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October 1, 2011 - Volley for Molly
July 23, 2011 - Volleyball for a Cause
October 12, 2010 - Athletes Support Team Molly
September 28, 2010 - Lexington Team Volleys for Molly
Lexington Volleys for Molly, and Cancer Awareness

September 24, 2009

By Connie Paige, Globe Correspondent
As a senior at Lexington High, Molly Eisenberg led the girls’ volleyball team as its gutsiest player. Two years later, the former captain still wears her team sweatshirt as she struggles against ovarian cancer.
It’s that grit and determination her old teammates recall as they get ready to ‘‘Volley for Molly,’’ using their game Friday against Reading High School as a fund-raiser to promote awareness of the often deadly disease.

‘‘Every time I’m stressed out, I just think about Molly and her strength,’’ said teammate Mary Rossi, 16.
With donations coming in before the game buzzer has sounded, the event has drawn support from around Lexington and beyond, even as Eisenberg receives care at her home in Walnut Creek, Calif., where her family moved after she graduated in 2008.
Posters about the event have been plastered around Lexington center. This year’s co-captain, Meaghan Murphy, said that even as she was putting up a poster, passersby thrust money into her hand for the cause, and a Facebook message has received hundreds of responses.

‘‘I’ve never had any group of kids work so hard on a service project,’’ said Jane Bergin, coach of the Lexington Minutemen volley ball team, adding that she received an e-mail from Holyoke High School saying a team there will hold a fund-raiser in Eisenberg’s honor as well.
Bergin said Eisenberg was a stand-out player, the first on the team to play a new position of ‘‘libero’’ — a defensive specialist who is allowed to substitute for anybody in the back row. ‘‘It’s your gutsiest player,’’ Bergin said.

‘‘That position personified who Molly was,’’ Bergin continued. ‘‘She brought enthusiasm and concern to the court, yet she was still tenacious and still wanted others to do well. She was a catalyst for enthusiasm.’’

In 2007 and 2008, the Lexington team won the sportsmanship award given by the North Shore Volleyball League, before the town was merged into the Middlesex league. Eisenberg ‘‘was singled out for her specific role in that award,’’ Bergin said.

Eisenberg also participated in student council and drama, and for several summers volunteered for the Lexplorations program, working with elementary school children in drama, sports, and art, said her mother, Karen Large.

After graduation, Eisenberg enrolled at the University of Oregon, planning to study anthropology or sociology. But after only a week of college, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, had surgery, and went home to receive chemotherapy, Large said.

At first doctors gave her a good prognosis, but findings of remaining cancer led to more treatment. After spending a week in Lexington visiting friends this August, Eisenberg flew back home for more surgery and doctors found the cancer had metastasized, Large said.

Throughout her ordeal, Eisenberg has been an inspiration, said her mother. ‘‘She continues to put on a brave face and has great spirit and humor, which have always been her trademark.’’
Doctors are now recommending that Eisenberg receive hospice care, Large said.
Specialists say ovarian cancer is the deadliest of all gynecological cancers and the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths among American women, according to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, based in Washington, D.C. Early detection greatly increases survival. The disease is rare in young women, ‘‘but it can happen at any age,’’ said Georgi Morales, the alliance’s director of marketing and communications.

Lexington High’s volleyball coach said that as she and the team were deciding to launch the fund-raiser, they discovered that September was designated Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. The team plans to play in uniforms dyed in teal, the color advocates ask to be worn to promote awareness about the disease.

After a game against Winchester earlier this week, several teammates talked about what ‘‘Volley for Molly’’ means to them.

Murphy recalled that she and Eisenberg looked so much alike their parents would get them mixed up on the court during games. ‘‘I would call her ‘Big Me,’ and I was ‘Mini Me,’’’ she said.
Now Murphy plays libero, and wears her friend’s old number, 9. ‘‘To be filling her shoes as captain is unbelievable,’’ Murphy said. ‘‘Just trying to live up to her standards is special.’’

Murphy said she has stayed in touch with Eisenberg through e-mail, learning that her mentor still wore the team sweatshirt.

Co-captain Emily Wiederhold, 17, said she feels a sense of urgency about informing the public about ovarian cancer. ‘‘We don’t want that to happen to anyone else,’’ she said. ‘‘We’d like people to catch it early.’’

Though Eisenberg won’t be at courtside Friday, her mother wrote for the game program what the community’s efforts have meant to them.

‘‘Molly and her family would not have been able to endure this year of chemotherapy, surgery, and affliction without the amazing support of friends and family in Lexington.’’
The game is scheduled to take place Friday, Sept. 25, at 6 p.m., at the Lexington High School gymnasium. All donations will go to an organization supporting ovarian cancer awareness.