Feeling good about this year

UF Communications/Brendan Maloney

The Penn State loss has given Chloe Mann fuel to train and compete harder than ever before.

Hello, sports fans, volleyball fanatics, Florida Gator supporters and any other intrigued readers. My name is Chloe Mann, and welcome to my blog!

I’m a middle blocker on the University of Florida volleyball team and am excited to say that my senior year of volleyball is finally under way. I know it’s a cliché for everyone to think “Where did all the time go?” once you’re a senior, but it’s so true. It’s starting to hit me that come December the thing that has consumed my life for the past half decade will be gone forever.

That’s partially why I chose to write this blog: to capture all my last memories, fun road-trip adventures and every cherished moment that I’ll spend with my team during my final season of collegiate volleyball.

Just to catch you up on the past couple of months … As a graduation present to myself, I decided to take the entire summer off from school for the first time since I’ve been in college. I had originally thought that four months of no school would be such a breeze and I’d have so much free time to catch up with friends, my beloved sleep and all the shows I get behind on during the school year.

Yet, between my summer internship in Gainesville, open gyms four times a week and intense 6 a.m. workouts daily, I found myself having little to no free time and quickly wishing for my unanticipated hectic summer to end by about mid-June. Don’t get me wrong; the no-school part was fabulous and I did get some vacation time -- I got to visit my best friend in NYC for two weeks and see a couple of NBA playoff games -- but I knew something was missing.

I’m the type of person who seriously enjoys my downtime/offseason, but at the same time gets restless when I’m not competing. I was so ready to get back into the gym with the coaches and the whole team for two-a-days. I just have a really good feeling about what this year will bring.

For a brief catch-up on the season thus far, our first road trip was Sept. 5 to Texas, first for a match against UT-San Antonio. After the match that Thursday night, we got to walk to this really good Tex-Mex steakhouse along the River Walk downtown.

I was so surprised how pretty downtown San Antonio is. The ethnic diversity of people strolling along the River Walk and the vibrant colors of all the outdoor restaurants and boutiques, mixed with the nature aspect of teams of ducks floating down the river, made the downtown scene alluring and intriguing. After stuffing our faces with a delicious dinner, we got to ride a river taxi back to our hotel. That was probably the highlight of the trip.

The next day we drove to Austin to play in the last installment of the annual Nike Big 4 Tournament with Stanford, Penn State and Texas. Our first match was with No. 2 Stanford. I was so proud of the composure and confidence my team brought to the match that night. We played with high energy, high volleyball IQ and lots of toughness, and we executed the game plan almost flawlessly to come out with a W!

Unfortunately, the quick turnaround, which we’re not used to with our Friday/Sunday SEC play, did not favor us and we ended up receiving our first loss of the season the next morning to then-No. 1-ranked Penn State.

But we are not hanging our heads by any means. Penn State played hard and smart, and there were some adjustments we didn’t make soon enough in the match.

What my team and I took away from both matches is that we are fighters. We’re not perfect, but that’s the best part about us. If we were, it would be a long, boring season and we’d have three months until December with nothing to improve on during practice.

I hate to lose more than I love to win. Yet for me, that loss is extra fuel I need to come into each practice and every future game wanting to train and compete harder than ever before, because I don’t just hope, I know it will pay off down the road. As I said earlier, I have a good feeling about this year.

Until next time, thanks for reading, and Go Gators!

“I am building a fire, and every day I train, I add more fuel. At just the right moment, I light the match.” -- Mia Hamm