On September 25, 2012, the Daemen volleyball team made their home debut after 15 consecutive matches away from the friendly confines of Lumsden Gymnasium to start their season. The Wildcats defeated rival Roberts Wesleyan College in straight sets (25–20, 25–15, 25–16) but it was the spirit of togetherness that stole the show on this night. 

volleyball-baldIn addition to playing in front of the home fans for the first time, the Wildcats played host to Spike for Strength Night, an event initiated and planned by the team to raise awareness about the causes of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and all forms of cancer. The event was held in support of freshman middle blocker Mackenzie Knihinicki (Lakeview, N.Y./Frontier) who was diagnosed with the illness in the spring of 2012, shortly after signing her letter of intent to play volleyball at Daemen.

The event was even profiled by WIVB-News Channel 4. Sports reporter Steve Vesey was on campus to interview Knihinicki and head coach Mark Parisi and the story aired one-night before the match.

The media coverage helped draw in a near capacity crowd, many of whom supported the cause by purchasing Spike For Strength t-shirts and wristbands, turning Lumsden’s blue bleacher seats into a sea of gray. The event brought in nearly $1,200 in donations which were passed on to Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo to aid their research efforts in the fight against cancer.

Media coverage was a big part of the event’s success
Media coverage was a big part of the event’s success

In addition to the success of the fundraiser, Knihinicki, who was medically cleared to begin competing just days before the match, made the first start of her collegiate career and helped the Wildcats to the victory. Off the court, we’re happy to report that Mackenzie is doing well and continues to be cancer-free.