Before I begin to recount our experience at the Junior Olympic Championships, it would be appropriate for me to familiarize you with Central New York Volleyball Club.
CNY VBC was founded in 2004 as a girls club program for the greater Syracuse area. It was not until January 2008 that the club was able to field a boys' team. And the team, whose roster included athletes in grades nine through 12, competed in four tournaments that spring throughout Central and Western New York.
Even though the team was technically an 18-and-under club team, the boys team competed primarily against 16U and 17U teams from Rochester and Buffalo and won less than 15 percent of its games. Despite a great amount of improvement from January to May, the season was not the Cinderella story we all had dreamed of.
At tryouts for the 2008-2009 club season this past December, nobody would have expected a season much different than the previous. After a second-to-last place finish at the Rochester Can-Am Tournament in January, the season was not looking too bright.
At the end of March, the team won the CD Select Boys' Tournament without one of our starting middle hitters. This was when things began to change, for the winning of this small tournament gave us the hope we needed that would power our team through July.
Two weeks later, our team won the 18U division of the Iroquois-Empire Volleyball Association Regional Championships. In doing so, we convinced our coach and club director, Walt Swenton, that we were talented enough to play at the Junior Olympics in July.
Junior Olympics is the national championships for club volleyball, and the division we played in was composed of all the regional champions, like ourselves, from around the country.
After two months of arduous work organizing, fund-raising, and filling a roster to travel to Atlanta for Junior Olympics, the evening of June 29 arrived. Five of the 10 athletes on our team arrived at my house to spend the night before leaving for Rochester at 2 a.m. for our 6 a.m. flight to Atlanta. We all retired to our beds early in preparation for our early departure.