Skyylar Brescia cuts down a piece of the net for teammate Kassidy Walters, who is away battling cancer. Inset, Brescia holds up Walters’ No. 22 jersey for everyone to see
Skyylar Brescia cuts down a piece of the net for teammate Kassidy Walters, who is away battling cancer. Inset, Brescia holds up Walters’ No. 22 jersey for everyone to see

   The Ripon College Red Hawk women’s basketball team was playing for much more than itself last weekend during the Midwest Conference Tournament.

   It was battling for a teammate who was away fighting cancer and an athletic director dealing with cancer as well.

   And that’s what made winning the championship even sweeter.

   The Red Hawks put a smile on the faces of Kassidy Walters and Julie Johnson as they go through trying times.

   “We had a lot that we were playing for this year and that’s kind of where it’s unique,” Ripon head coach Lauren Busalacchi said of winning the championship. “I think with a group to have that purpose with Kass[idy] and with Julie, they really came together. It’s just a game, but to give people and this community something positive to talk about [is special]. 2019 has been kind of ugly so far just within our department.

   Ripon senior Laurissa Johnson added winning the championship meant a lot for everyone.

   “We obviously haven’t been able to have Kassidy around us a lot; we FaceTime her every day, so bringing it home for her meant a lot to her; obviously meant a lot to us,” Laurissa said. “And for Julie also, it was just a really cool experience and really awesome to have her there.”

   Ripon honored Kassidy and Julie with their own touching moments as it brought them into its championship celebration.

   The first pieces of the net it cut down was in honor of those two “champions.” It then went to the other basket and cut down the entire net and ran up the bleachers to the office window from which Julie was watching the game and presented her with the souvenir through the glass.

Read the full column, which includes information on what it meant for Julie, in the Feb. 28, 2019 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.