Players honor, remember former teammate

Saturday, September 20th 2008, 12:32 am
By: News 9

By Dave Jordan, NEWS 9

EDMOND, Okla. -- Edmond Santa Fe High School's girls volleyball team, returns to the court one week after losing a teammate. Heather Harkness, 16, died last week following a routine surgery.

When the team learned about Heather's death, they canceled all of their upcoming games. Friday they were back in full force, emerging victorious after playing three matches in Heather's honor.

Spikes, blocks and serves were all on display by Edmond's Santa Fe's volleyball team, even without one of their star players.

Fans and parents cheered them on. Among the parent's and fans, was Heather's family.

"It gives us a lot of joy to be with them and they're just so loving and they make us feel special," Heather's mother Susan Harkness said.

Heather was a star player for the team and died last Tuesday following an appendectomy.

"It may have been the most difficult thing I've ever experienced," Heather's coach, Will Ethridge said. "It's like my second family, the volleyball team is. It was difficult, very, very hard."

An upcoming tournament was cancelled and attempts at practices were unsuccessful.

"The girls, I think, they needed to come out, but I don't think they were sure how they were going to react," mother of a teammate, Karrie Harrington said.

But the girls regrouped and came back to the court with a purpose, to honor their late friend and teammate.

"Heather wanted to make grey shirts with the teal writing and so we ended up designing it with her colors," teammate Tate Hardaker said.

Etched on the back is a slogan "PLAY HARD AND WIN." It's a direct quote from a text message Heather sent Tate before she went into surgery, and between plays, a chant.

"Every break that they come out, they're saying, ‘Poondog,' which is a name Heather had from being little," Harrington said.

Heather's parents are humbled by the tributes to their daughter but pleased that the girls are moving on with their lives.

"We wanted them to understand that it's important to keep playing and to understand that if Heather could have it her way, and she was here, she would be playing hard too," Susan Harkness said.

The tournament continues tomorrow.

One rival team also honored Heather by wearing ribbons in their hair with her number 12 and her initials.