Ellison head coach William De Gracia was elated by the end of the second annual Lady Eagle Alumni Volleyball game Friday for not just one but two reasons.
Not only did the Ellison alumni show up en masse to play the current team on the eve of the regular season, but they also taught the current Lady Eagles a valuable lesson as they prepare to open the 2014 season against Robinson on Monday.
“The point that we have — we feel comfortable, we slack off, we start playing lazy ball,” De Gracia said. “And that’s what I told them: You can’t do that — with anybody.”
The Ellison alumni proved him right in the second set after losing the first set then falling behind 5-0 to start the second set.
After being behind the entire second set, and trailing 24-20 late, the alumni scored six straight points to take the set and tie the match.
“They thought they were going to walk through it,” De Gracia said, “but when they showed up I was like, ‘they used to play, ladies.’
“Just because they’re older than y’all doesn’t mean they don’t know the game.”
The current Lady Eagles eventually got the message, taking the next two sets to win the match 25-17, 24-26, 25-10, 25-15. They even won a fifth set played for fun 15-6.
Afterwards, the Lady Eagles felt encouraged having had a chance to work on a part of the game that will benefit them in the regular season.
“We fixed it in the other sets,” senior Alysia Espada said. “Our coach really talked to us and told us what to fix.
“And it really showed.”
What else showed was that the alumni game is growing in its second year as all of the Lady Eagles, former and current, celebrated in one big circle after the game.
For De Gracia, who waited years for the first alumni game to become a reality, it was quite the sight to see.
“I’m excited that all those alumni came,” he said. “It’s really something exciting, and I think next year is going to be bigger, so I’m probably going to have to do a party or something, a dance, right after the game.”
But perhaps even more important, the alumni came and gave the current Lady Eagles a nice tuneup for the season as Ellison looks to return to the playoffs after reaching the postseason for the first time since 2007 last year.
“We weren’t expecting them to be this good,” senior Bri’anna Gray said, “so it really got us playing.”