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Crossing the river before summiting 17,500 Pico Austria. Photo by Ella Williams (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest, 2nd Place), South America Semester.

Miracle on Grass: A Boca Story

The dream team has assembled: Rebecca, Raquel, Molly, Wes, Ned and I.  We are ready to take on Boca Community Volleyball Team, a group of locals determined to defend their court and have a lot of fun doing it.  After three days of defeat and taking no sets, this is our time.

Quickly we started off the match with a game changer. Most of their star players are in Puerto Maldonaldo and are coming later in the day.  The first set is an excellent warm up as we play their fill ins. They tried to throw us off our game with cheeky one hit wonders, double service rotations and spinning high balls, to no avail. Our passing is dialed and are able to put balls high at the net, where we could win the aerial battle because of pure genetics.  Needless to say, we gave them a wake up call.

The second set is tougher.  News spreads quickly throughout the village that ‘Los Dragones’ have taken a set.  A crowd starts to gather and the team start to call people out of their houses to come and play.  Meanwhile the A team from Puerto Maldonaldo are trickling in and joining in on the game.  With one set in hand, we have to follow through.

Things start to heat up.  Putting balls down prove increasingly difficult as the Boca Team get into their defensive rhythm.  We are lucky to escape with a narrow victory of 25/22.

Third set, and it is time to finish it. The ground underfoot is fresh from the recent rain, the sun is setting and the sky is covered in the beautiful oranges and yellows of a jungle sunset. Urgency from both teams increases as the battle for enough light began.

It was naive to think that we could sweep them in 3 sets.  Quickly they bombarded us with a fury of defensive scrambles and serving in the seams .  They even started putting quick balls to one and jump spiking.  They take the set with relative ease and I expect we will have to continue the game tomorrow.
4th set and the sun is dangerously close to the horizon line.  As we play it slowly turned from dusk, to darker, to complete nighttime.  Every couple points I expect them to call it, but no.  As our eyesight disappeared, so did our passing.  Apparently there is a direct relationship between being able to see and playing volleyball. Balls drop uncontested, hit people in the face and havoc ensues, much to the delight of the crowd.  Luckily we go on a couple serving runs and before we know it are about to beat the unbeatable Boca team at 24/16.  By this point it is nighttime.  Starlight is our light.  We are so close.

Then they got serve, and the ball is nothing more than a black blur against the black sky.  24/18. 24/20. 24/22.  Another two points and they tie it at 24 a piece.  Very unfair, how are we still playing? Finally we manage to win the ball back off a one bump over, but miss our chance at the serving line and go down another.  25/26.  Quick sideout.  Tie game and my turn to serve.  This is high stakes and I channel all my past volleyball experience into these two serves.  One serve, two.  Game.  Their strategy of playing through the night backfired.

Our team made history that day, taking down the undefeated Boca National Team in a game for the ages.
If you missed it, the movie ‘Miracle on Grass, A Boca Story’ is hitting theatres in 2020.

Hugh