When the Odessa High volleyball team won its first District 2-5A match on Sept. 28 at Abilene Cooper, a majority of the squad stormed the court and celebrated.
But one player held off on the festivities.
Janie Campos said she withheld her jubilation for a few moments, and shed a few tears in the process, before joining her teammates in the mob-like celebration.
Campos, a senior setter, said she used the pause to kneel down and whisper a small prayer.
“I told him that I played for him,” Campos said, her eyes welling up as she recalled the event.
That pause and petition was reserved for her uncle, Jimmy Campos, who died Sept. 27 in an oil-rig accident in Rankin.
“I didn’t think it was true,” said Janie Campos, who heard about the incident during a seventh-period class Sept. 27. “It was really hard for me to deal with.”
Campos said she was unsure if she would attend classes the next day, much less play in a district match, after receiving word of her uncle’s death.
“I didn’t think I could do it at first, but he always pushed me to do my best,” she said. “I knew that he would have wanted me to play in the volleyball match.”
Campos more than played in the match. She recorded 14 assists in a 15-25, 17-25, 25-21, 25-19, 15-11 victory, marking her second-highest assist total since dishing out 25 on Aug. 28.
“I just felt like something special was happening,” said Campos, who attended her uncle’s funeral Tuesday. “I knew something or someone was helping me out.”
Odessa High head coach Rachel Pena said her senior setter was playing inspired volleyball.
“It was an emotional match for her,” Pena said. “She played in her uncle’s memory and it was great to see her play so well. She was working hard and it made her teammates work just as hard.”
Pena said she was impressed with Campos’ resilience, as well, for the Lady Bronchos (14-15 overall, 1-8 District 2-5A).
Campos, who wears a large black brace on her right knee, was making a return to the court after suffering a sprained right MCL during the Nita Vannoy Memorial in August in San Angelo.
The last time Campos logged any statistics was three assists in a Sept. 18, four-set loss to Abilene High. Campos said the only reason she was able to make such a quick return was because of her uncle’s rehab reminders.
“He’d always be the person to encourage me, push me through the tough times,” she said. “He always reminded me about rehabbing my knee if I wanted to play volleyball again.”
And that time has come for Campos who, along with her teammates, play against Midland Lee (20-12, 5-5) at 5 p.m. today in the OHS Fieldhouse.
Campos said playing volleyball has been a small bit of reprieve from her grief, but that it will take awhile to get past the loss of Jimmy Campos, who she called her “guardian angel that watches over her.”
The rest of the season may be difficult to play through, but Janie Campos can be sure that her teammates will support her.
“She’s going through such a hard time and worked her butt off,” Odessa High senior Natalie Cook said. “As a teammate, you have to think to yourself, ‘If Janie can be here doing this, we have to play as hard as we can for her.’ ”