These kids are wearing me out already. I knew this next one would be a real doozy, so I gathered my strength to face off against one more BoCoPreps.com-area stud before the New Year.
So far in our Brad vs. BoCoPreps series, I've been burned by former Mead sprinter Alex Mead, brushed back and blown away by former Niwot softball pitcher Nickie Blue, and lost both sides of a penalty shootout against the Boulder boys soccer team.
My next challenge was at Longmont High School, home of the powerhouse Trojans volleyball team. I'd be taking on six feet of power and grace: Trojans star hitter Becca Mau.
I'd seen Mau's show-stopping offensive ability many times while covering the Trojans. I just had to witness Mau's furious swing firsthand.
Meet Becca Mau:
-- A four-year varsity starter on one of Colorado's best teams, Mau amassed a staggering 1,325 career kills and was top-three on the team in every other statistical category each of the past three seasons.
-- In November, the Trojans senior signed to continue her volleyball career at the Division I level at the University of Idaho.
That's a pretty impressive list. And that's the short version.
I had a list of my own prepared. Mine looked like this: "Eggs, milk, bread, turkey, lettuce, tomato, mustard ... Ibuprofen."
I pondered my list to distract me from my impending challenge while I received some well-meant instruction from Trojans assistant coach Gary Faris. I tried not to think about how many times I'd seen Mau loose an over-handed haymaker that sent a much worthier opponent than I careening to the floor.
Suddenly my only friend, Faris told me to keep my hands out in front of my body and not to squeeze my shoulders together like you see on TV, which was my plan. On offense, he simplified the attacking motion as a two-foot jump ending in a baseball throwing motion.
In the background, Mau's warm up sounded like she was popping beach balls behind a megaphone. Trojans head coach Holli Stetson arrived just in time to sweep away the remains of my confidence. She had a list, too, full of words like "bloody nose" and "concussion."
"We have towels on the side, ready to go," Stetson said. "And lots of ice."
Stetson and I concluded that the better the pre-strike read I got, the more danger I was in.
Still, I talked some trash. So did the Trojans. Setter Elena Michalski, also a BoCoPreps.com All-Region first team selection, courteously reminded me that my 5-foot-7 stature did not ideally suit me to volleyball. Neither did my basketball footwear.
As promised, my introduction to volleyball was a rude awakening.
Faris estimated Mau's hitting speed around 45 miles per hour or a bit faster. With the ball traveling 66 feet per second or faster off her hand to where I was standing between 10 and 15 feet from the net, I had less than a quarter of a second to react. Each time Michalski set a ball, Mau drove it right past me.
Left, right, it didn't matter. Wherever she aimed, the ball was on the floor before I saw it was in the air.
I asked Mau to hit a few at me to see if I could make contact that way. She looked at me like I had just asked her to punch me in the face. I realized I essentially had.
The ball hit me in the shoulder, shin, inner thigh, chest, foot, basically everywhere but the stretch of my two forearms I was praying she'd find. One shot glanced off the right side of my face, leaving a ginger pink mark that likened me to Chris Farley after David Spade took a two-by-four to his face in the movie "Tommy Boy."
Wearing the head-mounted GoPro camera gave the folks back at the office plenty to laugh about later.
Maybe I should try blocking her at the net? Don't be ridiculous, Brad. Once Faris mentioned the likelihood that poor technique could lead to a broken finger, or several, I gave up on that idea. I couldn't meet any deadline typing with six and a half fingers, after all.
When it was my turn to play offense, I luckily had Michalski on my side to set. She had 747 assists for the Trojans this season and has signed to play at CSU-Pueblo next season. Despite her obvious talent and best effort, I wasted one well-placed set after another until I was gassed.
The few I put in play, Mau stuffed right back at me with ease.
It was the embarrassing experience I had expected but also enlightening. I've become quite a fan of volleyball's explosive coordination since I began covering the sport in college, and Mau has been a joy to watch these past three years since I arrived at the Longmont Times-Call in winter of 2010.
I saw it up close. It was fun. I'll take that ice now, coach Stetson.
Follow Brad on Twitter at twitter.com/BradCochi