GOODYEAR, AZ — For the first time since losing Alexa Cruz, a Goodyear volleyball team will make their return to the court.
"We're all in this together but I hope we can continue playing for Alexa because that's what she would have wanted," said Breelle Lugo, the Venom's coach.
Cruz was killed in a car crash earlier this month when going to a game in Texas. According to witnesses, the SUV hit black ice and swerved into a truck.
Two other players, one former player and three parents were also injured but are expected to be OK.
"You never prepare for something like that," Lugo said.
Lugo recalled Cruz's work ethic and ability to make people smile.
On Saturday, the team wore Cruz's jersey number, 17, on their warmups to honor their teammate.
"It melts my heart because I know they're struggling," Lugo added.
There was also a moment of silence before the games got started. Players told ABC15 her absence was obvious.
"Alexa was our energy, honestly, she was the cheer starter," said Olivia Quidera, one of Cruz's teammates.
"She really kept us going...that's the one thing we were missing today," she added.
Larissa Morgan shared that same sentiment.
"Every time she would walk on the court you could see her energy. You could feel her energy," Morgan added.
Players said they're going to miss joking with her on the court.
"We always high five each other hard and my hand, she always leaving it stinging so not having that feeling," said Morgan.
"My favorite memory was racing to put our ankle braces on see who could tighten it faster, then complaining how tight they were," said Quidera.
The team will continue their return to the court on Sunday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale as part of the Festival Fiesta Classic.
Players and coaches are also raising money to help the families affected by the car crash.