Abby Monson had experienced the highs and lows of college athletics through her career as part of WVU's volleyball team, but no amount of adversity in sports could prepare her for what she faced off the court.
Her mother, Linda, had been battling breast cancer for eight years and last April, she succumbed to the disease.
When Monson found out there wasn't much time left, she was in study hall with her teammates, and they immediately embraced her to let her know that no matter what happened, they would be there for her.
"I think that's what really defines a team is off the court interactions," Monson says. "We are so close and we really were a team in that moment, which was really cool for me."
There was no hesitation or second thought given. Each member of the volleyball squad thought of Monson as a sister and wanted to do whatever they could to help ease the pain she felt.
"The way we look at our team is we're a family," says WVU volleyball assistant coach Kevin Dunn. "So when someone in our family is hurting like that, we have to do everything that we can."
Abby said goodbye to her mother on April second of 2011 and rather than falling apart or giving up on life, she takes on each day with a renewed appreciation for its possibilities.
She says she is her mother's daughter, and with that comes a tremendous amount of faith, which has guided her in the days and months since she lost her best friend.
That faith allows her to live every moment in Linda's memory.
"I miss her everyday," Monson says, "but I try to remember her in a positive way and just grow so much from it. I'm a completely different person than I was a year ago and I'm very thankful for that."
Knowing Monson and the way she approaches each day, Dunn is not surprised by the fact that she has become a source of inspiration to others despite what she has experienced.
"Her outlook on life is spectacular. It's a very positive outlook – everything that happens, happens for a reason and her faith is a big part of that," says Dunn. "The adversity that she went through with her mom and everything like that, a person with the kind of morals and faith and someone who's deeply positive like that is going to get through it easier. She took a situation that was awful and made the best of what she could out of it."
On Saturday, she participated in the Relay for Life on WVU's campus, walking and spending time with other athletes in honor of her mother and countless others who have been impacted by cancer.
"A lot of the athletes know my story and I think that they realize how important it is to me and I think that a lot of other people realize, ‘Wow, I can totally relate to that,' even if it's on a smaller scale, larger scale, whatever it is," says Monson.
As the president of WVU's Student-Athlete Advisor Committee, Monson's been in charge of organizing events like this in the past, but this year it meant even more to her and to the other athletes who came to her side because of Linda.
"Relay for Life really focuses on the fact that cancer never sleeps, so it's a 12-hour event from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., so we don't sleep either," says Monson, who donated money to make luminaries for her mother and others who have suffered from the disease. "These are all the people that have been affected by it. Some have survived, some haven't – this is why we're here."
Relay for Life isn't a race. There's no prize for first place or record for the fastest time, but there's no denying that the room was full of winners that day.
Monson, in her mother's honor, led them all.