By Cody Soto
Park Ridge, Ill., junior Colin McGuire remembers the first time he ever met Greenwood Village, Colo., sophomore Hunter Noon. It was on the volleyball court. As a setter and outside hitter, McGuire and Noon connected tactically and quickly as soon as the ball came over the net.
“I remember setting him for the first time, and he was like, ‘That was great,’” McGuire said. “Then, I thought, ‘who is this kid?’ and he turned out to be my best friend. I thought it was interesting. He was way more confident in the first open gym than any other freshman that I’ve ever seen.”
That feeling will unfortunately only be a memory now as McGuire and the rest of the Baylor men’s club volleyball team move forward after losing their teammate in November. Noon was found unresponsive in his apartment and had passed away on Nov. 18, sending shock waves across campus.
That day will never be forgotten by Noon’s teammates. The event was so sudden that it was hard to believe it was true, Aliso Viego, Calif. senior Chris Dyer said.
“I just started crying. I had to separate myself from everyone because I didn’t know what to think,” Dyer said. “It was so unexpected of something like this to happen. One of my friends, one of my teammates is just gone, and my heart dropped. We could not believe what was going on.”
A prayer and memorial service quickly followed in the days after Noon’s death, and five months later, the team finishes its season feeling a part of themselves as empty. The club volleyball team competed at nationals in early April, but Noon’s absence was felt along the way.
“We are no where near what we could have been with him,” Dyer said. “He elevated our game by his attitude and presence on the court. He made us that much better. I think we could have won our conference, and I think we could have won nationals. We would have been that good, and it’s hard because that’s not even a possibility with him not here.”
While the team was able to make adjustments to qualify for nationals, the team dynamic was not the same, McGuire said.
“Last year especially, we were a pretty cohesive team,” McGuire said. “This year, due to a couple of things, we’re not as cohesive. There’s a missing link between our talent and playing well as a team. The court is definitely a lot quieter without Hunter.”
Noon provided a spark of energy that the team rallied behind every match. Without him, the team has not been able to regenerate the chemistry Noon brought to the court, Baguley said.
But nonetheless, the team has had to move on.
“People noticed Hunter, and they were drawn to him because he had a vibrant personality,” Spring senior Joshua Baguley said. “We have had players step up, and they’re doing a phenomenal job. It hasn’t been easy, but I wouldn’t have gotten through it without anyone on our team.”
The healing process has not been easy. Each team member coped with the loss differently, and a wave of questions and emotions made it difficult to move on.
“The days after I was angry,” Dyer said. “I had so many questions. Why would God take someone so special to so many people? Why would he take away someone who has made an impact on so many lives who is a light in this world? It happened, but He does things for a reason.”
The team has rallied behind one another, building each other up just like Noon used to do. Although the team did not perform as well at nationals as last year, the team persisted in embodying Noon’s attitude towards the game and outlook on life.
“It’s cool how you can know somebody for a short time, and they make a big impact on your life,” McGuire said. “I wish I was more like Hunter, and I’m trying to live life like he did.”
Five months later, the team still has not forgotten Nov. 18. None of them ever will, but the lessons learned throughout the healing process has allowed each team member to accept the death of their teammate.
“Sometimes when you have a bad day, the reason why you’re down is not important in the grand scheme of life,” Dyer said. “There’s many other things that are more important that getting a bad grade on a test or tripping and embarrassing yourself. There’s more things that are more important.”
Looking back on the season, Dyer, McGuire and Baguley did not forget their teammate. The team took a photo with Noon’s No. 2 jersey after each tournament, and that jersey will symbolize something special for each member. Noon will always be on the roster.
“He’s still a part of the team,” McGuire said. “He may not be here physically, but I know he’s always on my mind. He’s still with each and every one of us.”
The team will change each year, and although new team members will not know who Noon was, his teammates who played with him will not let his memory be forgotten.
“Hunter is who I play for,” Baguley said. “I used to just play because I thought it was fun, but now I have a reason to play: to make him proud of us.”