Rivals rally for a cause

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EASTLAKE—South defeated host North in straight sets on Thursday but the result was far less important than the cause.

The Rebels and the Rangers teamed up in a Volley for Knuch event to celebrate the life of Josh Knuchel and to raise awareness of Cystic Fibrosis. Knuchel passed away on May 25, 2018.

“When the girls came to me and said this is what they wanted to do, I couldn’t say no,” said North coach Samantha Muzic. “When he passed away it was a huge thing on a lot of them, especially our seniors. T0 be able to do this, and (South) Coach (Bill Behrend) over there getting involved with them as well, it was cool to see how excited they were.”

South won 25-22, 25-9, 25-22 but everybody went home a winner and a bit more informed about Cystic Fibrosis.

“Today’s game was a lot different than normal games that we prepare for just because of the relationship we had with Josh,” Behrend said. “A lot of the girls knew him in one capacity or another, whether it was in the community or in volleyball or if he was just in our building helping out, so a lot of them had some sort of relationship with him.”

What the Rebels didn’t have was a lot of knowledge about Cystic Fibrosis.

Behrend tried to change that by inviting a South classmate who has the genetic disease to speak with the team.

“We actually have a student who has Cystic Fibrosis in our building and we had her come in and explain to us things that Josh went through and things that she goes through and how they have to prepare and how life is just a little bit different for them,” Behrend said. “The girls sat back and listened to her when she was talking and it changed their mind a little bit from this is a game against North to this is a game about something that’s bigger than us. It’s a game that we have to represent what the whole gym and hallway was set up for and that was in memory of Josh and Cystic Fibrosis.”

North senior Grace Schaefer was hit especially hard by Knuchel’s passing and she was committed to the idea of honoring his memory.

“This was a really big game for everyone,” Schafer said. “I know (Josh) would always come to every single game and support everybody. He really touched everybody in their own different way. I know he was a big part of my family so it was really important to me, and his mom coming here and speaking, it gave everybody an idea of how much he did for everyone.”

Knuchel’s memory will live on with both the Rebels and the Rangers.

“He was a huge part of volleyball,” Schafer said. “It was his favorite. His mom said he would always come home wanting to talk about volleyball. He kept everybody’s stats for volleyball. For us seniors, he made such a big impact on all of us.”

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