A Special Thank You from Senior OH Tricia Baxley

8 years of playing volleyball and it all came down to this season.

I remember driving up to Geneseo in August of 2016 and thinking it was so strange; I was about to begin my last preseason ever as a Geneseo Knight.

While this brought about a whirlwind of emotions, the strongest ones I felt were hunger and confidence. Never in my three years here had we even qualified for playoffs.

But that wasn’t going to be the case this year. Not this year. This was our year.

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I worked hard that summer. Really hard. I religiously followed our workout program, set goals for myself, and became the strongest and most physically fit I had ever been in my whole life.

I will never forget being in my coach’s office and breaking down crying at the close of preseason when she asked me, “What do you want to accomplish this season?”

What did I want most? I wanted to succeed. I wanted to be the best leader I could be for my teammates, I wanted to work as hard as I possibly could, I wanted to make it to playoffs, I wanted to beat all the teams that we never had before, and I wanted a SUNYAC championship. Unfortunately, these goals of mine became a bit harder to accomplish a few days later when I tweaked my wrist.

I slipped on the sweaty gym floor during a scrimmage and landed on my right wrist. My hitting wrist. Although painful, I was able to play the rest of the game after getting it taped up by our head athletic trainer, Angelo Zegarelli. When the pain did not subside after a few days, Angelo scheduled an appointment for me to get an x-ray.

No way was my wrist broken. No way. I had goals to accomplish and nothing was getting in my way of that.

Nerves disappeared when the x-ray showed no sign of a break. Phew. Officially being in the clear, Angelo gave me a wrist brace to wear when I played so it wouldn’t bother me.

But it still did.

The pain got more and more intense with each passing day but I was too afraid to say anything because I didn’t want volleyball to be taken away from me for good.

I had a conversation with my coach about my concerns- my wrist was not getting any better and it was getting to a point where hitting, serving, and passing were too painful for me to do, even with the brace. She called Angelo and asked him to schedule another x-ray appointment for me. Although nervous for what the outcome of this x-ray might mean for my season, I was comforted when my coach told me that she too had once broken her wrist before and was able to play with the cast on.

I was hopeful.

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The result of the second x-ray came in and I fractured my wrist. But not just any old part, a tricky part- one that takes months to heal in a cast and potentially requires surgery. I then had to make an appointment with a hand surgeon.

Stupid scaphoid. I still don’t even know how to say it right.

I returned to school after that appointment in tears. I was heartbroken. I immediately reported to my coaches office where she and Angelo were waiting for me.

“Do you think I’ll still be able to play, even with a cast on?” I asked.

“I can’t say for sure, but it doesn’t look too good for you kiddo. I’m sorry,” said Angelo.

And just like that, my season was over.

Or so I thought.

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Those next ten days leading up to my appointment with the hand surgeon consisted of shagging balls, cheering on teammates as loud as I could, taking diligent stats, offering advice when I could, filling up water bottles, and being the most supportive teammate I could from the sidelines.

It was difficult, but I still wanted to succeed. I wanted to win and I wanted to work hard, even though I wasn’t wearing kneepads and spandex like the rest of my teammates.

Finally, the day came. I had my appointment with the hand surgeon and he would tell me if I needed surgery, or if I would be casted and unable to play, or if I would be casted and cleared to play. My hands were so sweaty out of fear for hearing something I didn’t want to.

After waiting for what seemed like hours by myself in that waiting room, the doctor entered. He took one look at my x-ray and said “Wow, you’re lucky!”

I asked him what he meant by that, and he explained that the break in my bone was in an optimal place. No surgery, just a cast for 12 weeks.

And yes, I was cleared to play with it.

