Seventh player on the court: Fans for East, West
Oct. 3, 2010 at 5:03 a.m.
Talk about insanity.
The gym at Victoria West was packed with fans for a volleyball match. Loud ones, too.
The oddity wasn't that they were there. What made it strange was that the varsity game was still a good 30 minutes from starting.
The junior varsity teams were going at it in their pregame match in front of a capacity crowd, and that didn't count the some 300 fans watching the freshmen game in the adjacent gym.
Volleyball games that I've been to are normally tame events. There's some loud cheering and chanting, but it's rarely an emotional affair.
But this was different.
This was bedlam.
And the players for both varsity teams knew they were going to be competing with each others seventh player - the fans.
"We knew that they were closing the doors once the building got full," said East libero Angela Robisheaux. "We were expecting a lot of people. They were out here to support the volleyball teams. It didn't come out in our favor, but it was great to see them out here."
West students regaled the Eastsiders with chants of "E.T. go home," a play on the movie and the initials of the opposing school.
East fans responded with chants of "Eastside, Beastside!"
These were among a few. The crowds reacted to every little shift in momentum, every point, every serve.
At one point in a close second game, the scorer got the points on the board wrong, awarding West a 15th point instead of East its 12th.
The reaction was loud, and almost instantaneous. Mistakes were not going to be tolerated by either side.
The atmosphere only served to pump up both teams. Emotions were magnified with the reactions from the fans. Celebrations with stomps and claps were louder and with more force.
Everything had to be perfect, said West libero Sarah Hermes.
"We were visualizing every point, every play," she said. "We were visualizing perfect everything so we could be mentally prepared.
"That was really what it was, we have the skill but it was mostly the mental readiness."
It also made the emotions after the game that much more magnified. This was personal because so many of these players had been teammates just one year earlier.
"This game meant a lot to us, and we got hard on ourselves and we got hard on ourselves and we let ourselves down," said junior East hitter Keirra Brown. "It meant a lot to us, and I feel really bad that we let our crowd down."
But there were no losers Friday night. The fans came out and saw a great game in an atmosphere this town hadn't experienced since likely Stroman and Victoria High last met in some sport.
For those who turned out and cheered loudly and proudly, it was more than that.
It was a meeting of former teammates, a game for bragging rights and, in the grand scheme of District 30-4A, a battle of the two best teams by far.
"I know they wanted it, but I feel that sometimes it was overemotional," said East coach Jamye Pauley. "I know that it was obviously going to be emotional, but you have to focus on what you know how to do."
Pauley later remarked that she hopes the loss stings a little for her team. And it already does.
From the way it sounds, it already does.
"This will not happen, it will be Titans with the win," Brown said. "They'll probably come thinking they have it, and we are going to show them that they don't have it, and that they will never catch us off again."
John Hornberg covers Victoria East and West for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him by e-mail at email@example.com, or comment on this column at AdvoSports.com.