ALLENDALE, Mich. -- Sophomore Abbi O’Neal's father suddenly passed away in August from a battle with multiple sclerosis, and response from the lacrosse team at Grand Valley State is something Abbi will never forget.
“It’s kind of one of those things where words can’t really describe how it’s felt for me and my family. I would not have been able to get through any of this or continue to get through it without them by my side," Abbi smiled. "I am just so overwhelmed with love and just happiness that it’s really been the perfect – not the perfect circumstance, but I’ve been surrounded by the perfect people to handle the circumstance.”
Coach Alicia Groveston was impressed by the way the team has continued to support Abbi. “To watch the team truly lift her up and keep her going, I’ve never been more proud," she said. "I think when you do have something like this occur you either rise to the occasion or you fall short and I can only say that our kids have risen to the occasion."
The team raised nearly $4,500 at their MS Awareness game on April 20 against Northern Michigan.
“It’s been really awesome to have all the girls support the cause of MS and celebrate the lives of people with it," Abbi said. "It’s awesome to have a game celebrating my grandma and everything that she has gone through and her life and her battle, and it was awesome to battle it out on the field.”
And while you never really want tragedy to define your season, Coach Groveston said it has made all the team's success on the field even more special this year.
"It’s bigger than the 35 of us out on the field," Abbi added. "It’s bigger than the coaches. It’s bigger than anything. It’s kinda cheesy, but I do believe that my dad is looking down us. You feel that in the locker room. You feel that after a game, after a win. I’ve had teammates come up to me, and they’re like, 'I know your dad was there today. I felt it.'”
GVSU clinched their sixth straight regular season championship last weekend and opens GLIAC Tournament play Friday at 4 p.m.