Tuesday, April 02, 2013 8:00 PM
Erskine College's Anna Dailey tries to focus on Friday's lacrosse match.
"We'll treat it like any other game, just come out and do our best and try to get better," she said.
But Friday's 5 p.m. match against Saint Leo - the first at home since the program's first coach, Kristie Quigley, and her unborn son were killed in a bus accident last month - is much more than that.
For a 13-player roster, many of whom Quigley recruited before leaving to be Seton Hill's coach in 2011, Friday is another step toward some sort of normalcy.Some sort of diversion from heartbreak.
Some sort of moving on.
You hear it a lot when a loved one, or someone close to you dies: Carry on. That's what he/she would want you to do.
And, of course, that's much easier said than done.
On March 16, not long after pulling out a hard-fought, 13-11 victory at Lees-McRae, the Fleet were notified Quigley and her unborn baby, along with the bus driver, were dead.
"I was just in complete shock," Dailey said. "It was just hard to believe that somebody you used to see every day was just gone. It was just really hard; we had won that day. And then to hear that (Quigley) was dead, it was just devastating."
Quigley was 30, and six months pregnant, leaving behind a husband and young son.
Her replacement, Bob Dachille, had heard of the bus crash that morning, but had not heard of Quigley's fate.
"At the time, (reports) just said the bus driver died," Dachille said. "But there was a parent walking toward me after our game, and from the look I got, I kind of knew that (Quigley) had died, too."
A coach wears many hats, building "student" discipline, as well as that of "athlete."
But having to face 13 devastated players after telling them of the news, Dachille was rendered helpless.
"I just remember there were just so many emotions," Dachille said. "I've never been part of anything where there were so many emotions, and I was powerless to really do anything."
The day after Quigley's death, the Fleet worked through an already scheduled fund-raiser at a local fast-food restaurant, hoping to boost the mood.
But toward the end of the day, the emotions began to surface.
"My thoughts that entire weekend was, 'How do we recover from this and get the morale back up?'" Dachille said. "Here I am trying to help us heal and try to bring some sort of positivity in a really awful situation."
Quigley had lived her dream. A native from the lacrosse-laden state of Maryland, she craved to remain involved in the game. Not long after graduating Duquesne, she heard of a job opening at Erskine, a college located in South Carolina where lacrosse is not an official high school sport.
Obviously, there were to be challenges for Quigley. But ever the optimist, she presented Erskine athletic director Mark Peeler her notebook filled with ideas on how to build the Fleet's program.
During two winless seasons, she still pushed ahead until the program won its first match in February 2011. After seizing upon a chance to move closer to home, she accepted a job at Seton Hill, near Pittsburgh after that season.
But the players who were the foundation of Quigley's program never forgot her.
One way or another, players were going to pay their final respects to Quigley. There was one issue, though.
Erskine was scheduled to host a Pennsylvania school, Kutztown, on March 21, the same day Quigley's wake was scheduled. So, with cooperation from Kutztown and Limestone College, it was arranged the two schools could play March 20 on Limestone's campus. That way, after the game, the team could make it to the Feb. 21 viewing and Feb. 22 funeral in Maryland.
"Everybody made the accommodations within an hour," Dachille said. "It was incredible."
The March 20 game presented challenges in almost every area. Not only were the Fleet dealing with the loss of the program's founder, they were playing a team to which it lost 19-4 in 2012.
In this year's game, Erskine tried the best it could to simply focus. But, according to Dachille, Erskine committed an own goal.
"It was the second goal of the game, and she was just in tears," Dachille said. "We were just trying to keep it together."
From that point on, Dachille has stressed one mantra to his players: "Win the day."
It's Dachille's way of stressing to his players it's time to move on. Quigley would not want it any other way.
"Let's maximize the fun we're having. Give it everything you have in the classroom, on the practice field, and in the matches," he said.
"We're not only going to get through it, but we're going to get the best out of ourselves."
Chancey is sports editor at the Index-Journal. Contact him at 223-1813; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @IJSCOTTCHANCEY . Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.