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pressbox1.com - An open letter to the Camden Lady Lions
Date: Wednesday, October 18 2017
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An open letter to the Camden Lady Lions

Tuesday, the Camden Lady Lions volleyball team discovered that it belonged among the elite teams at the state tournament.

Tuesday morning, eight teams entered the fray. Tuesday night just six remained. Camden was one of them. For the first time in school history, this team earned one of eight place settings at the state tournament and, upon taking the court for the first time at the state tournament, defeated Dyersburg 25-18, 25-11, 25-13.

They made it look easy, too.

Against Knoxville-Catholic, the Lady Lions sputtered, dug a hole and struggled to exhume themselves, but they made it close. Catholic had to work to win. When they left the court, took the bus back to the hotel and then sat down to some post-game chow, my guess is that the Lady Lions felt like Catholic was beatable and one they let get away.

Sure, it's a bit daunting when you tread upon hardwood you've never encountered before. Expectations are higher when you go to state. For those first-year teams, they feel like imposters. They feel like there are seven other teams with seven-foot-tall girls...and them. I've been covering state tournaments for four decades and this is a common thread.

What these Camden girls don't realize is that seven other teams in the draw are looking at the Lady Lions and saying, "Oh crap, we have to play them?"

It doesn't matter where these teams are from. They all have kids who go to school, worry about that upcoming test, have problems with their boyfriends, look forward to getting their license and complain about too much homework...just like the Camden girls.
My point is that the six teams remaining in the draw all have similar stories. The only difference is that some teams believe in themselves. That is, in part, a function of having been up to the 'Boro before. They know what to expect. They know how to deal with the nerves.

But Camden has spent much of the season ranked in the top two, according to a state poll. There is a reason for that. The Lady Lions are as good as anyone up there.

So...show that swagger. You girls are the Camden Lady Lions, one of the best teams, and best stories, in the state! Make the other team have that "oh crap" feeling and leave it all on the court. If you give it your best and aren't victorious, then tip your cap to your opponent, shake hands and say, "well done." There won't be any regrets.

Don't let pressure or a fear of losing beat you. Don't be intimidated by an equally-matched team. Give them reason to be intimidated. Look them in the eye and say, "we aren't scared." You'll hear stories about favorites to win the event, but that's based on nothing but semi-educated guesses. Conjecture doesn't win championships.

Focus on the game plan, play smart and stay within yourselves. You already survived the first cut and showed you can play with anyone up there. This morning, six teams remain in the draw. That's two fewer teams you have to worry about, now. When the final whistle blows at MTSU today, there will be two teams remaining.

Like I said, I've been doing this for a long time. There is no reason you can't be one of those two playing for that gold hardware on Thursday. This is what anyone who has ever put on shoulder pads, shot a basketball, swung a bat, putted or served has dreamed of. Be excited about that.

And if someone is just better, then that's how it goes. But I can guarantee this, if you fall short of the goal to win a state title, people back home are still going to be proud of you. You have no idea how much joy and excitement you've brought to this town. And know this, you'll be back to the 'Boro many more times...and the fantastic story of how this volleyball team came to be will become legend!

Jim Steele is editor of pressbox1.com and host of The Pressbox, which airs 4-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday on WRJB 95.9 FM.

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