CHICAGO (CBS) -- Loyola University junior Karlie McNabb is having a breakout season for the newly crowned Atlantic 10 champion Ramblers women's volleyball team.
McNabb wasn't even sure she'd finish this season though, after losing her mom to cancer. CBS 2's Marshall Harris has the story.
The Loyola Women's Volleyball team is heading to the NCAA Tournament.
"I mean we're going dancing this is what we've been wanting to do," said Karlie McNabb.
Every time the team has stepped onto the court this season, they've been playing for a bigger purpose: Win 4 Kim.
"Last year we all got green shoes. Everybody pretty much has green laces, we wear green hair ties for the games just little things like that go a long way," said McNabb.
Green to represent Karlie McNabb's mother Kim, who was diagnosed with stage 4 gallbladder cancer last September. She lost her battle in the middle of this season.
"It was a big shock for sure. I went home on September 7 and that was the day that she passed away," McNabb said. "The next weeks I didn't really know for sure what my plan was going to be moving forward. I honestly didn't even know if I was going to come back. After conversations with my family and friends we ultimately decided that me coming back and playing and living my life going to school is what my mom would have wanted for me."
Just over two months later, McNabb is dominating. Leading the team with a career-high 21 kills in the Atlantic 10 Championship, garnering A-10 Player of the Year and Tournament MVP honors.
"You know when I thought she might get it I was on my way to work and tearing up thinking about how amazing it would be," said Amanda Berkley, Loyola women's volleyball head coach. "What a story for her to be player of the year. Sophomore year she wasn't playing six rotations and this year, she's leading the team in aces and playing six rotations and just a leader out there."
McNabb added, "To like top off the season with an award like that for her and for my family was really special and there was a lot of tears, happy tears for a change which was really nice."
Now, McNabb and the Ramblers prepare for the postseason. McNabb has no doubts that her mom will be with her every step of the way.
"There's plays that we talk about where it's like how did that happen and we're like Kim, Kim is in here she's here every game. When we do the National Anthem every game I always look up and talk to her a little bit before every game and know that she's there," said McNabb.
"One of her first matches back after her Mom passed KJ had four aces and it hit the tape and rolled over and KJ said 'It was like my mom went poof to get the ball over the net' and it was like amazing," says Berkley.
While McNabb's season has been full of highs and lows, her head coach says the only way you'll see Karlie on the court is with with a smile. When asked where her infectious personality came from…
"Oh, it totally comes from my Mom… and my Dad too."
Loyola will take on Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.
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