Oct. 20, 2006
Story written by Graham Hays
Published on ESPN.com
This isn't a story about finding a happy ending. For the Loyola Marymount women's soccer team, making the NCAA Tournament has more to do with finding a happy beginning.
Jessica Hanson was the emotional leader of Loyola Marymount's soccer team.
Even in the non-revenue world of women's college soccer, pursuit of the postseason often becomes an all-or-nothing dash to the finish line. There's nothing wrong with that; it's part of what distinguishes sport from simple exercise. But after what Loyola Marymount's players and coaches have been through in the last 15 months, postseason aspirations are less about the culmination of one season than about proof of the same beauty of the human spirit that those who knew her saw in Jessica Hanson.
On Aug. 5, 2005, just days before she would have returned to Loyola Marymount's campus for preseason practice with the women's soccer team and days before her 21st birthday, Jessica was killed in a car accident near the Nevada-California border. She and her boyfriend Adam, a cross-country runner at Loyola Marymount, were among four fatalities, along with Jessica's father and her sister's boyfriend, when the van they were riding in on the way to a family vacation at Lake Havasu blew a tire on Interstate 40 and crashed.
As the world grows steadily smaller, it becomes easier, even necessary in some respects, to insulate ourselves from the sights and sounds which confront us. Modern technology and the scope of modern media make us privy to any number of tragedies every day. And it's easy to lose sight of the fact that each event, each three-paragraph wire story or 15-second video clip changes the world for a group of people every bit as dramatically as cataclysmic events such as Hurricane Katrina or 9/11 alter our collective landscape.
At approximately 10:45 a.m. on that morning in August, the world changed in almost unimaginable ways for everyone who knew the passengers in that van, including the coaches and players who shared a soccer team with Jessica.
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