Harvey-Displaced Volleyball Team Thriving

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Corpus Christi Caller-Times


REFUGIO — One year after Hurricane Harvey, Tracelyn Ross remembers the shock of returning to her hometown to see the destruction of her home and school.

After evacuating to Goliad before the storm hit, Ross's family received messages saying the new addition to their home had brought down the rest of the structure, leaving only her room standing.

"Coming home to see that and how bad the school was and then realizing we didn't have a gym was mind-blowing," Ross said.

As the volleyball season reaches the later stages, Refugio has not played in its home gym all season and is undefeated in District 28-2A play heading into Tuesday's matches.

The high school's competition and practice gyms are waiting on repair and are considered condemned with floors warped nearly waist-high, according to coach Selina Hemphill. Despite talks of a temporary gym, plans never came through, leaving the team to start the season practicing on the tennis courts.

Although the team practices in Refugio's elementary school, it also shares Taft's full-size gym once a week. Taft's gym was repaired this summer after damage sustained during Harvey.

"Taft shares the gym with us, they'll be on one side and we'll be on the other," Hemphill said. "We just try to practice our hitting skills and hone the depth perception because there are no lines here."

The low-ceilings and lack of lines in the elementary school gym make practicing difficult for the team, but remain optimistic and continue to work.

"We try not to think about it when we don't have a large gym, we just try to focus on when we do have a gym," Ross said. "The time that we do have a gym we take it seriously because we know we're limited in gym space and time."

As for home games, Refugio plays at Taft, who has made the team feel as if they really are home, Ross said.

"Our first home game over there they put up posters for us and everything," Hemphill said. "They've been very sweet and kind."

Senior captain Heather Wineman, who lost part of her home in Harvey, believes not having a gym has made the group work much harder.

"We work a lot harder now," Wineman said. "We want to show everyone that just because we don't have a gym doesn't mean we're not good."

Although many of the players were affected by Harvey, Maycee Wright, who also lost her home in Harvey, says her team's attitude and work ethic were unaffected.

"It affected us, but not really," Wright said. "We still work hard, we still practice and stick together as a team. This has helped us practice harder and work better together during games."

Wright said the adversity shared after Harvey strengthened the team and its focus.

"I think we get along together as a team, but after Harvey our relationship really got stronger," Wright said. "Harvey was eye-opening for us and I think that's when we realized how hard we were going to have to snap back."

Hemphill believes the team's strong bond is a key factor in the their success.

And Ross said knowing the team doesn't have a gym has only made it's bond stronger.

"Coming to practice and realizing we have targets on our backs helps us work harder every single day," Ross said. "We've really grown and matured as a team, and now that we're on a streak it's even better."

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October 9, 2018


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