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How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Columbia Women’s Volleyball

We don’t deserve them and they deserve better.

Events Editor and occasional sports fan Isabel Sepúlveda didn’t know if she would ever fill the void in her heart after the end of basketball season (and Camille Zimmerman’s graduation). The women’s volleyball game against Cornell changed that. 

I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into Levien with the marching band last Saturday for the women’s volleyball game. Due to some traumatic middle school gym classes, I knew the basics: very tall people on one side of the net keep the ball in the air and try to hit it really well that the other side can’t. Otherwise, as I crowded into the bleachers in an almost empty gym, I was completely clueless. How many sets did they play? Who were they killing? Why was one of their players wearing a totally different uniform? Watching the players warm-up, I was struck with the fear that I would never understand (I’ve been in marching bands for almost 8 years and have only just started to understand football; the fear was valid.)

The band quickly discovered that there really aren’t very many places to play during a volleyball game, giving me ample time to observe the game and ask questions of the former volleyball players in my midst. (You play until someone wins 3 sets, up to 5. They’re killing the ball, hitting it so the other team can’t return it. They call that player the libero, and they can replace any defensive player.) The game itself reminded me of basketball, which I grew up watching, with frequent scoring and fast-paced back and forth action. While that was nice, what truly made the experience great wasn’t the game, but the team playing it. By the end of the night, I was 100% in love with them.

Though they ultimately lost 1-3 against Cornell, the sets were tight throughout (23-25, 18-25, 25-22, 25-27). I’m perpetually in awe of people who have more skill than I do, and the ability to stay poised and passionate that these women demonstrated to the end will win my heart every time.

Of course, it’s not just their skill that led to me pledging my devotion to the team. As is the case with all Columbia sports games except homecoming—and especially women’s sports—the team was playing to a gymnasium that was maybe a fourth full, if I’m feeling generous. Discounting the band, there were few students in attendance. Without someone there cheering, games can drag to the point of monotony and dampen morale for everyone involved.

From what I observed, the volleyball team refused to give in to this line of thinking. They cheered each other on with more bombast and spirit than most undergraduates can muster. They invited the band to join in with them as they chanted “Who let the block out?” in the style of the Baha Men from the sideline, and when specific players had a shining moment, there were special chants in their honor.  Some cheers even had cute motions to go with them, which I loved. It was obvious they’ve cheered themselves on long enough to have this refined to almost an art form, one they were happy to share with us.

In a campus that often bemoans its lack of community but makes little progress in remedying that, the support women’s volleyball team had for one another on the court and on the sidelines was proof that it doesn’t have to be this way. And for a moment, I felt like I could be part of it. So my thanks to the women’s volleyball team; you are absolutely amazing and you’ve made a new fan out of me.

The women’s volleyball team will play Dartmouth and Harvard this Friday and Saturday respectively, with another doubleheader next weekend. View their full schedule here.

the #1 team in my heart via gocolumbialions.com

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