Roosevelt Volleyball Team Inspired by MVP Forever on the Bench

DES MOINES, Iowa -- A 13-year-old has inspired a group of girls to be winners.

"Great spirit, always there for people," said Roosevelt High School freshman volleyball player Eva Lackman.

"Her smile, her laugh it just spoke to you. You could feel how happy she was," said freshman volleyball player Valerie Rodriguez.

Despite speaking so highly of their teammate, the Roosevelt freshman volleyball team  has no choice but to sit their MVP on the bench.

"I felt like I lost someone," said Rodriguez as she held back tears.

In May, Peri Sagun, who would have been a freshman at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines this year, was killed in a hammock when a brick pillar collapsed on her body. Lackman said the loss was more than just difficult.

"Really hard, not just on me but on everyone on the team," said Lackman.

It is a team that still relies on each other to cope. To help, Peri's picture has had a presence at every match.

"When we win or feel down we just think of her to bring us up and all of our wins go out to her," said Lackman.

Just the sight of Peri's smile courtside has lifted their spirits.

"Everyone was like, let's do this for Peri and we played our hardest just to do this for Peri," said Rodriguez.

Lackman said practice t-shirts with her name and number also serve as a life lesson.

"They say expect nothing and appreciate everything," said Lackman.

Peri may not be able to add championships to the Roosevelt trophy case but volleyball coach Mark Steinbach has found a way to keep her name in that case forever.

"It's going to be a trophy that gets passed from year to year," said Steinbach. "It's going to be the Peri Sagun Team First award because that is how all the coaches in our program viewed Peri."

As volleyball season comes to a close, Rodriguez believes Peri 's memory will not fade.

"I think all of our girls are still going to be playing for Peri and putting in all their effort for Peri, because who could forget Peri?" she said.

Coach Steinbach believes the award in Peri Sagun's name will begin this season. It will remain in the trophy case while a replica will go home to the individual player receiving the honor.