FREEPORT —The girls volleyball district tournament almost didn’t happen for Blountstown High School, since Hurricane Michael destroyed their gym, along with most of their city. However, thanks to Freeport High School, the Lady Tigers were able to play, and find hope from their competitors.
“Volleyball has been a way to return them to normalcy and give them something to not only look forward to but to help deal with what’s happened,” said Blountstown volleyball coach Leigh Ann Summers. “It’s something far bigger than ourselves. It’s for our communities too. We all need to heal and sports can help bring us all together.”
Tuesday night’s game at Freeport was a picture of unity. When the Freeport girls lost, they walked across the court to hug their rivals.
“We’ve talked a lot about what it would be like if that hurricane came and hit our school and we wanted to do a little bit to help them since they lost a whole lot,” Freeport Coach Catherine Meyer said of her girls. The team also gave each of the Blountstown players bags of toiletries and treats.
"At this point it’s not about volleyball —they have other life things they are going through," Meyer said. "It was really heart warming to see that even high school kids can understand that after a loss.”
Freeport High School Principal Tripp Hope and Athletic Director Shaun Arntz put their heads together to prepare a hot meal for the visiting team and the fans, none of whom had to pay admission to the game. Freeport also donated gas for the team bus.
“We knew that Blountstown had taken a hit and about 70-percent of their people were still without power, so we decided that we would feed both teams,” said Hope. “We decided we would cook a hot meal for them and their fans and also allow the girls to take a hot shower in the locker room after the game.”
The Blountstown coach posted a widely shared note of thanks on Facebook.
“There are really no words to describe how thankful and grateful we are,” Summers told the Daily News. “I was in tears before and after our game. They went above and beyond for us. Something like a warm shower was something some of my girls haven’t had in two weeks.
"This storm forever changed us and left it’s mark and so has Freeport High School. The overall feeling from the game was just community, support, and love —and feeling that is far greater than any championship.”