Duke volleyball junior Nailah Waterfield will keep a weekly blog this season chronicling the Blue Devils' 2010-11 campaign. Last season, Duke won the 2010 ACC Championship, made the NCAA Tournament for the sixth straight year and advanced all the way to the Round of Eight.
Look for Nailah's blog every week during the season on GoDuke.com.
Duke Volleyball Blog #6 (September 6, 2011)
After a long weekend, Duke Volleyball is finally back in Durham after five days spent in California. Wednesday morning after just two days of class, we packed up all of our uniforms, homework (yes we already have homework), shoes, computers, iPods, and pillow pets to travel for the first time in 2011. With a 7:45 a.m. departure time, there was a lot of yawning, but for Kelsey Williams, Sophia Dunworth and I, it was nothing but smiles. We were headed to our home state, and there was a long list of friends and family who were waiting for us to get there.
We arrived safely in California around 3 p.m. and, as expected, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. We were greeted with a beautiful California day and an awesome bus driver as we headed for Soph's house in Pleasanton, California. Pleasanton is exactly how it sounds - adorable. As we pulled into Soph's small neighborhood, neighbors looked on as our huge charter bus filled the tiny street. Mrs. Dunworth stood outside her beautiful house waving us all in. We were all excited to get the grand tour, but were quickly distracted by the smell that was coming from the back yard. After a long day of travel, we were beyond hungry and all of our eyes, and stomachs, lit up when we saw Mr. Dunworth working hard over a grill that was bigger than me. We had a delicious homemade lunch of steak, salmon, Caesar salad, fresh fruit, grilled vegetables, and mashed potatoes that left us all very jealous of Sophia's average family dinners. After a dip in the pool, a nice walk around Pleasanto,n and meeting all Soph and Kelsey's sisters, neighbors, and friends, it was back on the bus for the ride to Stockton.
Once we were all settled in our hotel rooms, we all tried to stay up as late as we could to try and get on West Coast time. With few of us making it past 9:30 p.m., it all worked out with either sleeping in or afternoon naps. With a 5 o' clock game time, before we knew it we were off to the gym. Pacific was a strong first opponent for us. They were an impressive ball control team, and they made us earn every one of our points. They also had some of the best hecklers this team has seen. And that means a lot from girls who have played in front of some of the biggest crowds college volleyball has had to offer over the past couple of years. As much as we love our libero, a few of us were caught cracking smiles when the hecklers were picking on Ali. Apparently no one in California believes there is sun in North Carolina, and our hecklers were convinced Ali spent more time in a tanning salon than Snooki herself. They were using every Jersey Shore reference they could think of, and we could only respect their creativity. While it was all in good fun, we worked together and pulled out a win.
Right after the game, we had about an hour drive to Palo Alto where we would be taking on St. Mary's the next day. For me, this was the first game in my college career I would be playing an old teammate. And if that wasn't excitement enough, we ran out the locker room to see about fifteen Waterfields wearing Duke Volleyball shirts with a giant picture right in the middle of it...of my face. I think they were a little more than excited that the only athlete in the family was on the West Coast. On top of the Waterfields, we had a great showing of Duke support from all sides. It felt great to be so far from home and still get to see both familiar faces and new faces wearing that oh so familiar Duke D in the crowd.
St. Mary's proved to be a tough opponent, and after five very back-and-forth sets, Duke Volleyball saw its first loss of the 2011 year. Adversity was the word tossed around the locker room after the game, as no one was satisfied with our performance. Duke volleyball hates losing, but losses happen, and the worst thing you can do is not learn from a loss. So we vowed to learn from it. The next day we met as a program, we met as individuals, we met by positions, and we met as a team. We needed a better team effort going into the Stanford match. It is only us thirteen out on the court and, as much as they'd love to, and I mean LOVE to, our coaches can't play; it is only us out there. We had to regroup, get on the same page and become more cohesive to show a better looking Duke Volleyball team against Stanford, and that's what we did.
Saturday night against No. 6 Stanford, we showed glimpses of what we can really do. We came out as a cohesive unit and at times played better volleyball than we have all year. I would be lying if I said that any one of us is excited about a four game loss to Stanford. Taking a set was not the goal; that is not the mindset of this team. Never settle. But we did show ourselves we are contenders in this thing. The big goals we've set for ourselves are not unreachable. This was a tough but important weekend for Duke volleyball. We lost, but we learned and we have three days to get better before we compete again. Hope to see you all in Cameron Indoor Thursday at 7 p.m. for our San Diego match.Nailah A. Waterfield