Throughout the sunny Saturday afternoon, the typical sounds of whistles, screams from cheering and fans clapping along with the buzzer from the scoreboard echoed and vibrated off the walls and back onto the court. But no sound was more piercing and emotional than the silence.
Dickinson State volleyball paid tribute with their continuous fight and strong persistence to that of the late Dan Stanton by splitting their two game matches against Briercrest College at Scott Gymnasium on the second annual “Stanton Strong” event.
Following his passing from cancer on Sept. 13, 2015, Dickinson State began a tribute to him by having the players and coaches give flowers to the family members. This includes his brother, Blue Hawks football head coach Pete Stanton, who received a white flower and a moment of silence was held to pay tribute to the late coach.
Dan Stanton played a key role for the Dickinson State community. During his time as a student at DSU from 1986-1991. He played for the football team as a linebacker and punter, in which he played on the first Blue Hawks football team to win a national playoff game in 1989, and he became an all-conference linebacker in 1990. Stanton also competed on the Blue Hawks track and field team.
“Coach Dan Stanton obviously holds a special place in our hearts,” Jennifer Willis, the Blue Hawks volleyball head coach, said. “He was my head coach in high school, and teacher...we just wanted to play for him and for the whole Stanton family.”
Prior to the first match being played, the players were able to get a pep talk from coach Stanton based on the legacy of his late brother.
“He gave us a really nice motivational speech,” junior Baylie Dashner said. “[He] just reminded us how important it is to play as a team and to never give up, because his brother was a very strong willed and a very strong mental person.
In the first match, the Blue Hawks lost the first two sets to the Clippers 27-25 and 25-16, but were able to rally back to take sets three and four 25-22 and 25-20. In the final set, the Clippers took a 3-0 lead to start the set, but the Blue Hawks would push forward and tie the set at 4-4 and eventually take a brief one-point lead over the Clippers. After a series of back-and-forth, and the score tied at 10, the Clippers took control of the match by going on a 5-0 run to win the set 15-10 and clinched the first match.
Blue Hawks outside hitters sophomore Cassie North and Dashner helped lead the team in kills with a combined total of 15 in the game.
“When we went into the third set [of the first match] we all just were like, ‘if we lose, let’s lose knowing that we gave everything,” Dasher said. “We switched our mentality the last three, four sets, and then we went into the fifth set and just fell a bit short.”
Following the “Stanton Strong” flower tribute, the Blue Hawks bounced back and swept the Clippers 3-0 winning the sets 25-17, 15-9, 25-18. A large influence of their strong win came from the man that was being tributed throughout the day.
“During the service it was just nice, really empowering and really motivating to know that we’re here playing for someone, rather than ourselves. So it just took the pressure off of myself, at least, because we were not just playing for ourselves but our team and coach Stanton,” Dashner said.
The Blue Hawks return to action Wednesday, Sept. 18 at South Dakota School of Mines & Tech.