TYLER, TX (KLTV) - East Texas Christian Academy has put some winning teams on the volley ball court in the past...But this season, expectations were as high as ever.
"I just felt like this was gonna be a really good year for us," remembers ETCA Senior Hannah Henderson.
For one thing, four seniors would lead this team. A big accomplishment for a school that has only 15 students in the entire senior class.
"We are constantly trying to tell each other how we can do better and we just really feel like," says Hannah, " I don't know, like a family."
In the halls of their the high school expectations grew with every game. 23 wins, undefeated in district, the ETCA girls were a favorite headed into the first round of the playoffs against Summit Christian Academy from Austin. It would also be the first playoff game, in their brand new home gym.
The competition was tougher than they thought.
The teams split the first two games. In game three...the score tied, in the heat of battle priorities changed in the flash of a moment. Its a little hard to see in the game film...but you can see senior setter Morgan Ashbreck goes diving for the ball.
Her teammates were the first to see that something was terribly wrong.
"I said, Morgan are you okay?," remembers Hannah, "and I bent down and patted her on the back and that's when she started having a seizure And so I was really close to it. I saw it first hand. And so it was really scary."
"I ran over to help her up and then she had a seizure...so. And then I was terrified. I just got completely scared." says Junior Jessie Mitchell.
Morgan's head had slammed onto the gym floor. Blood was beginning to pool beneath her head.
"The only thing any of us could think to do was to run over to the sideline and huddle together and pray.," says Hannah, "And that just brought comfort you know because we didn't know what to think or do and everything was out of our control. So praying was the only thing we had in our control that we could do."
As they waited for an ambulance to arrive, the teams went back to their locker rooms. Faced with the question, what to do next.
"And then we prayed," says Head Coach Diann Preston, " and then we talked about what we should do."
"And it was to play or it was to forfeit the game," remember Jessie, "and we love the game and we wanted to win dearly and just go on to state but we had a family member, a player, that was in dire need of our help. And to just be there with her and for her to feel our love. So we decided to forfeit the game and go to the hospital as a team."
When the team walked out together, what they saw astounded them all.
Parents, Austin's players and coaches all huddled together on the court in prayer.
"But the scene of it was just inspiring," says Coach Preston, "and it gave me peace. I think it was the first time that night I thought you know God is with us.
"The Holy Spirit had just filled the entire gym," remembers Jessie, "and just people who didn't even know each other, I mean they didn't even know their names they were in this huge huddle in the middle of the floor. And it was just completely silent. And it was calming and I've never experienced anything like that."
Austin Summit's coach would refuse to accept the forfeit. They would schedule to finish another day she said. The team and parents all headed to the hospital. Morgan suffered a concussion and stitches but she would be okay.
Today the gym is quite. Signs of a season that could have been still cover the gym's walls. The next week the ETMC girls, without Morgan, would end their year with a loss to the Austin team.
But what seemed so important just a few days earlier doesn't compare, say these girls, to the lessons learned through the power of prayer.
"I definitely think it was the power of prayer that kept me safe," says the now recovered Morgan Ashbreck. "Because it was pretty amazing how my injury turned out. And it was the power of prayer that kept me going and made me heal. And our team it just bonded us really closer in a more spiritual way. It actually brought our whole school together."
"We are competitive," says Coach Preston. "And winning a game is very important and we take it very important. But you know serving God together and worshiping Him together has been first. And one of the main things we talk about and pray for before the games is when we leave this gym we want everyone here to know we serve Christ.
And if you're all about winning and you miss the importance of things then you really haven't accomplished anything," says Hannah.
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