Virginia's first-years, Lauren Dickson and Tara Hester, talk about playing in their first collegiate volleyball matches

VIRGINIASPORTSDOTCOM Lauren Dickson (left) and Tara Hester
VIRGINIASPORTSDOTCOM
Lauren Dickson (left) and Tara Hester
VIRGINIASPORTSDOTCOM

Aug. 31, 2006

Virginia's first-years, Lauren Dickson and Tara Hester, took some time to talk about the experience of traveling to and playing in their first collegiate volleyball matches. UVa opened the 2006 season by competing in the Comcast Lady Vol Classic in Knoxville, Tenn.

Lauren Dickson

We loaded the bus at 3 pm, and soon after we were on our way to Knoxville for our first matches of the season! Already swamped with homework from the first few days of school, I tried to get some reading done while everyone else studied, listened to music, watched a movie, or in the boys' case played Tiger Woods golf on PlayStation. (Luckily, the bus is very well-equipped.) After filling up on Olive Garden's salad, breadsticks, and ravioli, I found it very easy to fall asleep on one of the bus's beds, and 3 hours later, Tara woke me up and told me we were in Knoxville! The bus ride definitely goes by fast when you sleep through half of it!

My nerves did not keep me from sleeping well on Thursday night, and on Friday morning, we ate breakfast in the lobby of the hotel and then headed over to Tennessee's gym for a short, one hour practice. Then we drove back to the hotel to watch about 10 minutes of film and to have a little bit of downtime. At 3 p.m., we went to a pregame meal at Panera Bread, and soon we were on our way to the gym for our season opener vs. 11th ranked Tennessee. I thought I would be shaking with nervousness as we stepped out onto the court for our warm-up, but I surprisingly felt really comfortable, knowing that I had played in hundreds of volleyball matches in my lifetime. My teammates were very encouraging, and I could tell that everyone was so excited to finally be competing after working so hard throughout preseason.

The match vs. Tennessee started off pretty slowly, and we were soon behind in game one, but we pulled together and managed to fight our way back into the game, winning 31-29. Taking a game off of such a highly ranked opponent was an exciting start to our season, and we were intent on winning the match. Unfortunately, Tennessee really stepped up their game, and we made a few too many errors, and we lost the next three games. We were disappointed to start the season off with a loss, but I was glad to have my collegiate career underway, and I couldn't wait to play the other two matches of the tournament. Day two was a little less nerve-racking and I felt more confident having one match under my belt already. The two matches challenged us to maintain consistency and mental focus, two factors that will help us to play our best in the all-important ACC matches later in the season. Overall, I had a great experience in Knoxville, and I am so excited to see how the rest of my first season unfolds!

Tara Hester

The bus ride to Knoxville was pretty uneventful, filled with studying, sleeping, and movie watching. We arrived at the hotel late on Thursday night, and we were all so tired that we had no trouble falling asleep immediately.

Although we didn't have our first match until 7 p.m. on Friday, our itinerary was pretty full because we practiced in the morning and had two team meals before game time. The day went by quickly and before I knew it, the match was about to start. I wasn't the least bit nervous until the first whistle actually blew and the match officially started.

Tennessee's crowd was loud and the atmosphere was very exciting, yet I wasn't overwhelmed. The pace of the game, although generally faster than what I was used to, didn't faze me. When I got my chance to go in and serve in the fourth game I was a little uneasy, but the older girls were reassuring and I think, overall, it went well. The next two matches were less nerve-wracking and I felt much more relaxed compared to the University of Tennessee match. The Centenary match was probably the most fun though, because it was stress-free and everyone played well. We got the chance to mix-up the lineups and try out some different things.

Overall the weekend went great, but it felt like too soon we were back on the bus traveling back to Charlottesville and the reality of classes on Monday.