ST. LOUIS – Though she hasn’t been on the volleyball court this season, Wittenberg senior outside hitter Hillary Monnin has provided the Tigers with quite a lift.
In July, Monnin was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma after a mass developed in her throat and has been battling the disease ever since, all the while staying positive for herself and for her team.
That was the case even though she knew her collegiate volleyball days were over.
“I couldn’t really breathe,” Monnin said. “At that time, the [mass] was on top of my esophagus and trachea. At that time, my health, obviously, became more important for me. I love these girls, though, and even though I am going through what I am going through, I still cheer for them and am so excited by what they’re doing.”
Monnin’s most recent mental lift for her teammates came when she showed up in street clothes and a Tigers’ jersey to cheer the team on from the bench at the NCAA Division III national quarterfinals as she watched the Tigers (35-3) dispatch California Lutheran.
“I definitely wish I was able to be out on the floor,” Monnin said. “But just to be here because I didn’t think I was going to be able to come here means a lot.”
Monnin pushed up what could be her final chemotherapy treatment, which normally occurs on Fridays, to make the trip to Washington University to cheer on her team.
She did so in secret from her team.
“It was quite a surprise,” Wittenberg coach Paco Labrador said. “She was supposed to have her last chemo today. Without us knowing, she kind of moved some things around to be here. She just appeared and it was really crucial to have her with us.”
So, as long as the Tigers keeping fighting their way through the national tournament, there will be their teammate right by their side, cheering their every move.
One Tiger said that Monnin has been quite the inspiration on more levels than just in a volleyball game.
“We’re lucky enough to be playing the game that we love and she’s going through chemo,” Wittenberg outside hitter Kimmie Dyer said. “Keeping that in the back of our minds really puts things in perspective about what’s important.”
Monnin, whose strength obviously isn’t what it has been, said she’s going to put everything she can into cheering on her teammates this weekend.
Her latest chance came in the Tigers’ 25-21, 25-13, 25-19 national semifinal victory against Eastern on Saturday night.
She’ll be back at the Field House at Washington University for the national championship match 6 p.m. ET on Sunday as Wittenberg takes on Christopher Newport (38-4).
“I’ll need to take a nap [before matches] to keep my strength up,” Monnin said. “But there really isn’t any place I’d rather be. These girls have worked so hard to get where they are and I am excited to be a part of it in any way I can.”