Playoffs in Peru

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And perhaps what made her beautiful was not her appearance or what she achieved, but in her love, and in her courage, and her audacity to believe: no matter the shadows around her, light ran wild within her, and that was the way she came alive and it showed up in everything.
— Morgan Harper Nichols

Can I be honest for a second?

The fact that it’s March already kind of freaks me out

Does everyone feel like this? Or is this the kind of thing that continuously happens the older you get; that time just seems to fly by and you don’t even know it. 

Normally, every January and February is a struggle for us professional players abroad. If you’re the luckiest, you will perhaps be given more than one or two or three days off at Christmas time and can book an unreasonably expensive flight home for the holidays. Over the past seven years I was only able to fly home once before this season (which was actually the Christmas after Connor passed away), but otherwise I only had a few days off each year to celebrate. And on a few very unfortunate circumstances, I was actually practicing or playing on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Nothing like a bit of gym time to get you into the holiday spirit amiright?

Us professional athletes abroad refer to this time as the “February blues.” If you’re playing for a European club, chances are high that your season will finish at some time in April, stretching as far as the first week or so into May. Some leagues just really love best of five series and play outs for all the rankings. Gross.

January and February, albeit a new year, are a struggle to get through. The end doesn’t seem close at all. In fact, there is more time that needs to pass than when you first arrived on the scene and counted down the days until Christmas. It’s tough.

This year, however, I am a lucky girl for many reasons. First, this league ends a little bit earlier than normal so I get to bypass the April grind and therefore miss out on the February blues entirely (at least, the blues in which I referred to above). My parents and my brother (and his friend) were down here for a few weeks so that was a big enough distraction that I didn’t even know what day it was half the time. We were playing three games a week to finish out the first and then the second round of league and as I blinked, playoffs were upon us. 

Oh, I guess its important to mention how January kicked off before going any further. Feeling inspired and motivated to finish off the first round after a week break at home, the first game back against Geminis I ran full speed ahead and took the full force of a fall into the score table with my face (upper lip - below the nose region, to be exact). It was a big dramatic event, stoppage of play for quite sometime as I sat on the ground freaking out, with blood pouring out of my mouth, wondering if my teeth were still there (Alicia checked for me and good thing — she said they were all in tact, despite not being able to feel them!). The following day I went in for plastic surgery and got a crap-ton of stitches on the outside as well as some big heavy duty ones on the inside as it had fully sliced from my teeth to the end of the inside upper lip. Reeeeal cute. I mean, it would be WEIRD if I didn’t end up in a hospital… almost every season I’ve had some major issues so it only made sense for this to happen. It would be rude not to.

 
There’s always time for a quick selfie, amiiiright??

There’s always time for a quick selfie, amiiiright??

 

I was out for a week and a half. There was a bit of drama during this time with the club and our coach and certain humans trying to force me to play. I was clearly concussed and wasn’t able to come out of my dark cave of a house for what could have been a week, and walking from my bedroom to the couch was enough exercise for me for one day. In retrospect, I probably came back a little too soon (don’t we love that relentless overseas pro-pressure?!) and then of course, blocked a pipe ball with my face (who said that wasn’t a good idea?!) which set me back another few days. We lost the two games I was out for and then the next three once I was back again. Losing against the weaker teams in the league is never a good idea. And not great for morale. Our coach and strength coach got fired in a blink of an eye and our assistant coach stepped into the head coaching role. Rudy stayed at home for an extra ten days after Christmas so he got down to Lima after my surgery, stayed a week, and then flew to India for his 5-week season. So, that was January.

Then February came knocking swiftly and fiercely and proved to be just as wild. I was back to playing a little more normally and feeling a bit more stable and then my family arrived; mom was staying a week and a half, Stuart a week more, and Dad a few extra days after that. After they were here for a few days, they departed for Cusco for a week to eventually make it to Aguas Caliente, which is the gateway to Machu Picchu. However mom and dad didn’t make it up there. Dad was extremely sick and bed ridden and sure enough, a doctor took one look at him and sent him back to Cusco to be admitted into the hospital for four nights. He had a very intense bout of cellulitis and of course, he was trying to be extremely tough and ignore all the flashing neon signs of “you have a very severe infection and sickness” in order to check off one of his major bucket list items: Machu Picchu. It was scary to get the text from Stuart saying that Dad was in the hospital. That week was exceptionally hard for me. I was then informed I had to move out of my apartment and into a different one; my old coach’s apartment was still being leased and because he was fired, well, it was free.

All in all, I didn’t have the February blues because I was too busy being stressed out of my mind. Blues in a different sense, one would say. There was a lot going on internally and externally and I found everything and anything very difficult to deal with. We were also waiting to hear who our new head coach of Team Canada was which, I am thrilled to say, is an American coach Tom Black who I already feel is going to do wonderful things for the program. And although that’s a happy ending on that particular subject, there is so much that goes into the waiting process, and then after the announcement, starting to get everything in order. It’s a lot. And it was a lot.

One amazing thing did come out of all of the stress however, which was essentially compiling over the last two months. The week that Dad was in the hospital and I had to organize my entire apartment by myself, get my parents back to Lima, help them when their air bnb keys didn’t work, bring their luggage down to a different district before a game, I thought I was going to break down at any second. Despite the chaos, I was pleasantly surprised when I actually channelled “I GET TO play” into fruition. After many many many years, I was so excited to get out onto the court and just play. Not think about anything else going on externally, the only thing I had to do was celebrate, play hard, and love on my teammates battling beside me. 

I haven’t felt that in so many years. Not to this extent anyway. I always felt that volleyball was draining me a little bit over the years as I just didn’t have a lot of extra energy to spare. Some days it felt like it was taking away rather than adding to my life. However for whatever reason, on this particular weekend, it felt like it came full circle. I just want to play. I love playing. And the court is what is going to give me the energy and joy that I am needing in my life right now.

And since that happened a few weekends ago, that feeling hasn’t left me. Good thing, because we are fully into the playoffs; semi finals are this weekend. The first game is actually tonight. 

Before I sign off here, let me give you a little recap of our league: it’s absolutely CRAZY. When we were losing those few games back in January, the other top teams were also losing a few close games. We still ended up finishing the season third in the league, although we could have easily finished sixth depending on a few other results. That’s the exciting part though, there are no real shoo-ins or “easy games.” If you aren’t prepared for a battle, you probably wont win. 

Don’t take any team lightly. 

We had a tough quarter final match up so there was nothing light about our games. We went into the matches super focused and prepared knowing that we would have to work extremely hard to get that win. However, it was shocking to see that #8 beat out #1 and #7 beat out #2. What is life? In what league has that ever happened before? Suddenly we are the highest ranked team, although that clearly doesn’t matter so much. This league is wild. And finishing off regular season was such a dog fight because the teams ranked one to six were only one or two points away from one another. Anything could have happened.

Yet now things have moved along and we play Jaamsa in the semi finals this weekend, tonight (Friday) and Sunday and then if need be, a third match next Wednesday. Despite getting very sick this week and contracting bronchitis (thanks Dad!) I am feeling so good and so motivated. I am feeling really grateful to HAVE this feeling of longing to get on the court with my wonderful teammates and just play, to see what we can do. 

I somehow always find myself on the court surrounded by inspiring women in foreign countries on International Women’s Day. How fitting that year after year, I am continuously in awe of the hard work and sacrifices that women all over the world make to pursue dreams and goals, or help others to do it. 

Happy Women’s Day to you, wonderful humans. We’re all in this together.

And here’s the quarter final highlight video made by my wonderful husband: