The biggest thing I learned from playing volleyball at Babson College was how to embrace the struggles that life throws at you. A consistent theme that Coach Neely preached throughout my three years with the program was having to "deal with adversity", whether it be manufactured intentionally or having occurred naturally. These struggles that we went through as a team could be as small as a mentally challenging drill during practice or a physically taxing lift before practice, and having to play at a high level while tired. However, sometimes the challenges that life threw at me or my team were enough to bring us to our knees.
I transferred to Babson the fall of my sophomore year, along with two other sophomores who became teammates, roommates and lifelong friends. We all came from different backgrounds. Lauren took a year off of varsity sports while she was at Fairfield University, I played Division III volleyball at Emmanuel College, and Abby was playing Division I at the University of Buffalo. We all faced different difficulties at our previous schools, but we all found a home at this small private college in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Our first year on the volleyball team was a rollercoaster before ending in the semifinal round of the NEWMAC Tournament to rival beavers, MIT. Obviously, this wasn't the way the team wanted to end the season, but having no juniors on the team inspired the underclassmen to work hard in the off season to create a strong foundation for the next two years, knowing we wouldn't be graduating anyone until the spring of 2019.
Throughout winter break and the beginning of the 2018 spring semester, we pushed through lifts with Coach St. Cyr, held open gyms, and worked on improving the team culture and closeness of each member of the team.
As we soon found out, nothing brings a group of people together quite like tragedy.
In the first week of April, the Babson Class of 2019 lost two of its kindest and most genuine members, both of which were athletes, a volleyball player and a baseball player. There is no way to put into words the pain of burying two friends who had so much life ahead of them. But as the days went by, the hardest lesson of life that my friends, teammates and families of Dan and Liv had to learn was that life goes on.
No matter how hard it may seem at the time, how huge that mountain ahead of you looks, my biggest takeaway from that impossible semester was that I was wrong. It wasn't impossible. We all made it through, and now have the intimate understanding that every day is precious because life is too short to take for granted. Sometimes life knocks you down, and when you think the worst is over it hits you again. But you can always make it through, leaning on those around you and taking the hand that friends and family will inevitably extend in your time of need.
In that spring semester, the Babson baseball team broke its record for most wins in a single season, won a NEWMAC championship, and went to the NCAA regional final for the first time in school history.
Some of the guys would say "it's hard to lose when you have 10 men on the field."
The next fall, the Babson volleyball team received an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. This past season, we not only beat regionally-ranked MIT in the NEWMAC semifinals but also won our third NEWMAC title in five years. We hosted an NCAA regional tournament for the first time in school history before making our first appearance in the national championship round of eight teams.
While half of the team at this point may not have met Dan or Olivia, the grit that the class of 2019 showed and the way that we came together to help each other through adversity is something that I believe is unique to Babson. As a member of the Babson volleyball team, I know that anything is possible when you can set aside your pride and work together towards a single goal, driven from the same purpose. At this point, struggle is part of the culture of this team, shaping the members into strong, independent women who know the limitless power of teamwork. For this reason, I know the 2018 season will not be the last time that Babson volleyball is on the national stage.
The lessons that life taught me two years ago have shaped me into the person I am today and taught me more than any classroom ever could. The summer after my sophomore year I studied in Barcelona, Spain, and not a day went by where I took life for granted. In chapels and cathedrals scattered across Europe, there are two candles side by side in memory of the two lights that went out far too soon.
As I look back on the decisions in my life that have led me to where I am today, I can't help but think about the pain I could have avoided if I had never transferred to Babson. If I had never known personally the amazing people we lost.
But as much as I may miss the innocence of my childhood, life isn't about avoiding the hard things or choosing the easy path. It's about choosing the path that will challenge you, forcing you to grow and change and come out a stronger, better person in the end.
In the end, choosing Babson was the best decision I have ever made, and I am so proud of the person that I have become. I will cherish the memories and friendships that Babson and the volleyball team especially have brought me. #RollBeav