By Dan Hardenbrook

I’m not sure we have ever seen a group like this one, or if there will ever be another group quite like them. This year’s Lady Indians Volleyball team is certainly one for the ages.

Not just because they are really good, won a bunch of games, and brought back District and Regional Championships for the first time in decades. Not just because of dominant performances, incredible comebacks, jaw dropping highlights, and those crazy dance moves they let loose in the huddles while spectators watched on pins and needles.

These young girls grew into incredible young women right before our eyes. They fought through every kind of adversity imaginable and never gave up on themselves or each other. Three girls came from halfway around the world to help us get here. All of them were inspirational.

But you know that saying “It takes a village”? Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you the fans in the stands were essentially an extension of the players on the floor. The fans helped make this run unforgettable.

Record-breaking crowds generated so much noise so loud you can’t hear yourself think at times. As the Lady Indians kept being incredible, the town kept on coming. Businesses shut down; people lined the street (even freezing after midnight) to welcome them home. The National Guard sponsored a fan bus to bring devotees to Harbor Springs last Tuesday to watch the Lady Indians defeat the Onaway Cardinals for the MHSAA Regional Championship.

This became the town’s team, and together we made a difference. Signs cheered on favorite players, young players stood and cheered behind the bench and a—let’s call them “rambunctious”—student section invaded opposing gyms, shaking opponents to their core and flustering other fans.

None of that was possible without the NEWBERRY part of the Newberry Lady Indians.

Fan favorite Elisa Rizzoli, from Italy, loves the fans. She’s thousands of miles from home, staying with a new family, and learning to play with a new team. When I started to ask her about the fans following the Regional Championship win over Onaway she stopped me immediately.

“I’m going to cry if I talk about them,” expressed Rizzoli. “I’ve never seen anything like this in Italy. They follow us everywhere. Every time they make a sign or come over and over, I can’t believe it.”

She summed it up best by stating “When I play volleyball here, it is fun!” Rizzoli’s second home—Newberry— will never forget the memories she gave us!

Even Coach Kirby got caught up in the emotion after what he called an “out of body experience” at the regionals. “I really have to give it to the fans, and to the school for getting them down here,” Kirby said. “This was totally awesome.”

They are right. You—all of you—are totally awesome.

A town that rallies so much behind our kids unlike any other place on earth. When teams play the Indians, they aren’t just playing against a group of random kids. Our teams are like family, from a place that proves there’s pride, and then there is Indian Pride. Go up against the Indians and you’re going to get a lot of Newberry along with it. And I can’t think of any better way to do it.