CROWN POINT | On senior night, as players were celebrating their careers and their accomplishments, the Crown Point girls volleyball team was missing a player.
Stuck in a hospital bed, having just had her appendix removed, the remaining two Class of 2013 players found a way to connect with Sloane Alexander on cell phone FaceTime. She walked across the gym with her teammates to a cheering ovation from the crowd.
"There wasn't a dry eye in the place," Bulldogs coach Alison Duncan said. "That shows how much they really do care about each other, not just one senior group, but the entire varsity team."
"We wanted her to be here so much," senior Taylor Equihua said. "After we walked her out, we were sitting with her on the phone, making sure she was OK. That was probably the hardest part."
Alexander said she was begging a release from the hospital. She couldn't imagine missing her last game in the C.P. gym just because she had spiked a fever hours before her release time.
"They said, 'Sorry, you can't leave,' and I just broke down," Alexander said from the comfort of her home recovery. "I wanted to be there with my team."
Alexander is just the latest turn of injury for the Bulldogs seniors. There hasn't yet been a long stretch this season that all have been healthy and available.
Emma Odgen missed most of the summer with her third concussion. She was cleared to play as tryouts began. Equihua tore cartilage in her knee in a game against Chesterton on Aug. 30 and spent 5 1/2 weeks on the bench. She was cleared to play for the game last week that Alexander was rushed to the hospital, where doctors found a cyst on her appendix.
"Sometimes, when you're on the bench, you see things differently than when you're on the court," Odgen said.
"You have different perspectives, you have your player-coach on the bench and the leader on the court," Equihua said.
"When one was out, we pulled together," Alexander said. "Each of us learned to play a different role, and we came together and overcame a lot. We were very positive."
This was certainly not the path these seniors had planned. Coming off of a junior year in which C.P. finished second in the Duneland Athletic Conference, the trio was planning to show that the loss of the four to graduation didn't deter those same goals.
Then, it was as if the season were built on an ancient burial ground, with one odd injury followed by the next.
"They have definitely focused on impacting the team in other ways," Duncan said. "When the sport is taken away for a chunk of time, you have to learn to step back and think about what's important. They all have had that at one point or another. They took that to heart and focused on their relationships."
"You can't take anything for granted," Odgen said. "Whether you are able or not, you have be there for your team and do everything that you can for them."
They've already started a tradition that has nothing to do with volleyball. Equihua, Alexander and Odgen insisted the team start the year with a bonding sleepover at Camp Tecumseh in Brookston, near Lafayette.
All that learning helped the seniors chart a new map to follow.
"We get into situations on the court where we see the challenges that we've already overcome," Equihua said. "We can remember how we conquered something at camp, and say 'Look, we can do this.'"
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.