Play On

In spite of my laments about everything ending, so far the fall sports are hanging on.

M’s game on Wednesday was a nail-biter. We traveled to Mechanicville for neutral territory and a fabulous turf field. We senior parents brought along our giant baby heads. A whole mob of high school friends showed up, too. The weather was mild, the concession stand was grilling. There was no official score in regular time, even though our girls did get the ball into their opponents’ goal before it got knocked out again, an event that was widely considered to be a goal among our group of parents (and I’m sure that the other team’s parents were equally convinced that this was not remotely a goal). Still, if the ref doesn’t declare it a goal, it is not a goal.

A father from the opposing team took particular exception to M’s style of throw-in. The rule is that you have to start with the ball behind the head and you have to keep both feet on the ground, and the angry yelling felt that she needed to put the ball farther back behind her head. My kid does a lot of throw-ins, and every time, this guy was yelling at the ref about her, and the ref never called her on it. It is a huge pet peeve of mine when adults harass a kid player, and of course I don’t like it when it’s my kid they’re harassing. When the ref called a girl on the opposing team for lifting up a foot during her throw-in, I barely restrained myself from yelling at angry yelling dad, “What was that about Law 15 again?” But the point is, I did manage to restrain myself.

The girls were tied at the end of regulation time, which meant an additional two 10-minute halves of overtime. At that point, it’s time to start low-key fretting about penalty kicks, which are horribly dramatic and high stakes (which will now and forever remind me of Glennon Doyle‘s succinct explanation, which was something like, “just pray for everyone’s mother.” I tried to find that Facebook video and it seems that she pulled it). I was also fretting about getting back into town to pick up J. And, of course, it was potentially M’s last ten minutes of high school soccer.

But all’s well that ends well. They scored a goal off a corner kick that another player headed into the net, and that was the only goal of the game. 1-0. And there was great rejoicing. It was a big enough deal that the girls threw themselves into a dog pile at the end. Cute W successfully captured the video of both the goal and the end of the game and shared them via the Twitter account. I am pretty sure that he’s watched these videos 20 times. At some point J laughed at him and he said, “I just love watching how happy they are.” We’ve known these girls a long time, and Cute W’s coached many of them for rec soccer way back in elementary school, so it’s hard not to watch those videos one more time.

That win means that M has another game on Saturday for the sectional championship. And so we are very excited to have another game! But also, just to set expectations, the team that they are playing on Saturday beat them 5-1 earlier this season in a game one could describe (actually, sadly, I believe was described) as a “rout.”

Meanwhile, remember that Monday was J’s last JV volleyball game? Well, if you are on the JV team, you do not have the stress and drama of post-season sectional play. But what would sports be without stress and drama? So instead, the big stress and drama at the end of the JV season is whether you’re going to be “called up” to varsity. Traditionally, one or a few of the best players from the JV team are invited to join varsity for their sectional games.

Last year, one of the players who was widely expected to get “called up” wasn’t called up, which the whole team learned after the last game. As a newbie mom, I wasn’t even aware that anything was happening until I saw this poor girl crying and getting consoled by her parents and teammates. Meanwhile J had had zero expectations of a “call up” — as an 8th grader, she was still pretty psyched just to be on JV — but she was heartbroken on behalf of her friend.

So this year, we knew it was coming. And although we weren’t saying it out loud, we were all secretly hoping that J would get chosen. At the beginning of the season, I was happy that J was continuing on JV: it’s what I’d expected, and I thought it would be nice for her to have some girls in her own grade on the team. But as the season wore on, J really missed the intensity and seriousness of the older girls who had moved up. She liked the girls on her own team, but sometimes she’d get frustrated when girls would laugh off repeated mistakes instead of working to correct them, or when they would go out for coffee instead of helping set up the nets. So while we were acting super-casual, I’m sure that Cute W, J, and I were all internally calculating her chances.

It didn’t look great. Only two seniors are graduating, and the team is big already. Plus the seniors who’ll be leaving are both tall, powerful hitters. J is a small libero, and the varsity team has an excellent libero just one year ahead of her. So, position-wise, it wasn’t looking great for her. J also really takes things to heart, and I was fretting that the coach would think that she needed to mature a bit before moving up. I actually think the opposite. She’s a captain of the JV team, and when she starts losing heart in a game, it sometimes feels like she can pull the other girls down with her, but when she plays with older girls, they are so kind and reassuring that it bucks her up and keeps her from getting too discouraged. Which had become another reason why I was hoping she’d make varsity for next year.

Anyway, when we arrived for Monday’s game, Cute W noticed that one of her JV teammates was now skipping the JV game and sitting with the varsity girls. A tall hitter. Had the coaches already decided that they would only call up this one girl? J was not playing all that great, and I wondered if it was because she was already disappointed. I chatted with the hitter’s mom and found out she’d played in the varsity tournament over the weekend as well. By the time the game was ending, I was bummed out for J in advance, and it didn’t help that they lost.

Meanwhile a mom was talking to me about collecting money for a coach’s gift. Somehow I have been conscripted to collect this money, but since I don’t know every parent or have the parents’ contact information, I’m not doing a stellar job. I also just plain hate asking people for money. So I was updating this mom even though what I really wanted to do was watch the post-game meeting like a hawk. And Cute W, who was watching like a hawk, murmured to me that he thought maybe they’d just cheered for J, but he couldn’t be sure. Eventually I got freed up, and I looked over to see Cute W talking to J, and they both looked super-serious and mellow and my heart sank a little. I joined them to get the news and it turned out that she had been called up for sectionals, and she was psyched. But of course, only a few girls had been chosen, and among the ones not chosen was a very good friend whom we’d all been expecting to make the short list. So she was happy for herself, but she was keeping it in check both because of the mixed bag and to be respectful of everyone who was disappointed.

Since then, she’s been practicing with varsity, and she is so happy, because the practices are harder and more intense and the coach gives her more corrections, which she wants, because that is how she rolls. And the first post-season game for volleyball is this afternoon.

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