North Texas Daily

Volleyball team honors late mother of teammate

Volleyball team honors late mother of teammate

Volleyball team honors late mother of teammate
October 15
23:54 2014

Akshay Mirchandani / Sports Editor 

It’s Oct. 3 and the middle of the Mean Green volleyball team’s match against Louisiana Tech University. In the second set, junior outside hitter Carnae Dillard notices something strange. Her teammate and best friend, senior setter Camille Cherry, is pulled from the game.

Dillard, still playing, is trying to figure out what happened. She thinks maybe Cherry got in trouble. But then, Dillard sees the look on Cherry’s face and knows something is very wrong.

The Mean Green won. But that didn’t matter, because after the game the team was told that Cherry’s mother died in a car accident.

“We held hands, we prayed about it and were like, ‘God is in control,’” Dillard said. “We came out in the third set, I think it was 25-9, and then we found out the news. It was just horrific.”

Cherry’s mother, Tina Reese, was on her way to the game with Dillard’s mother on U.S. Highway 377 when a car in front of them ran over a piece of metal on the road, causing it to fly through the windshield of Reese’s car. The debris struck Reese in the head, killing her. Dillard’s mother was able to take control of the vehicle and steer it to safety.

“We saw them tell [Cherry] and her just run out of the gym,” sophomore setter Amy Henard said. “We just knew then that something was really wrong.”

This isn’t the first close family member that Cherry has lost in a car accident. In 2011, Cherry’s brother, TJ, died when a drunk driver hit the car he was in. TJ was 10 years old at the time.

“I don’t know if I could have handled something like that,” head coach Andrew Palileo said. “I know she’s handled both those situations very strong and has handled it very well.”

Since Reese’s death, the team has rallied around Cherry and her family to provide support. For the following game against Marshall University on Oct. 10, fans were asked to wear purple, Reese’s favorite color, in honor of Reese.

16_cherry_web2

Senior setter and team captain Camille Cherry sets the ball during a game against Louisiana Tech University. The team won 3-0.

“She already lost her brother, and we knew that all she had left was her mom,” Dillard said. “It was huge. We’re really close. She’s my best friend. I knew I had to be her support in that moment.”

The team has also started #CamStrong on Twitter, and made shirts in support of Cherry and her family. The shirts are green and say “#CamStrong” on them, and also show the names of both Reese and TJ on the front.

“We’re just trying to make sure that we’re there for her,” Palileo said. “And our focus for our coaching staff and a lot of the players is that we want to be there, not just now when she’s going through it, but two or three months down the road, or four months down the road that she knows that she still has our support.”

Cherry’s teammates aren’t the only ones offering their support and condolences. The team played the University of Southern Mississippi  and Western Kentucky University this past weekend, and both opponents wore purple in honor of Reese.

“Even though we’re competing against these people, you can kind of look over the net and be like, ‘They’re supporting me even though we’re competing at the net,’” Dillard said. “Western gave a moment of silence. I think Cami really appreciated it, and I think her mom loves it and she’s smiling down at us.”

Cherry was not available for comment, but Palileo said Cherry has handled the past few days well.

Henard said that she and the rest of the team have learned from this situation.

“It’s just really bonded us and kind of showed us really why we’re here and what we’re playing for and different things like that,” Henard said. “We’re playing for something bigger than ourselves, and it really showed us. We’ve always said that before, but it really became evident after the situation happened.”

Cherry did not play in the Marshall match following her mother’s death, but did play in both games this weekend. She recorded 37 assists against Western Kentucky on Sunday. Dillard said volleyball has been an escape for Cherry since the accident.

“Volleyball is her coping thing, and she can give her full energy into it,” Dillard said. “On Sunday she was the speaker box of the team. She was energetic and got everyone on her back. So I just think she’s amazing for doing that, after everything that she’s gone through.”

The funeral for Reese was yesterday in Arlington, and although it is now in the past, the team will continue to dedicate this season to Cherry and Reese.

“Nothing has changed as far as what we want to do,” Palileo said. “But now we have a single focus of why we’re doing it.”

Featured Image: Senior setter Camille Cherry (17) and the Mean Green volleyball team shake hands with players on the Louisiana Tech volleyball team. Photos by Caitlyn Jones – Features Editor

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