Set, Match

A senior volleyball player reflects on finding her home away from home in Gregory Gym.

Set, Match

Most students at the University of Texas drive home for the holidays after the semester is over.  • I fly for 8 ½ hours across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii, 4,000 miles away from Austin. When I see my friends and family, they usually ask about the team and how we’re looking for next year.

This year’s trip is a little different. Instead of asking about next year, they congratulate me on my career. They say how much they’ve enjoyed watching me play.

“How does it feel to be done?” they ask.

That’s when it sinks in. My volleyball career is over.

I won’t see my teammates and compete with them every day. I won’t get to do what I love anymore. It feels like I’ve lost a piece of myself that has been there for so long.


Overshadowing that feeling of loss, though, is gratitude. I ended my high school career with a state championship and began my college career with a national championship. I now end it with a fourth trip to the national semifinals, playing in the national championship game for the second time and being a part of the winningest class in Texas volleyball history. I still can’t really believe it all.

What I’ll miss the most, though, is going through all of the highs and lows with my teammates, coaches, staff, managers, and everyone that has been a part of Texas volleyball by my side. My family.

Without my volleyball family, I would have been lost. Coming to a campus of 50,000 students as an 18-year-old, nearly 4,000 miles from everything I’ve ever known, was intimidating to say the least. While most students at UT know people from their hometowns and high schools, I knew no one. Some days early on were lonely.

I began to realize, though, that my new family was here with me every day. I was part of this community of people so much like myself in our love for the game and competitive spirit that our differences didn’t matter. Volleyball gave me a sense of belonging, like I was on this campus for a purpose and to make a difference.

set-match-3This year’s team, though, really captured what being a team and a family means. We were special. I know people say that about teams all the time, but this year, it became especially evident to me that this team was unique.

From Fairfield to Purdue, through a tough regional at home against UCLA and Florida to Minnesota and Nebraska, we fought. Why? Well, we wanted to win. But we also wanted to win to have another day with each other.

I’m not usually a super emotional person, but after Paulina hit the ball off the Florida block and into the stands to end the match and send us to the Final Four, the tears immediately started streaming down my face.

But I wasn’t crying because my class had just made history. I wasn’t even really sad that it was my last game in Gregory Gym. I got to have another week of doing what I love every day with my amazing teammates.

Ultimately our season didn’t end with a national championship, but in my mind, it couldn’t have gone better. It was a perfect end to the seniors’ careers—Amy Neal, Molly McCage, and myself—at Texas.

While Hawaii will always be my first home, I’ve found a second home through volleyball at the University of Texas. Texas has become a part of me, just as Hawaii has been for so long.

I’m now in my final semester at UT, which scares me a little. The real world seems so daunting and big, just like campus felt to me when I first arrived. Transitions and change are never easy, but I try to remind myself that they often result in amazing experiences. After all, if I didn’t come to Texas, I would have missed out on these incredible four years.

Photos from top: A cheerful Brooks in a 2013 game against Kansas State; Brooks passes a ball against Purdue in December 2015; Molly McCage, left, and Brooks at a press conference during the 2015 NCAA Tournament; Photos by UT Athletics


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