COLUMBIA — Kimberly Lake stands at the net, head down, hands at her sides. It’s the beginning of the second game for the Kewpies after losing the first. She looks up for a second and takes a deep breath. Immediately her eyes go back to the floor. Once the game starts, her eyes are red, and she seems as if she could burst out in tears at any moment.
In her last home volleyball game at Hickman gym on Wednesday, and just two days before her senior Homecoming where she has been nominated for queen, Lake had a lot to play for.
According to senior teammate and friend, Sarah Miller, the demands of Homecoming have really been wearing Lake down this week.
“Through this whole Homecoming thing, I’ve just been trying to support her,” Miller said. “She’s really stressed. It’s been hard.”
One of Lake’s duties as a member of the Homecoming court is to raise money for a charity. Outside of the gym doors, a bake sale was going on to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Lake’s charity. Two baskets were passed through the crowd for donations as well.
The already present stress before the game was intensified throughout the match when things continually fell in favor of Hickman’s opponent, Sacred Heart. The visiting Gremlins defeated the Kewpies 25-17, 25, 13, 25-14 in a best-of-five series, rather than the usual three.
After her first rotation in the second game, Lake sat on the bench her eyes focused on the game. After a questionable call made by an official, she tossed her towel behind her and walked to the end of the bench. After drinking a cup of water, Lake hunched over the cooler and rested her elbows on it. She kept her distance from her teammates until it was her turn to sub in again.
Miller expressed frustrations with her teammates. She said she feels like their attitudes aren’t how they should be, and she has been trying her best to encourage them through a tough season of losses. The Kewpies are now 2-15 this season.
“I can’t build them up all by myself,” Miller said. “Kim and I try, but tonight was our breaking point.”
By the middle of the third game, Lake was in tears. Hickman coach Greg Gunn, who was wearing a Hawaiian-style shirt and lei in honor of the Homecoming activities, called a timeout at Lake’s request in an effort to calm her down. Miller put an arm around Lake and the other players gave her high fives and tried to encourage her as well.
“She’s been frustrated all season with the level of play,” Gunn said. “She’s just fiercely competitive.”
With tears still in her eyes, Lake returned to the court. On every set, she was calling out to setter Deidre Mattson for the ball. She put up eight kills for the Kewpies.
Miller and Gunn both said they had high hopes for the game after splitting with the Gremlins in a tournament earlier in the season.
Lake was most let down after the loss. After the game ended she quickly shook hands with the opposing players and exited the gym with her head down and tears flowing. She didn’t even stay to huddle with her team and hear coach Gunn’s postgame talk.
The stress of Homecoming and a loss in her last game on her home floor were just too much to handle.
Lake and the rest of the Kewpies will return to the court Tuesday at Francis Howell Central in Cottleville, a suburb of St. Louis.