tests. Number nine knew this would be a problem because he could barely walk, but he was determined to get back in their, just so he could say he contributed to his teams win or loss in this match. The trainer taped up his ankle and he was ready to begin. The tests were extremely difficult and number nine did all he could to conceal the pain that he was in so he would get the trainers ok to return.
First he had to start off just by balancing on his right foot. This seems easy enough but the pain was so excruciating that he couldnt even put any weight on it to begin with. Then he had to hop on it and show that he could flex it by swaying side to side on it the tests went on for about five minutes and after a lot a suffering and pain the player could only sit and wait for the trainer to analyze the results. But, much to his satisfaction, he was given the thumbs up to play just as his team had finished winning the second game. Much to his chagrin, number nine was not even allowed to start in the third game, because the coach did not believe it was fair to the other the substitute who had entered the game earlier. But as the match proceeded, number nines team was losing by about five points.
So the coach deemed this a fair opportunity to return the starter to the floor. As he walked on to the floor the crowd stood up and wildly cheered for their hero. Before play began he looked up into the stands and the first face he saw was that of his mom, whom had tears running down her eyes. Anyone could tell how proud she was of her son.
Play began and number nine slowly worked himself back into a groove where he soon was dominating play once again. He brought his team within three points of the state championship, and at this point the coach decided it was only fair to make sure that all the seniors had played in the match. So once again number nine found himself sitting on the bench, only being able to watch the match proceed. But the opposing team slowly made a comeback and everyone began to worry, if this was going to be the comeback that turned the match around. But before taking any chances the coach put the original starting lineup back into play. Two service aces in a row brought the team to match point.
A tough serve caused the opposing team to mishandle the ball and easily return it over the net. This set up a perfect opportunity to end the match. The ball slowly was passed from one player to the setter, everything seemed like it was going in slow motion, as if a little child had gotten a hold of the V.C.R. remote control and was sporadically pushing the buttons like it was a Nintendo controller.
The setter took the ball and set it high into the air, number nine took one step and with a giant leap off of his good foot he struck the ball with such force it looked as though someone had taken the remote and switched from slow motion to extreme fast foreword. Within a blink of an eye the ball had hit the floor. At this instant the stadium erupted. The fans all rushed the floor and hoisted the some of the players in the air.
This is the moment that they had all worked so hard for. It seemed like just a dream. But amidst all of this wild merriment, number nine looked up at the ceiling just to take a moment to thank god for everything he had been given. He knew he was a lucky individual and what he had just accomplished, some kids can only dream of. So now every time I look down at my ring finger on my right hand, I am constantly reminded of how just how lucky I am. That is why I never take my 1999 State Championship volleyball ring off, because if I did I might forget how grateful I should be for my god given gifts and talents.