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ND Women’s Volleyball: Playing for a cure

Sam Werner | Wednesday, October 1, 2008

When Mallorie Croal takes the court for the Irish on Oct. 12, she’ll be taking on more than the Pittsburgh team on the other side of the net.

Croal and the rest of the Irish will be trying to spike breast cancer as they take part in the Susan G. Komen Dig for the Cure.

This is the second straight year Notre Dame will participate in the event, which includes 164 college and high school volleyball programs across the country and raises money for the Susan G. Komen For the Cure fund for breast cancer research. The group has said it hopes to raise over $250,000 from this year’s Dig for the Cure.

The event will have a special meaning for Croal, whose mother is a recent breast cancer survivor. After being diagnosed in Dec. 2006, Croal said her mother underwent two rounds of chemotherapy, followed by multiple surgeries and radiation treatment.

“It was about a full year of treatment,” Croal said. “But she’s doing great now. She’s done with treatment, and she’s getting her hair back.”

Croal said that doctors are confident her mother will make a full recovery.

Last year’s Dig for the Cure, a 3-0 win over Rutgers on Oct. 6, was especially emotional for Croal and her mother, who flew out from her home in California to attend.

“It was pretty special last year,” Croal said. “Because it was right when she was going through the heart of her treatments, and it was nice to see how everyone really supported her.”

In addition to their fundraising efforts, Croal said her teammates were there for emotional support when she needed it most.

“They’ve just been like you would want any friend to be,” she said. “They’ve been there for me when I wanted to talk about it, and when I wanted to just forget about it.”

Obviously, this year’s Dig for the Cure will also have a special meaning for Croal.

“I think it has, obviously, that personal connection for me,” she said. “It’s just a way to give back to everybody who was so helpful and so understanding throughout what my family went through and what my mom went through. It’s a way for those who are close to me, my teammates, my coaches, and everyone involved with the program to support that fight for a cure.”

Croal, too, was excited to contribute to the cause that saved her mother’s life.

“It’s just a fun way to give back by doing what we do best,” she said.

The Irish will be giving back in several ways with the event. Coach Debbie Brown has pledged to donate five dollars for every dig her team notches against the Panthers, and said her players have been asking for pledges as well.

“They’re asking roommates, friends, families, to just get involved that way,” she said.

Pink Dig for the Cure T-shirts are also currently on sale at the Hammes Bookstore, and fans that wear the shirt to the match will be admitted for free.

Brown’s team will also be taking the court in special white and pink uniforms donated by Adidas, which will be auctioned off after the match. Brown said that the special uniforms gave her team a boost last year.

“We got into it when we walked out on the court with the pink jerseys,” she said. “Just that feeling that you’re contributing to something that’s a lot more important than a volleyball match is a good thing, and I think that the team definitely felt that last year.”

Last year, Notre Dame raised over $6,000 for the Susan G. Komen grassroots network of Northern Indiana, the sixth-highest total raised by participating programs.

Brown said that her team’s participation was important because breast cancer such a universal issue, but also because of Croal’s personal experience.

“It’s obviously a pretty big women’s issue,” Brown said. “And being a women’s team, it just seemed like it was a really good thing for us to do, but also it was hitting home a little bit closer for us as a team.”

Brown said that her goal was to double the $6,000 the team raised last season.

As for Croal, despite her extremely personal ties to the cause, she said that at the end of the day, it was all about playing volleyball, with a little added incentive.

“I think that once the match starts it’s the same [as any other],” she said. “You always focus on the task at hand. But I think there’s maybe a little bit of extra motivation just to really perform well and support that cause.”


u More information on Susan G. Komen For the Cure and the Dig for the Cure program, including pledge forms, can be found at und.com.