I admit it. I’ve been putting this off! But we’re now over a full month out from when volleyball season ended, so I guess it’s time.
Time to say good-bye.
For those that may have missed it, I announced during the previous off-season that 2021 would be my 15th and last season covering Tennessee volleyball.
There are so many people I’d like to thank for their help and support over the years, but there is no way I’d remember them all. So here’s a quick list of the top few, with apologies to so many others. First of all there’s my family. Creating the site and writing for it every week during the season took time away I could have been spending with them. Additionally, I went to an average of three to four away matches per season for the past 15 years. That’s even more time away, with the added expense of hotels and gas spent to travel. You never complained. Thanks for letting me do this.
Next there are the people at UT. Truth be told, I’ve always felt that some at the school might think me a bit odd for doing this site. No one bats an eye at guys who run sports blogs for football, or basketball, or just men’s sports in general. But a dude writing not just for a women’s sport, but not even the most popular one? And to focus on one of the teams not even considered by most to be in the top echelon? Gotta be a weirdo! But (for the most part!) I didn’t get that vibe from most of the people I had contact with.
Big thanks to Rob Patrick. It never occurred to me when I started this site that any one associated with the team would ever see it, let alone that I would have an opportunity to interact with the head coach, who even back in 2007 was the longest serving volleyball coach at UT. Patrick was always extremely kind with his time and never hesitated to answer any question I might have. And that was something not unique to me. Despite his sometimes fiery on-court persona, off-court he was extremely friendly with fans and loved talking about volleyball. Knowing he didn’t think this site was weird gave me a lot of confidence in the early years to keep it going.
I’d also like to thank so many of the assistant coaches at UT who have been very gracious to me over the years. One even told me that sometimes parents of potential recruits would bring up this site as an upside of their daughter attending Tennessee — which was a little scary and very humbling, and made me try even harder to do my best. Just a few of those I want to mention by name for their support are Mike Minnis, Gregg Whitis, Alan Edwards, and A.J. Bonetti. Special thanks to J Hames and his wife Chris, who like Coach Patrick, have been so generous to me with their time and talents.
There are a few other staff members I’d like to call out — one I got to know and two I didn’t. Cameron Harris was the volleyball SID when I started this site. No offense to those who came after him, but his professionalism, knowledge, ability, and passion were second to none. A lot of what I do here was informed by how I saw him write articles and stats. Thanks for your support those early years. Additionally, though I never had much contact with them, UT women’s athletics would not be what it is without Joan Cronan (who was the Women’s Athletics Director before the merging of departments in 2012) and Angie Boyd Keck (a long time athletics administrator at UT and currently the Senior Associate Athletics Director). Over the 15 seasons I’ve been doing this, these two were fixtures at volleyball matches. Without the work they’ve done over the years, Tennessee would not continue to be as synonymous as they are with women’s athletics.
Thank you to the Lady Vol players. Without you none of us are here. For almost the entire run of this site, I was careful to keep my distance from you because I was scared of breaking some obscure booster rule! And the last thing I’d ever want to do it hurt the team. (It seems like most of those booster rules are going away now, just in time for me to go away too!) To the few of you I did get a chance to meet during your careers and to those who reached out after graduating, thanks! It meant a lot knowing what I was doing was appreciated and not unwanted attention. To all those I never got to interact with, I hope through my work here you saw how much I was grateful for everything you did for UT.
One of the most unexpected pleasures for me after starting this site was meeting parents of players. As much as I did to support the team, it pales in comparison to what parents do. And getting to be a part of your passion for your kids was a lot of fun. Thanks for telling me stories about your player, sitting next to me at away matches, and letting me pre-game with you at Calhouns!
Thanks to all the UT fans I’ve met along the way, in person or virtually. Some of you were also readers of the site and it was great getting into the nitty-gritty details of the team with you. Some of you were just people I met at matches who were passionate about volleyball or newcomers curious about the game. There were too many of you for me to list, but I really appreciate you all for making gamedays so incredible. Tennessee volleyball may not pull in the most fans, but it does bring out the best ones.
Finally, thanks to the current coaching staff who are taking this program forward. I admit to being worried when you young newcomers first arrived that you might not appreciate what we have here. I was very wrong. Thanks for building on what came before and setting things up for the future.
So where does this site go from here? I’m not exactly sure yet! I don’t plan to continue running it as something updated day to day throughout the season. But I also don’t plan to just delete it altogether either! Right now I’m thinking that the stats section might be worth keeping running. I spent a lot of time and energy compiling all of that, and I’d hate to see it become outdated. So maybe what I’ll end up doing is updating the stats at the end of every season. That would take one day of work every year and allow the information to be useful to fans for the next 364.
Another thing I might like to do is eventually post more of the pictures I’ve taken over the years. I have thousands of shots in my photo library, but only posted a fraction of them. (Partly because I never had the greatest camera for low-light/fast moving pictures and partly because UT eventually started posting high quality photo galleries for matches from much better angles than mine.) No promises there because that would be a ton of work.
If you have any ideas, feel free to let me know!
When I started this page, I did so knowing even if I was the only one reading it I’d be happy because I enjoyed doing the work just for myself. I should have had no doubts other UT fans would find it.
I really tried to do something special here, something no other volleyball program has ever had as far as I can tell. I don’t know how many of you like to deep dive into the data like me, but I hope something I did here was useful to you. I hope my love of the team and of the game came through in everything I did. And I hope I represented our fandom in a way that made you proud.
Tennessee is such a special place. After her final game for UT, Lily Felts said she was going to brag about her time as a Lady Vol for the rest of her life. I wasn’t even part of this amazing program, but it was still such a privilege to just be unofficially connected to the team from the outside, and it’s something I’ll never forget.
If I can ever be of assistance to any of you in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m still this team’s biggest fan. The only thing that has changed is the distance between us. Florida may be my new address, but Rocky Top will always be home sweet home to me.
Thank you so much for allowing me to do this for fifteen wonderful years.
Monday, January 24, 2022
…Must come to an end