Contrary to what you may have seen on the McCann Center’s pool deck, Courtney Fisher was in attendance for her senior night. She didn’t walk under the raised arms of her underclassmen teammates. Her family was here in her place, making that long walk toward a bouquet of flowers and framed swim cap honoring their senior daughter. She might not have been here to accept the honor, nor to take the pictures that ensued. Her memory was, though. Whilst not the perfect scenario, it will have to do.
On August 12, 2016, Courtney Fisher passed away following a car accident. She was a walk-on freshman who had appeared in 10 games, scoring three goals, recording one steal and one field block. She would have been celebrating her senior night along with the six other seniors, who helped lead the team to a 15-6 win over the Mercyhurst Lakers Saturday night.
“I’m a super big sports junkie, and I follow everything and I want to learn about different sports cultures, so a thing that I push around with these ladies is from the All Blacks,” head coach Chris Vidale said after the game. The All Blacks is the name of the New Zealand’s national rugby union team, Vidale likes to use a line said by their former coach Graham Henry. “Better people make better All Blacks, better people make better Red Foxes. We talk about what it takes to be a good person, and it shows in our culture and in my program how much they care about each other.”
The All Blacks are a rulebook in and of themselves, for coaches and athletes alike. For Vidale, the culture that manifested within the club has been applicable for himself, especially having been faced with tragedy.
Fisher’s death was one of the first moments that Vidale had with his team, back when he was hired in 2016, and it’s clear that such an unfortunate tragedy acted as a bonding experience early in his tenure. The team is known as the most familial in the athletic department, and it’s clear why.
“I met this team taking them to a funeral,” Vidale said. “They could’ve been apprehensive, they could’ve been so many different things and they were all so warm and welcoming.”
The team sits at 7-6, bouncing back from a loss earlier in the day at the hands of 14th-ranked Princeton. If there was one game that mattered, it was the one where family and friends would be gathering celebrating their girls and the one that they lost.
“17” is all over the pool area, primarily found on signs and on Courtney’s picture, which hangs directly above the scorer’s table. It’s also embroidered onto the backs of every Marist wetsuit. She may not have been there, but she was felt.
Additionally, Fisher’s number was written on the wrists of every player before every game. As senior Hope Vickers exited the pool, the number remained intact, having not washed off. Whether that is a weekly occurrence or a one time deal is undetermined. But tonight, it just felt right. It felt destined, maybe even more than the win. For Vidale, it was right.
“Winning is always better than losing, and winning at home is always great, but winning with your family and with your friends and doing it for the passion of someone you lost? You can’t beat that.”
Edited by David Salamone