Tears started lining my cheeks faster than I could try and stop them. I was back in this. I was going to play with a cast on and no one could stop me. I facetimed my coach and Angelo to tell them the great news and so that Angelo could give the doctor instructions on how to cast my wrist for playing. I was so filled with gratitude, happiness, and motivation to join my teammates on the court again after what seemed like an eternity. I promised myself I was going to make the most of every practice, every lift, every bus ride, and treat every point of every game like it was my last. With this attitude in mind, my teammates and I made playoffs for the first time in 6 years.

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But we didn’t stop there.

We played against a higher ranked team on their home court for the first round of playoffs. As a team, we decided that losing was not an option. It was not even a thought. It was not going to happen.

And it didn’t.

We advanced to semi finals and were set to play the first place team in our conference, who also happened to be the previous year’s conference champions. This was the game I had been waiting for for four years.

I wanted this game to be the greatest game of volleyball I ever played, regardless of the outcome. Since it might’ve been my last night as a Geneseo Knight, I promised myself and my teammates that I was going to leave it all out on the court.

We were down 1-2 in sets and the score was 25-25 in the fourth set. We were fighting as hard as we could.

All I remember is coming down from the net, my knee popping and crunching out of place, falling to the ground and hearing myself scream.

Oh my God.

Oh my God.

Oh my God.

What just happened to me.

I was carried off the court and my knee was dangling from my leg. Surrounded by doctors, trainers, my coach, my mom and my athletic director, I knew it was pretty much safe to assume that I had just torn my ACL. While surrounded by all these people, I heard the announcer proclaim Brockport the winner of the match and the crowd go absolutely wild.

I was devastated.

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My mom drove me back to Geneseo where Angelo was waiting for me in the athletic training room. He did a few different tests on my knee and told me that he was 100% positive I had torn my ACL, potentially with other additional damage. He told me I was going to need surgery and that he could recommend someone for me.

Even though I hated what he was telling me, I appreciated, and will always appreciate, that Angelo was brutally honest with me. That night, Angelo promised me that he would work with me every single day leading up to my surgery on strengthening my knee, and every day after that to get me back to 100%.

Little did I know in that moment that I had just gained a mentor, coach, support system and friend that I will have for life.

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From that day forward, I went to the training room every day. At first it was nerve-racking and scary, but with the support of Angelo, as well as other student athletes who had torn their ACL, I started to look at my recovery with the same mentality I had during my volleyball season.

I wanted to succeed.

I was going to make this journey a positive one. I still wanted to be someone that my teammates could look up to, so I was determined to work hard. God forbid one of my teammates ever tears their ACL one day, I wanted them to be able to say “Well, Trish did it, so I can do it too.” I stayed optimistic by celebrating the little victories, like finally coming off of crutches, and praying a lot.

Pretty soon, going to the training room became the highlight of my day.

I enjoyed having someone who tolerated all of my questions and who wanted me to succeed just as much as I wanted to. I had constant support, encouragement, and reassurance that I was on the right track. While I can never thank my family, friends, teammates and coaches enough for their support and love, I will never know where to begin or even how to start thanking Angelo.

It may seem silly, thanking someone for doing their job. But Angelo did and still does so much more than that for student athletes on a daily basis.

Because ACL injuries require strengthening pre surgery, a 2.5 hour surgical procedure, and a six month rehab post surgery, many people will suffer mental challenges as a result of the length, and at times indescribable pain, that goes along with this injury’s rehab. But I can honestly say that I was optimistic and motivated throughout my journey because of my athletic trainer. When I look back at my season-playing with a broken wrist and tearing my ACL- Angelo was there for me through it all. Even when my season was over and I was still showing up to the training room every day, I was still a priority.

This journey, although causing me to be as physically weak as I’ve ever been, has made me mentally stronger than I ever could have imagined being. I appreciate my body and everything it has ever done for me. I have never valued walking and running as much as I do now.

I did this all with a positive mindset and I owe it to my athletic trainer.

Thank you, Angelo.

