Reminder Assistant Editor
LONGMEADOW The defending Western Mass girls' volleyball champions fight a battle on the court with every opponent they face. This year, they're also helping in the fight against cancer.
This summer, the girls' volleyball team from Longmeadow High School, including coach George Mulry, came together to begin practices for the fall 2009 season and, at the same time, came together to establish Spike It For Life, a community service project. "It is a unique collection of independently run volleyball events in Western Massachusetts designed to raise money for various cancer research programs and supporting services," according to the project's Web site.
Soon after it started, the five other schools joined Longmeadow: Frontier Regional, Mahar Regional, West Springfield, East Longmeadow and Turners Falls high schools. Each school will take part in an event to benefit cancer research.
The Sept. 24 match between Frontier and Turners Falls raised $2,000.
"There is a national rally called Dig Pink [which is run by the Side-Out Foundation], but that's only for breast cancer and there's no telling where [in the country] the money raised from that goes," Mulry said. "We wanted to do our own thing and cover all cancers."
This week, Longmeadow's ladies will be hosting both West Springfield and East Longmeadow in volleyball matches that will raise funds for the Baystate Regional Cancer Program. On Oct. 14 starting at 5:30 p.m., Longmeadow will take on West Springfield in the only match of the two schools this season, and on Oct. 15 at 5:30 p.m. there will be a "Battle of the Border" as LHS takes on their rivals from ELHS. Mulry said the former event will be more low-key; the latter will be the big event.
Longmeadow is asking fans to pack the stands with pink during their match with East Longmeadow to show support for their cause. A raffle, giveaways and other events will take place to get the fans involved.
Outside hitter Anna McGann, a junior at LHS, said the project and the games are really important because everyone's gone through tough things, like cancer, in their lives.
"The money is being gathered for a good cause, and it gets the volleyball name out," she said. McGann continued that breast cancer awareness is a big deal for the team this year, but even though they will be dressed from head to toe in pink for their matches, the team wants to fight all forms of cancer.
"It just makes sense to support the fight against breast cancer in October, which is breast cancer awareness month," Mulry stated.
Mulry said he talks about health and all other life issues with the girls he coaches. He said he and his team are lucky that nothing as serious and life-altering as cancer has affected anyone close to them.
"Cancer touches everybody in some way or another," he said. "Doing this touches a whole community. [Spike It For Life] is taking off more than we thought. We've been getting a lot of support."
And, even though the team is hoping for a three-peat of Western Mass championships, "it's not always about winning in a sport," McGann said. "It's about supporting others."
Admission to both games is free.
For more information on the Longmeadow girls volleyball team and Spike It For Life, visit www.spikeitforlife.org.
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