On Thursday, April 14, the UNH volleyball team welcomed a very special member to its Wildcat family.
Phoebe Cole, a 10-year-old fifth-grader from Hampton, officially signed to become a part of the UNH volleyball team last week. With help from the efforts of the organization Team IMPACT and the UNH volleyball staff. Head coach Jill Hirschinger is happy to welcome Phoebe to the team and believes she will make a great addition to the program.
“It’s good for all of us. It’s good for the team, it’s good for Phoebe, her family and it’s just a really special day,” Hirschinger said.
In 2014, Phoebe was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a disease that causes the lungs and digestive system to be congested with sticky mucus, which can cause lung infections and weight gain troubles. There is no known cure for cystic fibrosis, but there are available treatments that Phoebe frequently undergoes that can make the process easier.
The day was made possible by Team IMPACT, an organization that pairs NCAA collegiate athletic programs with children that face serious illnesses. Through the philosophy of coming together and the power of team, Team IMPACT sets out to enrich the lives of both the children and the student-athletes and build strong relationships amongst each other.
Phoebe’s parents, as well as UNH volleyball were notified of the opportunity and both sides quickly seized the chance to get involved.
“One of [Phoebe’s school] guidance counselors spoke to us about it and my wife followed through with that and got in touch with the Team IMPACT crew,” Phoebe’s father Craig Cole said. “They hooked up with UNH because it’s located where we live…it was very convenient and we’re fans of UNH so it worked out pretty well.”
Once the Wildcats met Phoebe for the first time, they knew she was a perfect fit, as Hirschinger said there was “a great connection between [Phoebe] and the players.”
“She is going to have a big impact on our life,” junior setter Keelin Severtson said. “When we’re going through rough things she’s going through rough things so it’s a give and take and we’ll both get something [out of it].”
Phoebe was given a chance to spend the day with the players and explore the UNH campus before she signed with the Wildcats. The day consisted of a tour of the UNH campus, a visit to the Wildcat statue and a rock-climbing adventure.
Around mid-afternoon, the team and Phoebe returned to Lundholm Gymnasium where she was given her own green screen headshot and photoshoot. At around 5:15 p.m., the team, as well as other student-athletes around UNH, gathered around Phoebe and her parents to give her a nice loud welcome to UNH as she signed her letter of commitment. With all that happened leading up to the big moment, “probably the signing,” Phoebe said was the best part about the day.
“It’s very impressive and [I’m] very proud of her,” her father said. “I think it’s going to be a great mentoring experience for her to hang out with the older girls and athletes and see how it all works.”
Now that Phoebe is an official member of the UNH volleyball team, she will play a proverbial “little sister” role to the players according to Hirschinger. She will attend some team practices, participate in team events and most importantly, become an emotional supporter for the team in pursuit its fourth consecutive America East championship.
Cole is most looking forward to “watching the team play and cheering [on the team].” Though some seniors will be leaving, standouts Demi Muses and Severtson will be returning for their senior seasons to play and cheer the team on alongside Phoebe.
Come support the team next fall as Phoebe and the Wildcats look to remain the team to beat in the America East conference.