Nelson Co., VA - Tuesday night was the season opener for the Nelson County High School volleyball team. When the girls took to the court though, their excitement came hand in hand with sorrow. There was a player missing on that squad.
Number nine, Alexis Murphy, would have been captain.
Tuesday night, her team had to do without the star outside hitter; a sad reality that this group of girls has been living with now for weeks.
"And let's make Nelson County proud for what we've done, ok? Alright, let's go" said Vicki Crawford, head coach to her team in a pre-match huddle.
It's a game time tradition. A pre-match pep talk and team huddle.
A new tradition now though for the Nelson County High School volleyball team; Number nine's jersey takes an empty sideline seat. Her team hoping she'll be there to play, sometime soon.
"Hopefully we'll play well and do it in honor of Alexis tonight" said Crawford.
Murphy was to be this team's captain. She's been missing now for more than three weeks.
And still, Head coach Vicki Crawford with hope that Murphy will return, "We have her t-shirt, we have her new jersey, we have her bag, and we're just waiting for her to come back so she can use it all" she said.
Her teammates, wear pink bows with her name as a constant reminder of this promising young athlete.
It's an especially difficult season opener for new assistant coach, Jasmine Murphy, Alexis' cousin.
"I knew she'd be riding with me to and from games it's just different" she said.
But as these players take to the court, they fight to win for more than just a victory, they fight for number nine.
"This is a very close community, it's a small county, I've lived here all my life, and that's what people do when things get bad, they help each other, they pull together, and this team's no different" said George Chepe, whose daughter plays on the team.
"I admire my team for their courage, and the way that they've worked so hard to still be the team that we're going to be" said Crawford.
The girls would go on to win the match 3-0. Crawford said draping Murphy's jersey, and wearing those pink bows will be season long game time traditions.