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Dani Sayler: A Letter To My Younger Self

Dear 17-year-old Dani,

You are just coming from your last-summer ball tournament you will ever play. You’ll miss it. But volleyball is starting up. Everyone in the family is gearing up for this next school year and your last year of high school is right around the corner.

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Preseason. You’re excited. It’ll be day two of preseason and you’ll experience something like you never have before. A pop in your right shoulder. You’ll be scared, not knowing why your shoulder is hurting is scary. Dad will tell you its because you throw a softball way too hard for someone your size. You won’t get an MRI until after season, though, because you are dreaming of that State Championship medal hanging around your neck. Don’t worry though, because volleyball will save you.

Senior year will be the last of so many things, but overall, it’ll be a great year (especially when you hit a home run and now dad has to get you a car because of that bet you made him earlier in the year). You’ll surprise yourself a lot this year, but most of all, you’ll surprise yourself and everyone when you commit to Geneseo.dani9

Best. Four. Years. Of. Your. Life.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot of work, but you will meet some of the best friends that will stay with you for your entire life. You’ll make memories that’ll last you beyond your lifetime. You’ll get to experience life in a whole new way. You’ll play all four years of volleyball and get to experience college as a student-athlete. But most of all, Dani, you’re going to learn about yourself- what you want, who you want to be, you’ll finally start to understand the TRUE meaning of life, love, happiness, sadness. Every emotion that you could possibly imagine you will challenge head on.

Your freshman year will be much like you expected. A whole lot of work and stress, but unimaginably fun. Getting this “college thing” under your belt isn’t always going to be a walk in the park, but you’ll get there eventually. Turns out you really did hurt your shoulder though! No worries though, the athletic trainers at school will help you out more than you will ever begin to imagine.

Skip ahead to junior year. It’s December. Remember when I told you volleyball will save you, just keep repeating that to yourself.

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Your grandmother will become sicker. To the point where she’ll be living with you so mom can take care of her. There will be some mixed emotions about this, but it is what she wanted. What she needed. And this is, sadly, what happens in life. But, you’ll spend every moment with her that you are physically able to. So, there is nothing to be regretful of.

Dani3School starts back up in January. You’ll return back with all of your friends. And then something indescribable will happen that shakes the entire campus, especially your team. The loss of someone on campus is hard enough, but the loss of two people, and your seniors best friend, will be so unimaginable to the point where to this day you still don’t know how to register it. But there’s a quote, “out of tragedy comes new strength.” And every single day you will see that new strength come throughout campus, your teammates, your family, and yourself. Suddenly, #OneKnight has a deeper meaning then anyone could have imagined.

A week later you’ll receive more earth-shattering news. The news you knew you’d hear but never wanted to accept even the slightest idea of. Dad will call, things aren’t going so well at home. Two days later. Two. You’ll call dad after receiving an unexpected, “I’m sorry,” text. “I’m on my way to come get you.” You won’t need anything further. Just collapse to the ground. Want to know the weirdest thing about it though? When he gets there, you can’t help but smile.

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You can’t even shed a single tear. Just smiles. They won’t last for long, in fact this will be the last time you will be able to remember smiling for a few months. Home will be much needed. As good as it can be. Having the family there is therapeutic, even if it’s not for the greatest of reasons.

“Bad things come in threes,” or so you’ve been told. The following weeks are going to be hard enough with the loss of a loved one. However, in addition to that finding out two other family members have cancer too? Heart wrenching.

Now I don’t mean to say these things to scare you, Dani, but to prepare you for what will be the toughest part of your life thus far. You’ll battle with your inner thoughts that will keep you up all night and haunt you during the day. Trap you inside your own mind. You’ll be spending a lot time at home. Mom and dad are going to drive up at midnight just to pick you up and take you home because that’s what you need- Abigail too. And Dani, gosh, they love you so much. One day you’ll be able to repay them for everything that they have ever done for you.Dani5

I’m also going to throw a “scary” word out there; something that isn’t always talked about. Mental illness. Depression and anxiety.Things that you never thought could never happen to you. Something that people think athletes don’t have. Here’s an oddly surprising thought, one in four college students have some sort of mental illness. The statistic is actually alarming.

