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volleyball feature/playoff preview

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by tx_spts, Nov 1, 2006.

  1. tx_spts

    tx_spts Member

    Volleyball feature done last week before the team played their first playoff game. I'd appreciate any comments/criticism - Thanks

    Every high school athlete looks forward to his or her senior season — there are no more games with high school friends once the season is over, there are no more chances to play in front of the college scouts.
    It’s supposed to be the most fun season of them all.
    For Alli Blevins, her senior season in a Lady Indian volleyball uniform ended before it began, less than a week before to be exact. During practice for the team’s final scrimmage, Blevins went up to set a ball and the ball hit the ring finger on her left hand awkwardly, breaking the joint in half.
    More than two months and a lot of soul searching later, Blevins is looking forward to being at the Lady Indians’ bi-district playoff game at 5 p.m. Saturday against Brownwood in Granbury. Although she won’t be playing, she’ll still be filling what has become her vital role — cheering on her team from the bench.
    “At the very beginning I thought it was going to be too hard to stay and watch and not be able to play, and so I thought about stepping back,” Blevins explains, “but that would be like abandoning the team I’d always played with since seventh grade. I would have felt like I was quitting on them or letting them down.”
    When the injury occurred, the Lady Indians turned to senior Melissa Vargas, who had seen limited action as a setter during her junior year and last spring.
    Blevins admitted it was hard passing the baton to her friend, but it was something she knew had to happen.
    “She took my spot, stepped up and became the lead setter, and dealing with that was kind of hard,” Blevins said. “It was hard watching somebody take your role, but at the same time someone’s got to take that lead position. There are still days I have a hard time with it, especially with the playoffs coming up, but I stand by my team and cheer them on. You can’t dwell on it.”
    In volleyball the position of setter is sometimes referred to as the quarterback, the one that directs the offense. Vargas stepped in and led the Lady Indians to 27 wins and a second-place finish in District 15-4A.
    Vargas was able to settle into the position by remembering her past experiences and by knowing there was a safety net on the sideline ready to answer any questions.
    “This was my first year actually setting so I knew she had more experience and if I ever needed anything or had a question I could go to her,” Vargas said.
    “But she’s freaking amazing,” Blevins chimed in, pointing at Vargas. “She doesn’t need my help.”
    As a junior, Vargas spent her playing time on the right side, where she was used to hitting and blocking. She’s used that to her advantage, as, unlike many setters, she doesn’t shy away from going up for a block.
    Her biggest challenge was trying to figure out where her hitters liked the ball to be set.
    “It was weird because we’ve always hit off Alli and now everyone had to get used to hitting on my set and I had to get used to knowing everyone’s timing,” Vargas said. “I had to figure out that (Katie) Hinds was faster to the net, (Jennifer) Fielder likes a different set than Kelly (Pennock) and those types of things.”
    Now that the playoffs have arrived there isn’t any more time for getting comfortable or learning a new position. Even though Blevins has played in only one game — last week’s senior night game, in which she wasn’t cleared to play — her playoff experience is invaluable to those on the team with no knowledge of what to expect Saturday.
    “We tell them that the teams are going to be better than what we’ve faced up until now,” Blevins said. “But we don’t over exaggerate because we don’t want to freak them out. As long as we play and do everything we’ve done in the past, we’re going to be fine.”
    Blevins’ injury was only the first in a long line of unfortunate events the Lady Indians had to overcome this season. Hinds was out for a couple games with an illness, Vargas missed a game due to illness and Rachel Hyatt played through having her wrist wrapped for a couple of weeks.
    It’s the team’s ability to overcome those distractions that has head coach Sandy Faussett excited about what the postseason might bring.
    “They really play for each other and enjoy each other’s success’,” she said. “You can’t coach that type of stuff. They are all good friends on and off the court and it shows in the way they play together.”
    The team’s unity was never more evident to Blevins than when she received a note shortly after her injury from the person who was taking her place on the court.
    “This one here,” she said, again pointing at Vargas, “gave me a note that said everything would be OK and that she knew what I was going through because she had broken her finger her sophomore year and knew what it was like to sit out a season.
    “At the beginning of the season it was hard not being able to be out there when the team was winning, but now it’s easier and I’m just as excited as I would’ve been if I was playing. A win is a win, whether you’re playing or on the bench.”
    Both the Lady Indians’ setter and their biggest cheerleader hope they are celebrating a playoff win Saturday.
  2. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    Tx, first off, thank you for posting your work. That takes courage, and anyone who wants to get better needs courage.

    This story seems to want to be a lot of different things at once. Is it about Alli Blevins breaking her finger? Melissa Vargas trying to fill her role on the team as the setter? Is it a story about how the team has managed to overcome a series of unfortunate events? I think you can sharpen your focus, and still write a decent playoff preview story, by picking one.

    I'm sort of unclear what's going on with Blevins. You say up top that she's not playing, that it's going to be difficult for her to watch intead of getting into the game. Then, later on in the story, you throw in this paragraph:

    Now that the playoffs have arrived there isn’t any more time for getting comfortable or learning a new position. Even though Blevins has played in only one game — last week’s senior night game, in which she wasn’t cleared to play — her playoff experience is invaluable to those on the team with no knowledge of what to expect Saturday.

    I'm confused. Did you mean Vargas? If not, is Blevins playing now? If so, why is she playing when she wasn't cleared to play?

    Here is what I would try next time. Your lead is a topic lead. It doesn't really tell me anything. And, it's a bit of cliche'. You're right, every athlete does look forward to his or her senior season. So you're telling us something that everyone already knows. Try something interesting. Grab your reader by the throat. I think you might want to focus on just Blevins. Start with the moment she broke her finger. Paint us a picture of what happened. How painful was it? Did she scream? Cry? Was the rest of the team devestated? Then, after you've set that up, you can take us back to the present, and talk about how she'll be sitting on the bench tonight, giving the team emotional support, trying to contribute with knowledge and experience. Maybe something like this:

    Alli Blevins gathered herself beneath the ball, the same way she'd done countless times, nearly every day since she was 13. As the senior setter on the Lady Indians volleyball team, everything had to start with her. It was her job to put the ball right where her teammates' wanted it, and after years of practice, she could do it with ease. Her team was holding one last pre-season scrimmage, and her senior season was just about to begin.

    It ended, seconds later, with an audible crack, and a stab of pain in her left ring finger.

    Blevins joint was broken. Her finger was twisted at an awkward angle.

    Two months later, Blevins is still filling a vital role for the Lady Indians. Reluctantly, though, it's from the bench. When the team begins its quest this weekend in the state playoffs, Blevins will be cheering them on, hoping her enthusiasm and knowledge can make up for the fact that she can't be out on the court with them, shooting for a state title.

    Then, take us back to the injury. You said she had months of soul searching. Give us more than that. Did she lay in her bed every night, crying herself to sleep? Did she think she'd be able to play again this season? Did the coach agonize over who to pick as his new setter? What made Vargas write her friend that note? Could she see how much Blevins was hurting? Then you can take us through the season, possibly through Blevins' eyes, as the team suffers one injury after another, and how frustrating that was to have to sit and watch, but also how the seemed to keep finding a way, because 27 wins and a second place finish ain't bad.

    Finally, I don't think you need the last line. It's overkill. Her quote can stand alone.

    Hope that helps a little. Thanks for sharing your stuff. Keep writing.
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