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News / Health / Breast Cancer

La Center volleyball honors mom fighting cancer, stays unbeaten

Wildcats rally from 24-16 down in second set to beat Castle Rock

By Micah Rice, Columbian Sports Editor
Published: October 10, 2023, 11:29pm
3 Photos
Alexis Mills, mother of La Center volleyball player Kylee Mills, is honored before La Center's Dig Pink match against Castle Rock on Tuesday at La Center High School.
Alexis Mills, mother of La Center volleyball player Kylee Mills, is honored before La Center's Dig Pink match against Castle Rock on Tuesday at La Center High School. Mills is battling breast cancer (Micah Rice/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

As head coach Cymany O’Brien explains, positive energy has powered La Center volleyball’s unbeaten season.

So it’s no surprise the team extended that supportive attitude to a member of the greater Wildcats community.

La Center honored Alexis Mills before its home match Tuesday against Castle Rock.

Mills, whose daughter Kylee Mills is a freshman on the volleyball team, is battling breast cancer. So, naturally, the team made saluting her the focus of its Dig Pink match held annually to raise money and awareness of the disease.

“It honestly brought me to tears,” said La Center libero Mia Achziger. “I have people in my family who have had breast cancer. It means so much to honor others who do too and are really fighting that.”

9 Photos
Alexis Mills, left, and her daughter Kylee Mills watch a pre-match ceremony as part of La Center volleyball's Dig Pink night to raise money and awareness of breast cancer on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023 at La Center High School. Alexis Mills is battling breast cancer.
La Center vs. Castle Rock volleyball Photo Gallery

Mills, who underwent surgery in September and awaits two further operations, was escorted onto the court by her daughter. Kylee then placed a tiara on her mother’s head before they shared an embrace.

Players then filled Mills’ arms with pink roses.

“She’s so inspiring when you sit and talk to her about what she’s been going through and what she’s advocating,” O’Brien said. “It was so nice to see the community come out and support her.”

The volleyball match that followed didn’t disappoint. La Center swept Castle Rock (25-15, 26-24, 25-18) to improve to 13-0 this season. Junior outside hitter Esther Langeliers led La Center with 15 kills. Billie Ross added nine kills and seven digs.

But all anyone wanted to talk about afterward was the second set. La Center trailed 24-16 before rattling off 10 straight points to win.

Ross, a junior, said she has never been part of such a comeback.

“I honestly haven’t,” Ross said. “I think the biggest thing we had to keep in mind was to just play one point at a time and not ease up.”

Few teams can muster the skill and focus to play 10 consecutive flawless points. Achziger said that shows why this team, ranked No. 4 in the latest Class 1A state coaches poll, has its sights surpassing its eighth-place showing in last year’s state tournament.

“It shows our hustle and our drive and how much we want to win this season,” Achziger said. “It shows how far we can go as a team and how we work together to achieve things.”

A team with just two seniors has played like one full of experience.

“It started last year,” O’Brien said. “I had some really great leaders who were really good about teaching the next leaders. (They’re) always about that positive energy, staying focused and taking it one point at a time.”

One of those seniors, Lauren Hudson, has been injured much of the season but is nearly set to return.

“We can still grow and improve so much,” Ross said. “We’re still a young team. We have another year with all of the juniors on the team. I’m so excited to see what we do in the future.”