Prose and Kohn: Ryan Kohn.
On the muggy night of July 2, a group of warriors battled their opponents like the fate of the universe was at stake.
When battle ceased, the group left with a loss. Everyone high-fived, anyway. The battle may have been all-out, but it was also all for fun.
Such is the mundane beauty of SoCo Club Sports' Monday night sand volleyball (a point of contention, but SoCo calls it "sand" and not "beach") at Bee Ridge Park.
The league hosts three games every Monday. The league has five teams, so one team has to play twice. On this night, the team I decided to follow — the Bee Ridge Ballers — had just one game scheduled, but it was the final game of the evening, and it was against the team playing twice, Notorious D.I.G. (As something of an authority on the matter, this is a truly great name.) This was good, in theory, because the Ballers entered the match 0-2, with zero set wins to their name. A tired opponent can only help things. But, as I already said, they would indeed lose again to D.I.G.
Why, then, am I writing about them? The Ballers encapsulate what recreational sports should be.
On this night, the Ballers had four active players: Corina Segura, Chris Hill, Kate Biltz and Rhett Wells. All of them joined the league as single players looking for a volleyball home. Segura moved here from Denver in May. Biltz also moved here in May, from Jacksonville. Hill played in SoCo's volleyball league previously, but his team dissolved. Wells said he played one season of SoCo volleyball before, and he was on the "misfit" team then, too. That team won zero matches, he said, and only one set all season.
These four have known each other less than a month. Playing any sport with people who are essentially strangers is hard. In volleyball, where communication and chemistry are key, it is next to impossible. All things considered, the Ballers handled the challenges well, and they had fun doing it. Like most rec sports experiences, both teams were there to break sweat and laugh, and did plenty of both. At one point, after mistiming a dive, Wells attempted a wormlike maneuver to reach the ball. It didn't work, but got guffaws.
"I couldn't find it (in the air)," Wells said. "I knew it was there somewhere but I couldn't find it."
Biltz said her SoCo experience so far has been comparable to other leagues she has joined, in terms of competition and how seriously the games are taken. All four said they were having a great time. Even though they lost the match, they did win a set, 21-16, which equals what Wells' last team did all season. They served well, talked to each other and overall made strides from beginning to end.
I don't know if the foursome — or their teammates, who couldn't make it this week — will remain friends after the season is complete. They probably don't even know yet. For one night a week, that question is irrelevant. They are a team. They are the Bee Ridge Ballers. They are in this together, in glory and defeat.
The Ballers' one complaint? They wish they had more opponents to play. So: Join them. Skill level doesn't matter. Neither does finding teammates. Just join and try. I bet you'll have a good time.