Waterford and Rowland Hall appeared to be competitors on the volleyball court Tuesday night, but in one way, the players were all on the same team.

The squads converted their yearly nonregion game into a fundraising effort for the Huntsman Cancer Institute's breast cancer research effort in the first-ever Swing-for-Life volleyball game.

The players from both teams wore special jerseys sold during a silent auction during the game with proceeds going to the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

"It was our very first match," said senior setter Erin Lence, after the Winged Lions defeated the Ravens in an exciting five-game match 25-14, 19-25, 25-18, 13-25, 15-9. "It was a great way to start. We haven't beaten them in a long time."

Lence said the team got a little boost from their new pink jerseys.

"I think it kind of made us play harder," she said of hosting the game, which included breast cancer trivia during the breaks. "We were really excited to be a part of it."

Rowland Hall-St. Mark's head softball and assistant volleyball coach Kathy Howa started the Swing-for-Life fund-raiser as a softball hit-a-thon six years ago and has raised more than $180,000 in that time. She and head volleyball coach Kendra Tomsic have discussed how to involve the volleyball players, but it wasn't until the pair visited Howa's alma mater, Mesa State, that they found a way.

"At Mesa State they held a strike out cancer game where they auctioned off the jerseys," Tomsic said. "So we stole that idea from them."

They decided to give it a try and several other schools quickly jumped on board. Hunter and Copper Hills will make their region meeting in September a Pink game with jerseys to be auctioned off, as well. Howa said five colleges, including Westminster, will also participate.

"We talked to Pam Olsen (Hunter head coach and president of the Utah High School volleyball coaches association) and she said, 'I was wondering when you were going to involve volleyball'," said Tomsic. "We were reluctant because of the time involved in (softball) Swing-for-Life, but this was really easy."

They hope other schools opt to participate and said they're willing to offer advice and support.

"We're hoping the schools really make it an educational thing," said Tomsic. "We spent time talking at practice and then had the trivia contest here at the game."

Each program also contained two pages of breast cancer facts and prizes were given out to those who could answer questions on the subject.

Despite the loss, Waterford head coach Dave Richards said he was happy to be a part of the event.

"We were excited to participate," he said.

Both teams played well in the match that see-sawed between the two squads. Lence led her team with powerful jump serving, hustle and great hands, while freshman Challie Mitchell led the Ravens with solid serving and great net play. Waterford libero Emily Jensen and outside hitter Laura Lee Judd also played very well for the Ravens, who already have a tournament under their belt.

The win was exciting for Rowland Hall and Tomsic said her concerns about the fund-raiser being a distraction turned out to be unnecessary.

"They stayed focused, and it's nice to know we can go five games," she said. "This is one of the most cohesive groups I've ever coached."


E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com