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Mustangs think pink for reasons other than fashion

Isabella volleyball coach Glen Graham isn’t too keen on letting his players alter their uniforms. When you’re 24-6, ranked No. 8 in Class 2A and going into a county tournament that means a lot to players, coaches and fans, changing anything seems like a bad idea.

But when the Mustangs on Oct. 6 asked Graham if they could wear pink socks and pink ribbons for the tournament, the coach agreed without hesitation.

The idea was too good to turn down: Pink is the color used to promote breast cancer awareness, the month of October is set aside nationally for the cause, and the mother of an Isabella player had been struggling with the affliction.

“I thought that was something really classy to do,” said Graham, whose mother is a breast cancer survivor.

The recipient of the support, Julie Overby, didn’t know about the team’s intention until the morning of the county tournament. The plan was actually in danger because it took almost a week to find the socks desired. Team captain Krysta Tyler’s grandmother, Linda Phillips, finally found some white socks with pink splotches at a store in Hoover.

That would be a nice story, but it doesn’t end there. The talented Mustangs played perhaps their most inspired volleyball of the season and breezed through the competition to claim bragging rights away from rival Jemison for only the second time in the last six years.

Isabella played so well in the final game of the final match that, with a big lead, Graham had the chance to insert Sarah Swanner, Overby’s daughter. Swanner doesn’t play a whole lot, but she had a little extra motivation on this day.

From her back row position, the senior made a pass late in the game to Tyler, the team’s setter. Tyler’s job calls for her to put the ball in the air for one of the Isabella hitters, but this set came right back to Swanner, who hit the ball over the net for the first kill of her varsity volleyball career.

Swanner began to cry, but the Mustangs were still one point short of a win. “Everybody said, ‘That wasn’t the winning point,’ but I didn’t care,” Swanner said. One point later, the sobbing began in earnest as the team celebrated with Overby.

“We all squalled; it was great,” she said. “They are marvelous girls, inside and out.”

Overby was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 and underwent an 8-hour surgery, but the cancer returned. Instead of worrying about the future, the mother and her daughter are enjoying the ride provided by the Isabella volleyball team. “We’ve got much more to be thankful for than to be worried about,” Overby said.

The next stop is the regional tournament on Saturday at Ohatchee. Along the way, Overby and Swanner might just do something for the rest of the Mustangs. Maybe they’ll teach them a lesson.

“I think we’ll learn that it’s not just about volleyball,” Graham said.