More than a month ago, Phoenix Desert Vista’s boys volleyball players were just trying to keep from breaking up, devastated by the death of team manager Alex DePriest.
On Friday, they were holding up a championship trophy, singing to the crowd in pink and playing with the power of DePriest on every point as they defeated Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor in three sets in the 6A final at Gilbert Mesquite High.
“Winning this for Alex was more important than anything,” said senior libero Benjamin Baldwin, who had a heart with “ADP” in the middle drawn on his shoulder and wore a pink jersey with DePriest on the back.
In early April, DePriest, a talented libero on the girls team, had complications from her Type 1 diabetes and died in Kansas while visiting a friend.
She was more than a stat keeper on the bench for the boys games this season. She was a motivator who wanted more than anything for the boys team to win state.
The team was emotionally spent in its first home match after the devastating news in a 3-0 loss to Gilbert Highland, after which many players sobbed, releasing built-in anguish over the 17-year-old’s death.
Since that loss, Desert Vista went 20-2-1 to take it all.
Pink was DePriest’s favorite color, and students and parents began wearing pink shorts with Alex’s name on the back.
Asked about wearing the pink jersey with DePriest on the back, Baldwin said, “It was an honor.”
“I don’t feel like I can ever live up to her,” he said.