Liz Ray was feeling a lot better about things at Wednesday's Pink Out volleyball game between Sandhills Community College and Central Carolina CC than she was a year ago when she was battling cancer.
The Lady Flyers swept a short-handed Cougar squad 25-12, 25-7 and 25-11 before a large pink bedecked crowd at Heins Gymnasium to improve to 20-4 overall and 8-0 in Region X. The visitors dropped to 2-12 and 0-6.
The volleyball team has held a Breast Cancer Awareness Month fundraiser for about seven years. Until last year, when Coach Alicia Riggan and athletic director Aaron Denton saw an opportunity to support a local family, the funds were raised in behalf of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
"With all of the players we have from local high schools it seemed to make sense to go in that direction," the coach said. "We're so thankful that Liz is in remission right now."
Ray is an 11th grader at North Moore High School. She is the daughter of Jerome and Amber Taylor, and has a brother, John and a sister Lily. She was not feeling well enough to attend the team's Dig Pink Day last year.
"It feels really good," she said after Wednesday's match. "A year ago it seemed like this moment was so far away. I'm doing a lot better and I'm just really happy about it. Everyone's support is what got me through it."
Over $3,000 was raised through the sale of T-shirts, luminaries and direct donations last year setting a high bar that Riggan hopes will be exceeded this time around. When she approached Ray's parents about helping out with the continuing medical expenses again this year, Amber Taylor made a request. She asked that the money be used to support an initiative begun by her daughter called "Love by Liz".
It involves putting together kits that contain such things as make-up, scarfs, false eyelashes and fingernail polish for young cancer patients at Duke Children's Hospital. Liz Ray hopes to deliver the first ones this weekend or next.
"The reason I chose that was because when I lost my hair and eyelashes I was really insecure about it," she said. "Having false eyelashes helped me and I thought it could help other people."
Including Riggan, and assistant coaches Jacob Marley and Cheyenne Brown, freshman Jordan Ward is one of eight North Moore High School graduates on the team.
"Liz is such an inspiration to everyone she meets," Ward said. "Her personality lights up any room. She's just a really awesome person."
The large crowd and bright colors were more compelling than a match that began with the Flyers jumping out to a 19-2 lead in the first set against a team missing three key players. At the end, the most striking statistic was the team's 23 service aces, including eight by Brooke Sayers and seven by Abby Wallace.
"I thought our girls came out aggressively and it was a great opportunity to play everyone," Riggan said. "It helped build some confidence after a tough weekend and our loss last night (at Louisburg)."
The Flyers take a 13-0 record against Division III teams into Saturday's 1 p.m. home conference match against Rockingham CC (2-12 and 2-4). It will also be Sophomore Day at the Hangar.