November 24, 2014

My Championship Experience – 2014 Volleyball Edition

My Championship Experience is a diary blog written by Summit League student-athletes detailing their experiences at each of the 19 Championships.

Fort Wayne red-shirt junior Hailie Ripley writes about her experience at the 2014 Summit League Volleyball Championship:

The Summit League Tournament is what I have lived for throughout my career at IPFW.  Once one season came to a close whether the victory was sweet or the loss was upsetting, I was already focusing on what it was going to take to get back to the tournament the following season.  Every grueling practice, ache, and pain from spring to the start of season was dulled by my motivation to succeed. The Summit League Championship was always first on my list of goals.

Going into my senior year, this Summit League Tournament had a whole new meaning to me.  Not only because my collegiate career was coming to an end, but that this season had been a true test for me.  A week before league play, I got really sick and felt that I lost everything I had trained for over the past couple years.  I ended up having to get a major surgery, and the doctor was skeptical about my return and questioned if I would even be able to play at all this season.  I had my doubts as well.  The first few days after surgery were horrible.  I could barely get myself out of bed without being in unbearable pain.  However as the days went on, I slowly improved.  Once I came back to IPFW and saw my team, I knew that I owed it to them to try my hardest to return.  It was hard.  I was in pain, but I believed that I could do it.  Most importantly, they believed that I could do it too.  I was able to play a few points here and there, and I started to feel like myself again. By the time the tournament rolled around, I finally felt like everything I fought for was beginning to pay off. 

Thursday, Nov. 20th

The banquet marks the start of what we have all been waiting for.  Everyone was dolled up, excited, and ready to celebrate our individual and team accomplishments so far this season. Even with the competitive nature of the tournament, the banquet always seems to have a sense of unity.   We all made it to the tournament.  It is something we should all be proud of!  Anything could happen at this point, but only one team will win and advance to the NCAA Tournament.  As much as we all hate to lose, we set aside our rivalries and cheer that team on, because we want to make a name for The Summit League.  We may not be the biggest league, but we have strong players and the will to win.  We [IPFW] took Iowa State to five sets my sophomore year, and I cannot wait to see a Summit League team win in the first round.  Let’s make this year the year to win! 

Friday, Nov. 21st

I woke up Friday morning ready to go.  It was game day, and we knew South Dakota would be a battle.  They have a solid team with great players, but so do we.  Nonetheless, we were the underdogs.  Being the last seed, we had nothing to lose. We spent the week telling underdog success stories to instill belief and confidence.  A quote we kept saying was, “we don’t need easy. We just need possible.”  If we put ourselves in a position to win, we could do it!  

South Dakota took the first two sets 25-23.  Each team was fighting hard, and even though we were down 2-0, we were still optimistic.  We just needed to make a few adjustments and play our game.  In the beginning of the third set, I landed wrong and hurt my knee.  I gave it my all to be able to return to the court, but I faced setback after setback.  It was enough for me to stop playing, but it also gave my teammates something to fight for.  We won that third set!  It was one step closer to our goal, and a special moment happened that none of you would have seen.  Emily Spencer told me that the team won that set for me.  My dreams of playing were over, but the team kept my dreams of winning the tournament alive just a little bit longer.   Each team kept battling, but South Dakota ended up on top.

I hate losing, but losing in a game like that makes it more manageable.  This season did not go how we all wanted it to, but we learned a lot about ourselves. We will all face adversity and times of hardship, but sticking together and believing in one another makes things easier to face.  I would not be where I am if I did not have my team by my side through all of it.   We are all lucky enough to have such a strong support system, and hopefully our team and friendships will last a lifetime.

Good luck Denver in the NCAA Tournament! Make The Summit League proud!  We are all rooting for you!

Hailie Ripley

Don’t forget to check out the next edition of My Championship Experience as it follows the Men’s and Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships, Feb. 18-21 and throughout the 2014-15 season for coverage at each of The Summit League Championships.

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