Volleyball will save you, right? Well, after being diagnosed with this mental illness life seems to get a little bit better now that you know you aren’t actually crazy. What will really get you out of bed every day is the thought of being able to get into the gym later that day. You will learn how to shut out the outside world. The gym will become your Mecca- sacred. Having the ability to get back in the gym and take rep after rep, beat yourself up so much from diving on the floor, using the last bit of energy in your body so you have the ability to close your eyes at night and not just toss and turn. Volleyball will not only be your escape from what is going on around you but a type of self-release. Reconnecting with what love is, even when you thought it was all lost.

The year will end and you will have the best summer of your life. Israel, Florida, Canada, nannying the kids that you love so much, family, the boat, kayaking. Everything about your last summer ever will be amazing.Dani6

I want to leave your senior year as a surprise to you, because you’ll never get another experience like that in the world.

I can tell you this, throughout your four years at Geneseo you will figure out who you are and nothing can hold you back. You have the greatest support system. Don’t stress the small stuff, kid. You’ve made it this far- and there’s so much life ahead. You’ve learned how to cherish and live in the moment, seize every opportunity, never let a moment pass you by, and most importantly how to love yourself and everything around you deeper than ever before.Dani7

 

 

Best of luck,

Dani8

 

 

A little something extra:

Mental health, in my opinion, is often over looked. It is important to educate yourself about the signs and symptoms of someone who may be suffering. If there is one thing I want people to take away from this story is that it may be scary to think about mental illness, but it’s normal and there are people there to support you through whatever you may be experiencing. I encourage everyone to take some time and learn about mental health, it’ll help you better understand yourself and the people around you. Seeking help was one of the most difficult things I could have done to help myself but with the support I received I am happier than I have ever been.  Everyone deserves to be happy and there are steps you can take to achieve happiness.

 

https://www.mentalhealth.gov/

Where Are They Now: Beth VanDerMeid ’16

Hi everyone! First of all…..since she already had her alumni update…..

CONGRATS TO JIA ON YOUR ENGAGEMENT!! I couldn’t be happier for this girl!

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On to my update:

I won’t sugar coat things for you…I don’t miss Geneseo at all. While I miss my friends and wonderful volleyball family I made along the way, by the end of senior year I was ready to get out. I made some unforgettable memories in that small town, but it was not somewhere I could have stayed forever. After graduating in May, I moved back in with the best roommates a girl could ask for (my parents) and started hunting for full time jobs. In August, I started working in Operations at Manning & Napier Advisors in Rochester. This transition wasn’t difficult, after the summer I was definitely ready to settle into a routine. I work with some nice people, and I even subbed a few times for our work beach league team.

Outside of work, life hasn’t been too exciting, which is just the way I like it. My friend got me involved with a service group through her church called Roc City Kids. Every other Saturday we have a free day camp, where kids come to play games, have snacks, do a craft and lesson, and just hang out. I absolutely love it. I’ve been taking my time to save up while living at home, hanging with my friends in Rochester and visiting my Geneseo friends when I have the chance.

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Roc City craft coordinator on duty

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Enjoying one of the best views in Rochester.
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Watching Syracuse basketball with Geneseo buds:

I think one of the best parts of being a Geneseo volleyball alumni is being able to watch my little family of teammates grow up and succeed. While we are all far apart, my fellow members of the class of 2016 are all killing it and beginning or preparing themselves for successful careers. I can’t wait to see the class of 2017 (seems like just yesterday you were “the frosh”) go through this journey as well. Lastly, I can’t wait to see the continued success that Coach Dunn will bring to this program, with the current underclassmen and the many talented recruits I’m sure she will bring in.

Sending lots of love to the GSUVB family,

Beth