This Saturday, after a season of 22 losses, the Racers’ chance at making the OVC Tournament deteriorated mid-match, leaving the final two sets of their match against Austin Peay to count as only another loss in a somewhat tragic season.
Though I walked away heart-broken at both the foreshortened season and the final three-set loss to APSU, I realized regardless of their record, covering Racer volleyball is some of the most simultaneously fraught and satisfying work I’ve gotten to do at The Murray State News.
Take, for instance, this weekend. On Friday the Racers dropped a three-set match to Tennessee State, continuing a two-game losing streak begun on their last road trip. On Saturday, with Racer fans filling maybe a sixth of Racer Arena, the four graduating Murray State seniors were honored by their families and teammates after giving long-stemmed roses to the three APSU seniors. Then, just like every other match, they ignored the mounting losses, went out on their home court and fought for a win they could not have known wouldn’t matter.
No one could say it was for the fans, as comparatively speaking there aren’t many. And since coverage of the team will never, regardless of their season, come near what the men’s basketball or football teams get there’s no way to say it’s for the college town fame.
At the end of their season the four seniors put their kneepads away with no press conference or “Where Are They Now” spotlight to follow. What they did was for themselves – for their passion, for their competitive nature, for their personal feeling of accomplishment, and even in their losses that love of sport shines through.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s no better assignment than to cover the teams who consistently fight, work and overcome with no recognition to follow, and to give those teams voice when their efforts are underrepresented or entirely unheard. No one likes to write about a losing season like Racer volleyball just had. It’s hard. It’s repetitive. After a while it becomes hard to have faith in the team you’re covering. But when the team’s roar at every won point sounds like match point of the championships, somehow even the wall of sticky notes with synonyms for the word “loss” is worth it.
It’s been my distinct privilege to get to know this team and their coach, to be at every home game, to pore over stats for every game they play on the road. And while I am in mourning for the premature end of the Racer volleyball season, I know that by next September I’ll be in the same odd corner of Racer Arena, muttering “watch outside, WATCH OUTSIDE!” under my breath. No matter how hard this season was, the sound of echoing serves, skin colliding with hardwood and cheers from the court will echo through Racer Arena another year, and then, like now, it won’t matter much if the season goes well. At least not to me.
And I know if I approach my writing with half the temerity that the Racer volleyball team shows in every match, The News will not be the last chance I have to cover a team with such incredible heart.