San Antonio – Breast cancer has impacted countless lives, Gary Payne among them.
The St. Mary’s University assistant volleyball coach lost his aunt, Carolyn Jensen, to cancer back in July. The Denver native had survived breast cancer, only to have her life taken in her early 60s by lung, throat and stomach cancer.
So suffice it to say Tuesday’s “Dig Pink” match against the University of the Incarnate Word, a 3-1 victory for the Rattlers, meant more than the typical rivalry game to Payne and plenty of others in attendance at Bill Greehey Arena.
“It means a lot; it’s something that happened to somebody in my family,” said Payne of the “Dig Pink” event, which raised breast cancer awareness. “Some people don’t understand it as much because they haven’t had to go through it, but it affects a lot of people.”
The Rattlers had raffles before and during the match, and are in the midst of conducting an auction for the pink jerseys won by the players – the proceeds of which will benefit The Side-Out Foundation.
“It was a really special night,” said senior setter Kori McCarver, a San Antonio native. “My heart goes out to all those people who have been affected by breast cancer and to all those people who continue to suffer.”
While trivial compared to life’s greater challenges, that the Rattlers were able to win so impressively only made the night that much more memorable.
St. Mary’s (7-13 overall) won the first two sets 26-24 and 25-23 before falling 18-25 in the third game. But the Rattlers didn’t flinch, fighting off UIW 25-22 in the fourth set.
St. Mary’s recorded 106 digs over the match, the third-most ever recorded by the program in a four-game match. Stephanie Flores (Jr., San Antonio) led the way with 31, while Allie Murray (So., San Antonio) added 26. Three other players posted double-figure digs, with McCarver recorded 14 and Kate Kershner (Sr., San Antonio) and Karlie Ortega (Fr., San Antonio) notching 13 apiece.
McCarver posted a game-high 44 assists, while Ortega led all players with 16 kills. Mallory Moeller (Jr., Geronimo, Texas) posted 15 kills, while Kirsten Chapman (Jr., Jourdanton, Texas) added 10.
Stephanie Proske (Jr., LaGrange, Texas) added three block assists.
Afterward, the players huddled around a scorer’s table and signed autographs for some of the numerous children in attendance.
Sure, everyone was amped about it being a rivalry match – but there was no doubting the Rattlers’ true sense of inspiration on this night.
“You think about if there is anyone here with breast cancer, and you want them to see us fighting,” McCarver said. “Obviously, their fight is on a much bigger level.”