Richard and Jennifer Robinson and USAV

I had a great weekend with two new Raleigh friends Richard and Jennifer Robinson. I’ve been playing volleyball with them a few times a week at open gyms around the Raleigh area. A few weeks ago, Richard invited me to play the middle position for his USAV team in an upcoming tournament in Ashville, North Carolina. I gladly accepted the opportunity.

Since I still don’t have a car (haven’t had one since May 2002), Jennifer was kind enough to pick me up Friday afternoon. We met Richard at their place and began our road trip by 4:00.

The trip was going well for we were busy telling stories, playing games, and listening to tunes. About an hour into the trip, Jennifer’s car decided to turn itself off unexpectedly as we entered Greensboro traffic. We pulled over, started the car back up, and re-entered the flow of traffic; ultimately repeating this process two more times before finding a gas station.

Ended up the car needed some oil – about three quarts worth. Needless to say, Richard and I had fun teasing Jennifer for her lack of maintenance. Thankfully, the car made the rest of trip with no further complaints.

Upon entering Ashville, we met up with several of Jennifer’s USAV teammates for dinner at a Japanese steak house. These places are always fun with a large group.

After dinner, we drove to Jennifer’s home about 20 minutes west of Ashville where we met her parents and sister. Very nice family. They were kind to host the three of us for the weekend.

On Saturday we woke early, had a country breakfast, and headed off to our separate gyms for a day of tough volleyball competition.

Richard and I had a tough time finding our gym, but eventually made it on time. Thankfully, our team didn’t have to play or referee the first round of games.

I had not met or played with any of Richard’s teammates. Our first two games were awful. While we could have beaten our first opponent, we made many errors and looked very unorganized.

Our second round of games were much better. We lost the first one, but started to jell as a team. By the second game, it all came together and resulted in victory.

Games five and six also resulted in victory. Our opponent was better than us but didn’t play well and made many errors. I had a big influence on game five for I served for a streak of six points and ended the game with two big blocks and a heavy-handed spike for the final point.

Our last opponent for the day was the number one seed in our bracket. Furthermore, the outcome of our last two games would neither hurt nor help our standing. We already knew that we would end our bracket in third place.

We played hard as we entered the seventh game, but eventually began to unravel. By the eighth game, we fell apart. I made three errors in a row, costing the team to lose much momentum. Regardless, it was a fun day. It was nice to have a chance to play at this level of competition once again.

Saturday night was a night on the town. We had dinner with more of Jennifer’s teammates, had drinks with her sister’s friends, and then headed over to the hotel housing most of the volleyball players.

The hotel was rocking. I think every room was booked for this event, for we spent the evening hopping from one suite party to the next.

I never felt so short in my life. I’d say about half of the men were taller than me and about a tenth of the women were eye level. There were several guys there that had to duck every time they entered a room, for they were at least 6′ 8″. These are the guys that play at the AA level. My team, well, we played at the B level. Few at this level are taller than 6′ 6″.

Any rate, I had a great time. I hope to find a USAV team in Norwalk and travel to more of these big tournaments in the future. They’re a blast.