The Washington Times-Herald

November 7, 2013

Barr-Reeve shines through triumph and tragedy

By Todd Lancaster Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald

---- — There isn’t a Starbucks in Montgomery.

There aren’t any yoga studios or herbal spas either. In fact, from the outside, there isn’t a lot that separates Montgomery from almost any other small town that dots the landscape in Southern Indiana.

But for semistate championship winning volleyball coach Amber DeCoursey, there is no other place on Earth she would rather be.

DeCoursey has been a highly successful player and coach at Barr-Reeve and she knows what is important on the volleyball court there — but she knows what is important off the court too, and that is the community.

This season, as her Vikings were marching toward tournament action with everything going their way, they were forced to deal with the reality of a tragedy. And, it was more important than bumps, sets or kills.

On a rainy Sunday morning in late September, Brandon Wagler, brother of JV player Megan Wagler, was killed in car accident while on his way to church.

Wagler had just graduated from Barr-Reeve as valedictorian in May, and was a member of the basketball and baseball teams last season. He was a beloved member of the community and was the son of DeCoursey’s first cousin. He was the kind of graduate in Viking Nation who would have been in the front row cheering on the Lady Vikings.

“He was such a great kid and great athlete. Along with being my cousin, I had him for six years as a student and Mike (Amber’s husband) had him as a player for two years in middle school basketball.”

“It goes to show you that what you think is important (like wins or losses) is not, when something like this happens. We had a situation like this in 2008 to another girl on the team and in 2010 we had the mother of a player involved in a terrible accident. It is those times when you realize how special the community really is,” said DeCoursey.

“This team, school and town have come together for Megan and her family. We just told Megan when she was ready to come back she would be welcomed with open arms.”

DeCoursey said that after the accident, the team’s approach to what was important changed.

“In the beginning of the year, our motto was ‘ONE.’ These seniors remember that we were one game, one point away from going to state. It was to remind us that one point can make all the difference,” DeCoursey said.

“However, after the accident, it became something very different. ONE now stands for one family and one community. That is what we are, win or lose.”

And it has not just been Megan Wagler who has received the support of her friends, neighbors and teammates. Brandon’s brother,Jacob, a sixth grader, recently got to spend time with Indiana University basketball coach Tom Crean. When the Hoosiers opened the year with the Hoosier Hysteria celebration, Mike DeCoursey made sure Jacob was in the front row. Crean spent about 20 minutes in the office with Jacob, gave him a tour of the locker room area and presented him with an athlete’s Bible.

One of the ways Brandon’s memory is kept in the forefront of the team and the fans is with the green hair ribbons that the girls wear.

“If you see green, it is for Brandon and his family. It started with a lot of his friends that he played sports with wearing those green wristbands and it is just something that we have adopted too,” said DeCoursey.

Although Megan will not dress for Saturday’s match, she will be with the team as the Vikings attempt to bring home a state title. She will be backing her teammates — the same way the Barr-Reeve community has stood behind her.