Feb. 14—MONROEVILLE — The “forever” feeling hit home.
When the Monroeville High School volleyball team was recognized at halftime of a Feb. 10 boys basketball game, it was one last time to pay tribute to the team that made an impressive run to a Division IV state semifinal three months earlier.
The players received patches for lettermen jackets to note the regional championship, and a banner was also unveiled that now hangs in the gym alongside two others from 2015 and 2019.
“This time it was a different feel with it being completely unexpected from the beginning of the season,” Monroeville head coach Kendra Snook said of the 2021 Eagles.
The Eagles went 18-5 in the regular season, including a 12-2 mark in the Firelands Conference. In the district round, Monroeville forged stunning three-game sweeps over St. Paul and Buckeye Central to return to the regionals.
Monroeville then swept Dalton and beat Wellsville in four sets in Strongsville to return to the state semifinals for a third time in seven years, where it fell in four to St. Henry at Wright State University near Dayton.
The 23-win season was one of many emotions, however. Senior Delaney Giles died on Sept. 17 after health complications from a July 2 car crash. Giles had been released from the hospital and returned to school, and had been named homecoming queen the week before she died.
“You almost feel guilty celebrating a season that had such a huge loss with the passing of Delaney,” Snook said. “However, we know she was and always will be with us.”
To further drive that point home, Snook had a purple butterfly also sewn onto the banner. The image became a rallying point for the team, including on their pre-match warmup shirts.
The catch, however, was the players didn’t know the butterfly was on the banner until it was revealed at the end of the ceremony.
“The purple butterfly on this banner will always remind us that Delaney may be gone but never forgotten,” Snook said. “The team was completely surprised that their banner and patch had a purple butterfly on it, and it was an extremely emotional moment when it was unveiled.
“I thought it was only appropriate to make sure that when ordering and designing this banner, Delaney would be represented as she was with us this entire season.”
While noting that any team that reaches the state level and gets permanent recognition in the home gym is special, Snook said the 2021 version will always have a unique view.
“These girls and this team will always hold a special place in my heart, as they had to deal with so much adversity,” Snook said. “They truly came together to lean on and support one another, not only on the court, but off the court as well.”