From left coach Caitlin Smith, freshman Paige Morris, freshman Tori Banno, freshman Brittany Jackson, sophomore Tangela Fuller, freshman Bria McKnight, sophomore Cynthia Martin, freshman Lamonica Peacock, freshman Robyn Hicks, freshman Breanna Leon, sophomore Cecilia Valadez, sophomore Jordan Taylor and freshman Ashley Holweger.
ROCHESTER, Minn. — After finishing a break-of-dawn breakfast at Perkins Restaurant and Bakery, sophomore libero Cecilia Valadez said it was “the bomb.”
“I had a pig in a blanket, it was really good,” Valadez said. “They wrapped pancakes around the sausage … It was awesome.”
The Lady Harvesters then made their way to University Center Rochester, a sports facility at Rochester Community and Technical College. They started practice at 9:30 a.m. Each of the eight teams in the tournament had 90-minute practice slots, so every second was important.
Eastfield worked extensively on its offense, and sophomore captain Jordan Taylor finished off the practice working on setting, something that’s still new for her.
“I started setting in the middle of the season,” Taylor said. “Tangela [Fuller] set for us last year and the first half of the season. I hadn’t set since my junior year in high school.”
A seven-hour break between practice and the NJCAA banquet meant that the players had a decision to make: go shopping or go to sleep. Those who chose sleep said it was worth it.
“These hotel beds are so comfortable,” sophomore captain Cynthia Martin said. “I slept with my hoodie on, but I was sleeping so good I didn’t even wake up hot.”
Those who chose to go to the mall got their own rewards. From scarfs to purses, each of the players who made the two-hour trip to the Apache Mall came back with something.
Then the Lady Harvesters put their curling irons to work and prepared for the NJCAA banquet. They each wore formal outfits and had T-shirts in their purses to exchange with the other schools. The Fashion Institute of New York, one of the colleges in the tournament, designed Nike Dri-Fit uniforms that were the hit of the banquet. Several Harvesters jumped at the chance to exchange their Eastfield shirts.
Tournament coaches introduced their teams, and Eastfield coach Caitlin Smith received the District C Coach of the Year award. This is her first season as the head volleyball coach.
After the banquet the Harvesters posed for pictures in their finest clothing. Smith reminded them to be in their rooms by 10 p.m. so they will be ready for their first-round game against SUNY-Adirondack today at 12:30 p.m. It will be Eastfield’s first appearance in a national tournament game. Look for the game story on etceterasports.wordpress.com.
– Kevin Cushingberry Jr.