My heart is heavy today. I’ve seen this day coming up on the calendar for quite some now and I’ve been dreading it. For a few months, I have tried to put into words all of my emotions and thoughts about this. It's been hard. Ultimately, I knew the best way to get it off my chest was to write about, and speak from the heart. Here we go.
Today marks one year since my friend Alysha Rentas died in a car accident. I started my college education at Lasell University (formally Lasell College) in Newton, Massachusetts. She played for the volleyball team. As an announcer, I tried my best to connect with the athletes I covered. I followed our women's volleyball team the most because they were the team I got my start with, and I grew to love the sport. Volleyball has since become my favorite sport to call.
I loved our team, and I loved getting to know the players. Alysha and I had a class together my second year and we hit it off. She didn’t play much but we had some great conversations and we got really close.
My junior year came and naturally I was excited for the season. I didn’t get to see them play as much due to other broadcasting commitments. It was a particularly hard fall for both of us. We were both struggling mentally and handling it in different ways. Alysha admitted to me she was isolating herself from everyone to deal with it.
I was the opposite. I wanted to help her even though I wasn’t able to help myself at the time. When she began distancing herself, my judgement was clouded and I took it personally. I made it about me. I ended up transferring at the end of the semester and didn’t talk to Alysha again.
At this time a year ago, I was scrolling up and down Facebook at night when something caught my eye. Alysha's best friend and teammate had shared something that said “love you bestie til we meet again” and I clicked on it. In that moment, I saw it was a GoFundMe page for funeral expenses. That's how I found out my friend was gone.
My mind started racing a million miles a minute. I was shocked, I couldn't think straight. I finally went to bed and cried. It took me months to process what had happened and I continued to get emotional every time I thought about her.
I remember when we saw each other in the dinning hall late on a Friday night after not speaking to each other for while. We just came towards each other and embraced. Her smaller frame wrapped around my waist and her head was on my chest. I don't remember anything we talked about, I just remember that moment. It was the only time we ever hugged and I often replay it in my head.
I remember the last time I saw her play the game she loved. She started the game but was subbed out after two sets. She didn’t come back in. That was the only time I saw her on the court playing. I remember the last conversation we had which ended with me asking if she wanted company since she was alone, and she opted to stay by herself.
The feeling I keep going back to is guilt. Guilt for not being there for my friend when she needed it most even if she didn’t want my help. Guilt for abandoning her, and letting her down. She was driving on the highway at 4:30 in the morning and was going the wrong way. She crashed into another car resulting in her death at 24 years old. The other driver was killed as well.
So many thoughts have swirled around my head about this. Was something in her system impairing her? Did her mental health get to a point where she didn’t want to live anymore, and was this her way of ending her life? If I stayed friends with her, could I have somehow prevented this from happening? The hardest part to accept is that I had multiple opportunities to reach out to her. I came close twice, but chose not to make contact.
Every game I announce since then has been dedicated to her. I sometimes forget with everything happening on game day, but I try to tap my my heart and hold up three fingers before the game starts. Sometimes when the game is slow and I can't get in a rhythm, something happens to snap me back into focus- and more often than not, I believe it's Alysha giving me a gift from above. I wanted to call volleyball games for her in the fall but didn't get the opportunity. Now my goal is to call volleyball games on the ACC Network as part of Syracuse University broadcasting opportunities. I need to do it for her.
There are so many parallels that I can’t help but notice. She wore number three and died on the third. The school colors were blue and white, and now I am living in an apartment on the third floor with a blue three. It took me some time to realize it, but I know in my heart that it's a sign. I can only hope to honor her memory in a way that makes her proud as I try to atone for my mistakes.
I miss you so much Alysha. I would give up anything to have one more conversation, say how sorry I am, and give you one more hug.