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Volleyball: Argyle tournament honors beloved grad

Profile image for By Ben Baby
By Ben Baby

When Argyle’s volleyball team takes the court today for the tournament it’s hosting this weekend, the Lady Eagles will not be wearing their traditional black jackets during warm-ups.

Instead, Argyle will be wearing charcoal gray long-sleeved shirts with coral lettering.

Coral was the favorite color of Sawyer Camillo. Camillo graduated from Argyle in 2012 and went on to play volleyball at Louisiana-Lafayette before she died in December, three days before Christmas.

This weekend, at the Sawyer Camillo Memorial Tournament, the altered pregame uniform will have Camillo’s high school No. 14 on the back of the shirts. On the front of the shirts will be the words from Camillo’s final post on the social networking site Pinterest:

“Today, I will choose joy.”

It’ll be the 13th year Argyle will host the tournament, but Argyle coach Clark Oberle said this year’s tournament is easily the most meaningful one.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” Oberle said. “It is going to be emotional, but it’s going to be special too. It’s going to be good to celebrate what a great kid she was.”

The tournament’s matches will take place today and Saturday. Lake Dallas, Guyer, Krum and Liberty Christian will be among the 16 teams competing in the tournament that will honor Camillo.

A few days after surgery to repair fractures in her vertebrae, Camillo died at her parents’ home in Argyle. According to her mother, an autopsy showed a blood clot was the cause of Camillo’s death.

A few weeks later, Lori Camillo asked to visit the school and take a picture of the notes left on her daughter’s volleyball locker by her friends, fearing the notes would be gone and cleaned up if she waited any longer.

Camillo’s mother wouldn’t have that problem. The notes were scribbled on Camillo’s locker in permanent ink. Oberle then informed Lori Camillo of his plans to use Argyle’s annual tournament to honor his former player.

At first, Camillo’s mother wondered if her daughter was worthy of the honor. Then Oberle reminded her of Sawyer Camillo’s impact on the program. Camillo started all four years as a middle blocker for Oberle before she earned an academic scholarship to ULL and played volleyball there as well.

“It is very humbling,” Lori Camillo said. “It’s really the only thing I can say. It’s very touching and very humbling that they wanted to do this. … I live in the greatest community, because when she was gone, they swooped in.”’

Lori Camillo’s voice trailed off on the other end of the phone. Over the four days leading up to the tournament, she was compiling pictures from her daughter’s friends of Camillo’s lone semester in college — an emotional process. Lori Camillo gathered herself and continued.

The morning after her daughter’s death, as she pondered how she was going to plan the funeral, she walked out of her bedroom.

“My house was filled with people that just came,” Lori Camillo said. “They were in my house. They were cleaning up my house. Food was pouring in. The whole town just wrapped their arms around us and helped us through a tough time.”

When junior middle blocker Katy Keenan was a freshman, Sawyer Camillo similarly embraced the tall, lanky girl whot earned the nickname “Little G,” which stood for “little giraffe.” Camillo was Keenan’s mentor when Keenan joined the program and someone she looked up to before ever playing a match.

“She’s the one that I remember watching her when I was in eighth grade,” Keenan said. “Watching her hit and how powerful she was, I was in awe and thought she’s a superhero. It was the greatest thing.”

When Keenan was cleaning off a shelf of trophies in her room over the summer, she discovered about 12 or 13 giraffes Camillo gave the player who eventually took over her role in the middle of the court.

As the tournament has been approaching, Keenan said she’s been thinking of old memories as emotions regarding Camillo’s death resurfaced.

“I didn’t deal with it very well,” Keenan said. “I just kind of tried to shove my emotions away and not think about it and act like it really didn’t happen. Because she was at college, so to me ... it was like she was at college and she hasn’t come home since.

“So having this tournament, it really opened my eyes and reminded me that she isn’t just at college. She’s not here anymore.”

Oberle said a portion of the proceeds will go toward paying the tournament officials, while the allocation of the rest of the proceeds is still undetermined. Oberle said it could go toward things like a scholarship fund in Sawyer’s name or charities that share Sawyer’s interests, such as UNICEF or autism research.

Keenan said that for her this weekend’s tournament is about showing Sawyer’s parents what kind of legacy she left and how much she meant to the team.

On a television in an empty corner of the foyer of Arygle’s gym, all the pictures Lori Camillo compiled will be playing in the background of the tournament, giving people a chance to reminisce or to meet Sawyer for the first time.

Keenan said the weekend will bring out a lot of bittersweet feelings, but the Lady Eagles will have gray shirts with coral lettering to show they still have their former teammate on their minds.

Today, they will choose joy.