One of the first signs that made me realize the end of my Rice journey was coming near was when I glanced over the roster prior to the season opener and noticed Jenny, Ruthie, and Mia, all players I have known and grown to love since freshman year, were designated as seniors. I got to know Jaz and Maddie later on in my Rice career but all in all, things got real that day and became even more apparent on Sunday when I attended both the Rice Soccer final home game and the annual Rice Baseball RBI Dinner.
With another convincing win over talented C-USA opponent, the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, Sunday got off to a pretty phenomenal start. The girls extended the team’s winning streak to six games, and the team played the best match I have seen them play all season. After the game, I went down to the field not to collect postgame quotes like I usually do but rather to thank Coach Adams for working with me on interviews for roughly 3 years and to be on the same level with that tight knit group of soccer girls. It was definitely was a special send off for not just the five seniors but for myself as well.
Following this match, I attended the annual Rice Baseball Insider (RBI) Awards Banquet hosted every fall by the Rice baseball team. At this event, the team acknowledges and recognizes the generous donors that give back to the program, while the coaching staff recognizes the new year’s squad and the high hopes for the new season. Now my fourth year attending the dinner, things felt a little more special as well.
One of my favorite parts of this event is seeing former players return to Reckling Park to take part in the celebration. A couple awards are then handed out, including the Chris Kolkhorst award, given to the player on the team who embodies the most grit and passion on the diamond. This year’s Kolkhorst award went to Blake Fox, an amazing man and teammate who anchored the Rice pitching staff for four years. Fox competed with all he had every single time he took the field but his outstanding contributions to Rice baseball is not all that defines him.
In addition to his on-the-field success, Blake did things the right way off the field. He earned his good reputation with his coaches, peers, and teammates by being a man of character and hard-work.
Over my four years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many people like Blake, despite his tag as being an athlete. One thing I’ve learned is that Rice has some pretty inspiring and notable athletes. Athletes that surely care about what they can leave Rice with and how they will be remembered come graduation. I’ll refer back to one of the first athletes I ever met a Rice, Jenny. Jenny has been a leader for four years both in her style of play and in her interactions with her teammates off the field. In what could potentially be the last postgame interview I ever conduct with her, she said she hopes her time at Rice has meant something, a feeling that I can relate to during my own four years.
“Every second playing here has been worth it, so in the end I’ll always look back and remember the good times,” Fichera said. “I love this team and I’m so happy to go out on this note with these girls.”
Fichera hit something key there. It’s important to make our time at Rice be something of “worth.” I get a good feeling our athletes at Rice truly understand this. While we are here primarily to receive an education, perhaps we should look at what we can do now that betters not just our own future lives but the lives of those around us. I have had the honor of meeting multiple athletes who could be classified under that criteria. They have added worth to my lives and I can only hope that I have done them half of the service that many have done unto me.