Serious Fun: Team Spirit Keeps Lady Horns Hooked Up



Tori Wilbanks killed the ball.

She slammed it over the net and the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets merely had time to see it coming.


Lady Longhorns have their eye on the ball. Their next game is against Fountain Hills at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 31 in the Wilson Dome. The regional tournament is Nov. 4 at Blue Ridge and the state tournament is Nov. 10 and 11 in Phoenix.

I watched Segan Cline dive for the volleyball, arms outstretched, hands clasped together, heedless of the pain I felt for her as her body hit the floor.

The athletes made their shots, but I missed the shots with my camera both times because I was up on my feet screaming and yelling, "Go Lady Horns!"

Forget taking notes about the score -- the ball is still in play; where will it go next? It's gone back and forth at least 20 times.

Taking pictures or writing notes about the fan's reactions to the game was next to impossible because I got involved in the action.

Max Foster, the Roundup's sports writer, was out of town, leaving the volley (I just love bad puns) to the rest of us.

Volleyball is played by a team of six on each side of the court. Each match is made up of the best three games out of five. The first four games are to 25 points. If the match goes to a fifth game it is played to 15 points.

It was well after 9 p.m. on a school night when the 'Horns battled the 'Jackets.

Youth, skill and adrenaline aren't supposed to trump 40, are they? I was tired watching them.

During the three-minute break between games I found myself wishing the game was televised so I could Tivo it, then I could use my remote to race through the huddles and players drinking water to the start of the next game.

Unabashedly, as I drummed my feet in the stands, I wanted my home team to win. I also want to know if there is a fancy name for the ball when it spins on the net and the fans either hold their breath or shriek.

The 'Horns lost to Blue Ridge, but the match was a nail-biter all the way.

Coach Stonebrink's wife told me the reason the team is on fire. The girls "don't get down on each other. They don't fight, argue or bicker."

I was watching.

When they missed a play, they still cheered for each other.

When they made a play they came together and leapt into the air.

They were having serious fun.

Raised as an only child (my brother is 17 years older) words like ‘share,' ‘partner,' and ‘team' were part of my vocabulary only in the sense I knew their definitions but not really how they related to me. The combination of words: ‘serious fun' had absolutely no relation to sports of any kind.

I was a fair long jumper, but I loathed playing sports in P.E. classes or for fun.


And for me, who has been accused more than once of living in a memory, watching these serious athletes took me back to the summer of 1984.

I played a little volleyball.

A very little ...

About two months worth on the courts at Hohokam Park in Tempe.

It probably started with a phone call, ‘Hey, do ya wanna play volleyball one night?'

Mark S. was playing or I never would have considered playing -- mind, I wasn't worried about making a fool of myself in front of him being near the boy of my current dream was enough.

Hohokam had three sand courts. Two to three dozen of us showed up on Thursday nights at sundown.

(This was also when I discovered I needed glasses.)

The first cool thing was that we kept showing up to play.

Left court was for the goof-offs ("That's Carol, I heard you disparage me!")

The middle court was for the people who could actually play and the right court was for people who were serious about winning.

I eventually progressed to the middle court, but I recall sometimes our games stopped to watch the people having serious fun.

Afterward, sweaty, keyed-up, I guess not wanting the time to end, we usually went out to eat.

We sang the ‘fish-head song,' from Saturday Night Live one night until the manager begged us to stop or leave.

If playing volleyball that summer was a movie scene it would show that transition between youth and adulthood, for we all went our very separate ways after that summer in the Arizona sand.

When I spoke with Tori for my sports stories in the Roundup last week, she told me that the team had been working for a couple of years to achieve their winning record and be stoked for the regional (and state) tournaments.

Go Longhorns!

I hope you have serious fun all the way to the state tournament.

I want a picture of all of you with the trophy.

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