WOODBURN, Ind. (WANE) — Woodlan’s soccer team is still mourning after the tragic loss of one of their former teammates but they are using their season to honor her legacy.
The Woodlan Junior-Senior High School community was rocked by the death of Hannah Stailey, 18, after she was killed in a homicide-suicide at an apartment complex on the north side of Fort Wayne.
Stailey, who was only days away from turning 19, graduated early this year. Although she was no longer playing for the Woodlan Warriors, her loss was felt by many of the players as they hit the field this semester.
“She led our defense really well and bring out the smiles for our team,” said Libby Fishers, a senior at Woodlan who played with Hannah Stailey. “[Her death] really affected us for a little bit, but we picked up and we’re playing for her now.”
In her four years playing for Woodlan’s girls’ soccer team, Stailey carved out a place on the team as a leader.
“She was spunky,” said head coach Matthew Spebing. “She was a firecracker, she was a leader. She was just an amazing person in general, on and off the field.”
She had a big personality that transitioned to a big presence on the field. Stailey’s sudden death hit the team hard.
“We had a game the next morning,” said senior Emma Dellinger. “Coming in that Saturday and walking into the locker room before the game even started, I felt mentally defeated just because that was such a big loss to me and I hadn’t even played yet. So I immediately turned it around and made it to a benefit for a team and I told everyone and kept telling myself that this game was for Stailey.”
As they continue to mourn almost a month later, the tight-knit soccer community has banded around her family. At Thursday night’s game against Lakewood Park Christian, the team gave the Stailey family a mounted shadow box with her home jersey in it and a photo album of her time on the team. They also gifted the family a clock with a poem called the Blessing of Time, reading:
May this timepiece be a reminder of all the private, special times that only the Stailey family knew.
Moments when laughter was so intense, tears streamed down faces and bellies hurt.
Special surprises celebrated, trips anticipated,
practical jokes executed perfectly, and forever memories made.
The mundane, everyday tasks…laundry washed, and meals shared.
The many sporting events…cheering each other on to victory.
Rejoicing that these moments happened, cherishing each memory.
Time is a gift from God.The Blessing of Time, poem gifted to the Stailey family
All of this, to let the family know that jersey number nine will always belong to Stailey in their hearts and on the pitch.
“As long as I am coach, I will not be playing that number,” said Spebing. “She was an amazing person. She was an amazing player and she affected all of our lives and this was the least we could do.”
“We know that she’s still out there and playing in number nine and that nobody else has taken her spot from us,” added Fishers.
They played for Stailey Thursday night, just as they will at every other match for the rest of the season.
“When we go out to the field, our starters, we did the lineup, get called and then do our group huddle before we start the game,” Dellinger said. “We end every time put our hands in the middle and we say as usual ‘for Stailey.'”