If it was a Hollywood movie, this would be the point where perseverance and persistance pay off. A season filled with difficulty would be dogpiled under teammates celebrating at center court amid tears of joy.
In a perfect world, that's how this week would go.
But these are the cold, hard streets of reality. Adversity doesn't back down for a fuzzy feel-good tale. Here, the truth is that, barring something exceptional, volleyball season for the defending Region IX North champion Northwest College Trappers will probably come to an end. Quite possibly, the Trappers may have served their final volleyball of the year Wednesday night while the ink was drying on this page.
That was not the script that Trapper head coach Flavia Siqueira saw when she gazed upon Northwest's 2010 season back in early August. Fresh off a national tournament appearance, the Trappers were ranked No. 25 in the NJCAA preseason poll. Siqueira was convinced the ranking was too low and, truth be told, it probably was.
Unfortunately, we'll never know.
The record book will show that the 2010 Trappers finished with a regular season mark of 21-16. In reality, the 2010 Trappers never took the court.
Before Northwest could even step onto the floor to begin its year against Snow College — one of 20 NWC opponents to spend time in the NJCAA rankings this season —injuries started to take their toll. They never stopped.
At the Wyo-braska tournament in mid-September, an opposing coach confided in Siqueira that he wished her team were healthy so he could play her on even terms. She replied that he still could — simply remove three starters from his lineup. Presumably, he declined the offer. After a top-10 program paid a visit to Powell, in a post-match moment of levity, the Mustangs' coach was overheard telling Siqueira her team scared the heck out of him if it ever got healthy.
They could see the difference between what was and what could have been.
At least one of the Trappers' players has been unable to participate much in team practices for more than two months outside of riding an exercise bike and observing. Her use in games has been on an as-needed and an as-you-feel-up-to-it basis. In all, three members of the Trappers' roster are scheduled to undergo knee surgery following the season's end.
That figure happens to equal the number of players on the school's 13-member roster who remained healthy enough to appear in each of the Trappers' 37 regular-season matches. Yes, it really has been that sort of year in these parts — the spirit has been willing, but the body hasn't always cooperated.
That's why, when pairings for this week's Region IX North tournament were announced and fate delivered the final coup de grace by matching the Trappers against Laramie County Community College, a program stripped of 20 wins but still loaded with the bulk of the talent that earned it a top-10 national ranking for most of the season, they simply took the news in stride. To prepare for the game, Siqueira spent the past week practicing six different possible rotations with the Trappers.
Why six? Because, as of Monday evening, she still wasn't certain which players would actually be available when the tournament opened in Glendive, Mont., last night (Wednesday).
That's hardly new. NWC has employed about as many different linueps this season as Rubik's Cube has permutations. Players recruited as setters have learned the finer points of hitting. Players accustomed to primarily living life on the back row have learned a thing or two about blocking and blockers have been pressed into duty as outside hitters.
Some programs preach to kids to learn their job and do it well. This fall, Northwest has pleaded for players to learn each others' jobs out of sheer necessity. Say what you want about the past two seasons, but this arguably may have been Siqueira's best coaching job to date due to the sheer level of creativity required to keep the Trappers winning during this season of attrition.
That fact, most likely, will go unnoticed. Recognition, after all, tends to go to coaches whose teams hold trophies at season's end, not those whose players are seemingly held together with duct tape and baling wire.
As I said, in a perfect world, this would be the weekend where the planets align and a season of hardships would be cast away in a do-you-believe-in-miracles sort of moment. Unfortunately, this isn't a perfect world and we're left to wonder what may have been.