It still hurts.
The anguish is supposed to have gone away.
But here it is, still biting at me. Still gnawing at me, telling me that everything isn’t okay.
I want to turn my back, shove it away, tell it to go away.
But it keeps charging.
It sits there, looming large above our beloved Anteaterland, grasping its victim with tentacles that refuse to quit squeezing.
It tries to convince me. And it tries to sway me.
But I’m strong. No, gosh dang-it, we’re strong.
Because there’s a voice inside us that refuses to be pushed over.
Mark my words, we won’t be taken over.
UCI, we’re going to win.
* * * *
Finally, the new school year is here.
And with the beginning of a new academic year, a clean slate wipes out the old to give way to a fresh new start.
Let’s forget about how the men’s basketball team again failed to advance past the semifinals of the Big West Conference Tournament to obtain UC Irvine’s first-ever bid to the NCAA tournament.
Let’s forget how the men’s volleyball team, after winning their first 10 matches of the season en route to a number one ranking in the nation, broke down during the second half of the season albeit a post-season resurgence.
Or consider the baseball team’s record last year: a sophomore slump with an overall record of 21-35 after winning 33 of 59 games in its first season in 10 years.
My friends, there is a trend here.
And it is not a good one.
It is a pattern of the shortcomings of UCI’s most prominent teams: their inability to get over the hump, the inability to start a season off strong and maintain that momentum to reach the Promised Land.
It always ends the same way.
The players drop their heads; the students shake them. The athletes droop their shoulders to the locker rooms; the fans swag them to their cars.
All of us, be it inside or out, shed some tears.
It seems like it happens every year. It seems like the same grief comes around every year. And be honest with yourself, it really does hurt.
Why does this keep happening? Why can’t we just win?
I just want to let it go.
* * * *
This year is different.
It’s not going to happen again. It won’t happen again.
I refuse to believe it.
The air is different this year at Crawford Hall. Everything is clearer, everything is stronger, everything is fresher.
Everyone walks with a beat in their step. Everyone talks with a sparkle in their eye. Everyone acts like there is going to be something good in going for the ride.
Time has definitely done wonders for UCI Athletics. Distress from last year is long gone. In its place is a feeling of belief.
Highlighting the fall season’s portion of play is the women’s volleyball and soccer teams.
Kelly Wing has led the women’s volleyball team as they continue the pace of last year’s record-breaking season, posting a 13-3 record so far.
And with Hayley McNallan playing a super senior season, her soccer squad has recorded a 6-2-2 record thus far.
Looking ahead, men’s basketball will return the heralded frontcourt of Adam Parada, Stanislav Zuzak and Matt Okoro.
Women’s basketball returns the core of a team that produced a 17-12 record last season.
Men’s volleyball will feature offensive monster Jimmy Pelzel as the squad looks to re-capture the number one ranking in what promises to be an adventurous season.
And to cap the spring sports season, the baseball team will continue to milk the services of pitchers Brett Smith and Glenn Swanson while also welcoming back the return of star Matt Anderson from injury.
But still, the final question persists: will UCI finally answer the postseason call?
Only time will tell.
But for now, one thing is for sure.
The dejection of past collapsed seasons has faded. The fear of repeating such times has ceased. And the pain and suffering that once weighed down our shoulders have, for the moment, vanished before our eyes.
In the back of our minds, we fear stepping into the darkness of failure. But right now, we’ve stepped into the light.
This year will be different. We will be stubborn. We will be brave. And we will keep fighting.
UCI: this season, we will win.