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Senior Essay: Miyoko Pettit

Unsure of whether I wanted to play Division I volleyball, I was a late recruit. I visited the East Coast for the first time at the beginning of February of my senior year of high school. From the moment I met the team, I knew I had found a new ‘ohana (family) miles away from mine in Hawai’i. I came to my first preseason in August 2007 knowing I was an underdog who would not have much playing time. I was just excited and thankful to have the opportunity to wear the Harvard shield during practices and matches.

STEPS. It took many STEPS (our team acronym for strength, trust, enthusiasm, perseverance, and spirit) to change this attitude and to acquire a new role on the team. Each step along the way was unique—each step up the stairs of the MAC, each stride in our sprint test known as “the terminator,” each step taken to make a big dig or save the ball for a big play. It may have taken many baby steps to reach the competitive level of play I finally achieved as a starter or a giant leap outside of my comfort zone to lead the team as a co-captain my last two years, but each step moved me forward. I learned that there is no looking back, no regrets, no excuses.

HOLD THE ROPE. Yet, I could not have moved forward had there not always been a teammate or coach to “hold the rope” for me. My Harvard volleyball teammates and coaches always pushed me to try harder or to persevere when I thought I should stop. They had faith that I was always doing my best and reminded me of the big picture when I got caught up in the details. Holding the rope, however, was not a one-way experience. Whether I was “volley chatting,” covering hitters who were swinging away at the block, making a perfect pass for a setter, or making sure my teammates were awake for a morning practice, there have been numerous occasions when I had the opportunity to “hold the rope” for my teammates. I have never trusted nor had so much confidence in any other group than Harvard volleyball. I have never met so many girls who give every ounce of themselves for the sake of the team. My teammates are not only my best friends, but they are my sisters. They know my weaknesses and my strengths, and have been part of my daily routine since the very first day.

WIN FOREVER. When I say that everything I have done during my time at Harvard has revolved around the spirit of Harvard volleyball, I mean that I have lived my life according to our team’s definition of “winning forever.” “Winning forever” means never being afraid that our best isn’t good enough. It means holding one another accountable and taking care of the little things. It is a reminder that the way you do one thing is the way you do everything. What is truly incredible about playing for Harvard as a student-athlete is that each of my teammates has made the choice to test her limits because she loves the game. In fact, I have never been part of any athletics program where the student-athletes sincerely and passionately choose to play their sport because they want to achieve excellence, not only on the court, on the field or in the pool, but also in the classroom and in life. They maximize every single opportunity. I know that every single Harvard athlete, every single competitor at the Senior Letterwinners’ Dinner, will continue to do so even after graduation.

For me, winning on the court has given me perspective about what it means to “win” off the court. From ending my first season in seventh place to battling through five, five-set matches for a respectable third-place finish my senior season, winning on Harvard volleyball has never been only about our overall record. Rather, the character of the journey to success has defined both my academic and athletic experiences at Harvard. Memories of late nights working on my senior thesis or a tough midterm pale in comparison to the hours of sweat and tears of one preseason in the sweltering hot MAC or the last few points of the fifth set against Yale in gym packed full of rowdy fans. Yet, all of those experiences define the “beat” of my time here and each step along the journey.

ONE BEAT. Looking back on my four years with Harvard volleyball, and after leading the team as a co-captain during my junior and senior years, I realized that the rhythm of my daily life has been in sync with the “one beat” of Harvard volleyball. The unity of the team around the love for our sport and the feeling of moving together like an amoeba or a well-oiled machine are exhilarating. When only six players are on the court vying for match point, there are nine others right alongside them pushing them to be bold, brave, and brilliant—to go for the hard angle shot, to play through nagging pains and injuries, and to outsmart our opponents when they least expect it. On no other team have I felt so connected to my teammates and to the overall vision of the program. Harvard Women’s Volleyball is one team, one family with one heart, one beat.

STEPS. HOLD THE ROPE. WIN FOREVER. ONE BEAT.  These are just a few of the key words and phrases that have defined my experience at Harvard, both on and off the court. They are phrases that my team has coined over the years. They have contributed to building character not only for me, but for several generations of volleyball players at Harvard. They will continue to guide my daily life and spark many great memories of my time here at Harvard. Harvard volleyball, AWWW YEAH, thank you for a wonderful four years and for a life’s worth of memories, knowledge, and wisdom.