For Estancia junior setter Molli Garcia, emotions ran high last week when the Bears volleyball program faced rival Santa Rosa in the annual Dig Pink match.

At Estancia in between the junior varsity and varsity matches, players honored their loved ones who have been besieged by cancer.

For Garcia, that meant walking out on the court with her grandmother, Mary Garcia, who successfully beat cancer years ago.

“It was really emotional,” she said. “My grandmother battled with cancer. She thankfully beat it. But it’s super emotional. We’re showing those who have fought and are still fighting and those who have won the battle against it how important they are to us. I’m so thankful she’s still here with me. And I’m thankful that she had the strength to beat this awful disease that comes in many awful ways.”

The event is an important one for the community, Garcia added.

“We do that every year,” she said. “It’s an annual thing to honor people who passed, are fighting it and have beaten it. It’s a good time for our community to come together and show how much we support each other and have each others backs and that you’re not alone in the fight.”

Most of the volleyball programs around the state do some kind of similar Dig Pink event in October in recognition of Breast Cancer awareness month.

But Estancia coach Alicia Pope said she felt it was important to take it a step further.

“We didn’t used to walk our people out,” she said. “That just started three years ago when I started. Every girl brings a person with them, or carries a picture, or does some kind of memorial for somebody they know,” she said. “We try to make sure that the people that we’re honoring that they truly feel honored, that people that we have lost, that people know how much they mean to us.”

And these days that is particularly important as the community continues its recovery from the pandemic and its aftermath.

“Since COVID, people haven’t really been connected with a whole lot and this just really gets them to connect with their loved ones even more,” Pope said. “I feel like it makes them understand the importance of other people who we lost or the people who are struggling and how we can help them. We want to raise people who are compassionate and contribute to society.”

Taking the court following the ceremony gave the players a bit of a lift in an important, non-district match that could have long-term playoff ramifications.

“That’s your reason to play that game that night,” Garcia said. “You play for all those that we honor at Dig Pink.”

In a tough, tight match, the Bears took a 3-2 win by a 25-18, 12-25, 25-17, 24-26, 16-14 score.

And even more importantly, the event raised more than $2,000 to help local cancer battlers, Pope said.

That is an ongoing effort and those who would like to contribute can do so by contacting Pope or Estancia athletic Stewart Burnett through the school.

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