By Luke Severt
For the Troy Daily News
TROY — They stood, together, in a beautiful yet heartbreaking showing of unity and compassion, exemplary to the motif that the power of sports far transcends who is victorious and who was defeated.
They stood, together, the Troy Christian and Jackson Center volleyball teams, in a circle of prayer after the 12-seeded Eagles’ season had been ended just moments before, as they fell in three sets to the Tigers, the No. 1 seed of the tournament, in the sectional title match on Wednesday night at Troy’s Trojan Activities Center. Yet, in the moment, nobody seemed to care.
They stood, together, and as the Tigers had dispersed from the group, their head coach, Kim Metz, remained with the Eagles. She made her way to the center of the circle, as each member of the Troy Christian team and staff placed a loving hand on her, bowed their heads and prayed. Through tears, they asked “for a miracle, for the doctors to figure out what’s going on, so we can treat it and beat it,” according to first-year Eagles head coach Joshua Thomas.
“We found out about two or three weeks ago that Kim — who is the head of our district when it comes to all of the coaches and oversees all the teams — was diagnosed with breast cancer,” Thomas said. “The whole team, we went out literally today and bought these pink socks, and we all wore a little bit of pink today just because of her.”
Thomas has a vision for the future of the Troy Christian volleyball program, to “create a new culture,” and he believes that despite their loss on Tuesday, their performance in the postseason shows that each member of the program, from the freshmen to the seniors, has bought into his philosophy.
“We’ve really created a family culture, and that’s what I’m biggest on,” Thomas said. “Making sure that at the end of the day, if someone breaks their leg or tears their rotator cuff, that we’re still gonna be a family outside of the volleyball court. That, to me, is probably what the most important part of our vision is. Are we still going to be there for each other when stuff’s going crazy and we have nowhere else to turn?”
As for the match itself, the Eagles never had much of a chance. Jackson Center, which sits at 22-3 and has not lost since Sept. 18, simply overpowered the Eagles, winning in straight sets by scores of 25-14, 25-10 and 25-8. The Tigers will be advancing to play Miami Valley Christian Academy in the district title match on Saturday.
Despite the loss, Thomas was far from disappointed.
“We knew coming into this game that it was going to be pretty hard playing against the No. 1 seed,” he said. “But man, the level of grit and tenacity this team has showed, just being relentless all the time. We played a really good team today, and that’s volleyball that we’re really not used to playing all the time, but I’m very proud of the way they ended the season.”
In the end, the Eagles finished the season with a record of 14-10 and had one of the most successful seasons in the school’s history. On Saturday, they defeated Emmanuel Christian in five sets to advance to Wednesday night’s match. The victory was the first postseason win in the history of Troy Christian volleyball, and it came against a team that had defeated them twice in the regular season.
“There’s been crazy developmental growth just from the start of the season,” Thomas said. “Navigating postseason is something we were never really used to, but finding out what that looks like for us and the program, and how we prepare now, it’s going to be totally different. We actually dropped both of our games to Emmanuel during the season, and this year we ended up beating them in five to come to round three of the tournament. That was a huge win, not just for tournament’s sake but for our program’s sake, knowing that we’re able to overcome a lot of the adversity we have faced throughout the season.”
It was the last match in a Troy Christian uniform for seniors Jalyn Forrer, who eclipsed the 100-kill milestone this season, libero Allison Winger, who finished second in the Metro Buckeye Conference for aces and had three of them on Wednesday, and middle back Nicole Seagraves.
Thomas said that he has constantly told his seniors that if they aren’t learning, they aren’t growing. “For them, it’s really to just keep living life and keep pushing after what they’re called to do,” he said.
They stood, together, after their season had ended, the prayers were done and the gym was mostly empty.
They stood, together, one last time.
“The whole family culture, that doesn’t happen with a team that just plays together on a court and then leaves the gym, and that’s it,” Thomas said. “We’re a team that knows the value of everyday life, and we know that there’s more to life than just volleyball.”