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Men's volleyball game hits home for coach in Playing for Preemies Night

Joyce Balash

Sports Editor

Photo courtesy of Lewis Athletics Rae Friend made an appearance at the Playing for Preemies night where $4,385 was raised for the Loyola NICU.

The Lewis men’s volleyball team hosted Playing for Preemies night Feb. 17 against Ball State to raise funds and awareness for babies who are born prematurely.


Many sporting events have themes created to be humorous and get fans involved, but this night has a much more serious back-story.


The theme of this game stems from the heart of the volleyball team, Head Coach Dan Friend.


In June of 2016, Friend and his wife, Head Women’s Volleyball Coach Lorelee Smith, welcomed their first daughter into the world, but not as they expected.


Rae Friend came almost four months early, making her a micro-preemie, landing her an extended stay in the Loyola Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).


The women’s volleyball team hosted a Playing for Preemies night during their season in the fall.


The event was a success, and with the help of ticket sales and purple “Playing for Preemies” T-shirts for sale, more than $2,000 was raised for Loyola University’s NICU, where Friend’s baby girl was under care after her premature birth.


With such an amazing turnout, there was no doubt that the men’s volleyball team would be hosting their own Playing for Preemies night.


“For lack of better words, they helped our daughter survive,” Friend said. “This is our way of saying thank you to them. You can’t put a value or dollar number on what they helped us get through.”


The night was a success in many ways; the volleyball team beat rival Ball State and a total of over $4,000 was raised.


Redshirt freshman Ryan Coenen led the team with 21 kills for the night, and added a pair of blocks for his team. Just behind him was redshirt sophomore Mitch Perinar with 15 kills and three blocks, a threat on both offense and defense. Perinar had back-to-back aces on the Cardinals, helping secure set four. Lewis won the fourth set 25-17 to take the match over Ball State.


Despite adding a win to their record, the highlight of the night was being able to raise money to assist Loyola University’s NICU.

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