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Community support on display during emotional night for Nolan, Vikings
By John Lemon | Daily Herald Columnist

Rick West/ Images from the St. Charles North vs. Geneva girls basketball game Thursday, January 27, 2011.


Rick West | Staff Photographer

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Published: 1/28/2011 1:27 AM

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The wins don't bring quite the same excitement and the losses don't sting nearly as much to Geneva girls basketball coach Gina Nolan and those are both very good things.

Geneva hosted its "Passionately Pink for the Cure" night Thursday during its game against St. Charles North to raise money for the Susan G. Komen foundation.

A great cause every time it's held, Nolan has a new perspective Thursday now that she too is a cancer survivor.

"I don't feel as nervous before games as I used to," Nolan said. "I think it's put everything in perspective for me what I was nervous about this summer and still in a way continue to be nervous about. I always enjoyed it but maybe the highs aren't as high and the lows aren't as low at this point. I really enjoy the experience with the kids. As long as we are playing hard a basketball game it is just that, a basketball game. I realize that now. I have other things to keep me up at night now besides missed shots or things I should have done differently."

Nolan found out this summer she had breast cancer. She said she has been feeling stronger and stronger and is back to coaching full-time after Tim Pease stepped in during the first half of the season.

"It's getting better," said Nolan, who said she is cancer free and will get more blood work in February. "As long as I keep going I'm good. I go home before games every day and I always try to rest. Energy is the biggest thing I fight with and also sore feet. I'm doing better. The weekends are key for me to rejuvenate. I just have to be real mindful of resting and eating better."

Geneva recognized cancer survivors Thursday before the National Anthem. They held a 50-50 raffle and both the Vikings and St. Charles North players and coaches wore pink warmup shirts.

"Unbelievable the support of the whole community," Nolan said. "I'm really happy it worked out and glad we could do it with North. (North Stars coach) Colleen (Brennan) was so supportive of everything. It was neat to see even with such a fierce rival there was sense of unity with all the girls wearing the same pink shirts and coaches and everything. Just shows what a great community everybody is part of."

Geneva also sported black wristbands with a pink breast cancer symbol and "Coach Nolan" painted on every one.

Those wristbands came compliments of Geneva senior Sammy Scofield who presented Nolan with her wristband just before the team left the locker room. Scofield made all of them by hand.

"She handed me mine and I saw it had my name on it and I looked up in the locker room and I realized they all had my name on it. I was very, very touched by that," Nolan said. "Just the pink in the crowd, just fantastic. I had some people come up to me before the game who also are breast cancer survivors I didn't even know. It's amazing. Not that we choose to be part of that community but those of us who are part of the community, it's amazing the camaraderie you share with them, even strangers."

Scofield said it took her a few days to make the wristbands. "It was fun to make because I like doing that kind of stuff," the future Notre Dame soccer player said.

"She kept telling us the last couple days that she had presents for us," Nolan said. "I think those girls have been through a lot with me not looking very healthy to them. As scary as it was for me I'm sure it probably was for them and they have been so resilient, so supportive. They make me smile every time I come around and even if I'm tired when I go to practice they always lift my spirits. A night like tonight to see how they support me is just fantastic."

With their actions and support, Scofield and her teammates are showing they are winners on and off the court.

"We've been affected by it a lot because we care about her," Scofield said. "I thought since having the pink game tonight and she's a survivor it would be a nice thing to recognize her, let her know we are behind her and everything she does and have her back. It just unifies as a whole."