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Penning My Thoughts For USC's Senior Night

11/14/2014
USC volleyball player Emily Young (20) caps off her final home game Friday as the Trogans take on Cal alongside senior teammates Hayley Crone (4) and Hannah Schraer (14). Courtesy USC

Anxious, antsy, nervous, out of control -- I'd never felt this way prior a game before. My emotions wouldn't stop running and my mind couldn't stop turning. Why was senior night affecting me so much? I had a whole college volleyball career to look forward to.

As I sat and watched the Schaumburg High School junior varsity volleyball match, my mind surged. The storm in my subconscious fired question after question that I couldn't quite answer: Could I have the standout high school game of my life? What if we lost? Would I ever again be on a squad with such good friends as teammates? What would college volleyball be like?

I needed to stop thinking about unknowns and expectations, or else my performance would suffer. Before bed, I had a habit of writing poems on my phone if my mind was racing, but I had never written one about volleyball. I knew from previous experience that I never play well when on an emotional rollercoaster (especially angry ones). Anxious to play well, I started writing, and as I wrote, my mind calmed.

I had one of the most intense warm-ups of my life. I ran out to the whole crowd cheering and 20-foot long banners with the seniors' names on them. My favorite pre-game song ("Magic" by B.O.B.) played during warm-up and I felt like everything I touched was gold.

During the national anthem, I could feel myself shaking with adrenaline. I was still nervous. Desperate to calm down and focus, I started to count the stars on the American flag. My breath slowed, my mind calmed. 50 stars on the first try. I was focused.

I've since come to terms with the fact that you can only trick yourself into believing that senior night is just another game for so long. Eventually, it will hit home that it signifies the end of a journey and closure should be addressed head on. Luckily, going through senior night in high school has prepared me what to expect when we play Cal tonight. I will still go through my routines of listening to "Magic" and counting the 50 stars on the flag, but this time I've mentally prepared and have managed my emotions.

On senior night, I don't need to have an exceptional standout game to bring closure to my journey at USC. I am happy with the progress I have made, especially in my senior season, and one game cannot take away from that. Honestly, besides what I've just recounted, I don't remember much else about my high school senior night. I can't tell you how many kills I had or even who we played. What is most important is that I can look back on an amazing journey with my closest friends. My USC experience has given me all of this and more.

Preparing for senior night has been a wonderful time to reminisce on my journey here at USC. This time, my senior night poem is entitled This Night Isn't Mine.

This Night Isn't Mine

By Emily Young

This night isn't mine | We stand and embrace | Flowers in our hands | Smiles on our face

Hayley and Hannah | The four years have flown | Look at us seniors | My, how we've grown

This night isn't mine | Parents at my side | Forevermore | My counsel and guide

Mom and dad | Four years away | Having you here | Is a special day

This night isn't mine | Friends and teachers | My biggest supporters | Now in the bleachers

All of the moments | To share and laugh | Have molded me | On my USC path

This night isn't mine | Cal Bears in the gym | Doing all in their power | To make sure we don't win

Kills, blocks, aces | The end box score | It is just a game | And is something more

This night isn't mine | It's about USC pride | The greats before us | Traditions that preside

Grateful to be honored | Amongst those at SC | Thankful for the experience | Four years has given me