Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bunhuggers and Big Hair

I looked at the calendar and realized that today, November 20, 2010, is the 20th anniversary of my high school volleyball team winning the State Championship.

20 Years.

Holy cats.

This is freaking me out a little bit. So, I might as well write about it, right?

First of all, let me say this: I still have the shoes I wore when we won state. I am sentimental and I keep weird things (and I call my dear friend Kate, who is a professional organizer, whenever I start to worry that I have hoarding tendencies. She assures me that I do not. But then again, she doesn't know about the shoes.)

On November 10, 1990, I was sixteen, going on seventeen (go ahead, sing it!) and had lived in Princeton for two years. When we moved there, four days before school started my freshman year, I went out for the volleyball team as a way to meet people. I sat the bench the entire year. Sophomore year, I started as a setter.

Junior year was terrifying and intimidating. By then I had realized that Rita Placek had built quite a winning tradition for Princeton Volleyball. I also realized that I was up against some serious talent and had slim hopes of even making the team. I was thrilled when I did make it and then honored to have earned a starting spot.

It was then that it dawned on me that I would be wearing bunhuggers. For those of you who don't know what bunhuggers are, they were the traditional volleyball uniform at the time. They were basically underwear; "granny panties" if you will. We marched into 39 matches that season and played in our underwear. On the plus side, we did draw a crowd.

That's me on the bottom left. My bunhugger barely-covered butt was in a lot of pictures that year because I was surrounded by so much talent that it wasn't even funny. My job was to serve the ball in bounds and play the best defense I could. Oh, and to get low in spike coverage because our outside hitter was going to hit the ball at 90 miles and hour, and if the opponent managed to get a block up, it was coming back just as fast. Or, I would get low in block coverage, because we had two amazing and aggressive middle blockers. I am pretty sure I took at least one off of the face, but 20 years is a long time to remember.

It's really too bad you can't see my hair. In the video, it is glorious. Big and blonde and really big and lots of hairspray. My bangs never moved, but that big old puffy ponytail streamed behind me. And you know what else you can't see? We all had matching hair ties. They were "the sparkly ones." We had 3 or 4 sets of matching hair ties, but in the end "the sparkly ones" were the clear favorites.

We had an amazing season. We went 36-2-1, with our two losses coming to AA teams. We won four tournaments, if memory serves. We acted like complete small-town tourists when we went to Chicago for the Latin Tournament, heads hanging out the bus windows, awed by the skyscrapers. We adored our bus-driver, Max. We made our parents crazy. We came out strong against strong teams and not-so-strong against weaker teams. We carb-loaded and practiced at 6 am the week before the the state tournament to get used to playing in the morning. (Now, that was a tragedy of epic proportions. There was NO WAY I could get my bangs fixed after a 6 am practice and then the newspaper showed up to take our pictures that morning. GASP. I had my picture taken with flat hair. I was 16. It was the end of the world.) We had tremendous community support. We had supportive and loud parents (I think my own father may have been the loudest.) We took 5 busloads of fans to RedBird Arena for the match on Friday. The kids at school who didn't go to the game still got to watch it on tv. We beat Huntley 15-12, 16-14 for the championship. (I think we came from behind in both games, but I'd have to watch the game and I am not going that far.) We had a firetruck parade when we got back to Princeton. We had boys in the stands with their chests painted. They called themselves "The Rowdies" and even sent us flowers.

I haven't though about this season this much in years. I am glad that I am doing it now before I forget even more.

In honor of the 1990 Princeton Tigresses, State Volleyball Champions, wearing bunhuggers and big hair (and by the way, it hurts like hell to kneel on a gym floor.)


  1. This team inspired us to want to travel to State. (They might have even inspired us to _want_ to wear bunhuggers.) I remember being in the stands at Redbird Arena. I remember wanting to be able to jump like Nicole Coates. I remember wanting to be like my "big" sister: a state champion. It might have been 20 years ago, but that 13 year-old girl is still trying to fill her big sister's volleyball shoes.

  2. This big sister still wishes she had been able to make as big a contribution to her team as her little sister was able to do.