One coaches reflection of the “Orange Out” game.
The following is an article written by Grace’s track and field/cross country coach Jeff Raymond after attending the “Orange Out” volleyball game vs. Huntington — the volleyball team’s first game since the tragic passing of freshman teammate Mallori Kastner:
During a break in the action near the end of the Grace College volleyball match on this evening, the song “Living on a Prayer” was blasting over the loudspeakers, causing many of the fans in attendance – and even a few players – to sing along. Little did Bon Jovi know when the band released the song in 1986 that the title would be so appropriate for the Lancer volleyball squad nearly 25 years later.
For the past week, living on a prayer was exactly what this team of young women had been doing. It was only last weekend that they received the news of the death of one of their teammates, Mallori Kastner. I’m sure there was shock, disbelief, sadness and many forms of the question, “Why?” There were more emotions than any group of 18-22 year olds normally experience. Athletes sometimes lose teammates to injuries or illness, but you’re not supposed to lose one to a freak accident that ends a life in its prime.
The days following the news were filled with visits to the funeral home, a funeral service and a memorial service on campus. Classes were missed. Games were canceled. There were more tears than practice time. Then came Friday and the chance to return to something approaching normal.
But the atmosphere was anything but normal as the team warmed up for its first match in over a week. For one, the normally red clad home crowd was coming in wearing orange, a tribute to Mallori and her favorite color. And the crowd, which would normally number maybe 150 on a Friday evening, kept coming and kept cheering. Many of the approximately 1,000 in attendance stood for the entire match. There were hundreds of students, plus administrators, faculty and staff.
Could this volleyball match really be honoring to Mallori and serve as a healing agent for this team and campus? Absolutely! Psychologists could probably provide all kinds of explanations for why a group of diverse people can come together to form a cohesive unit or why a campus or community can come together to support a team. On this night the explanation – at least for me – was very simple. It can be summed up in one word: Love.
Most of all it was love for Jesus Christ and the shared belief that in spite of all of life’s trials, He is the one avenue that leads to true comfort and hope. It was also the love that develops through shared experiences. In this instance it was love for a teammate, friend, classmate, or simply a person who happened to be a member of the Grace community.
There was a volleyball game played tonight, but I believe healing took place. Healing happened to a group of young women and a coaching staff that had been through a heart-wrenching week. The healing is certainly not complete and things won’t be back to normal anytime soon. There are sure to be more tears, more sadness and more swings in emotion. This team is learning, however, that God’s love will abound in much greater quantities than sadness.
Grace happened to win the match. In fact, the team played very well, despite the toll taken from the long week. The real winners, though, were the power of love, the power of community and, yes, the power of prayer.