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Commentary

Albury's mother loses final battle

By KRISTEN LEIGH PORTER
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 23, 2003

Danielle Albury's biggest fan is gone.

The Seven Rivers Christian standout's mother, Nancy, died Thursday morning after battling amyloidosis of her kidney. She was 51.

Nancy was a single mother who moved Danielle, now 17, and her sister Iesha, 10, to Citrus County in 1999. She also leaves behind two adult children.

For four years, it has been impossible to attend a Seven Rivers basketball or volleyball game or track meet without seeing Nancy cheering her daughter on.

"That meant a lot to her, her mom coming to every game and knocking herself out to be there," said Nancy's sister, Lyn Cantrell, who has been staying with Danielle while her mother received treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.

The animated Nancy was not hard to spot. The tall, outgoing brunette often sat as close to the court as possible, and her expressions mirrored the game action. But she had to miss many of Danielle's basketball games this season while undergoing treatment.

"She and Nancy were so close," Cantrell said. "The loss for her is the greatest. It's hard."

Albury has not had contact with her father in quite some time, although she is the kind of child any parent would be proud of. A top-notch student with a 3.7 GPA, Albury is as well-liked as she is well-known in the local sports community.

Albury is a repeat Times All-Citrus/Hernando player of the year in volleyball and a first-team pick in basketball. But the comment heard over and over from opposing coaches as well as her own was that Albury was a good kid.

Cantrell said Friday that plans for Albury to continue her volleyball career at the University of Tampa were still a go. Albury had made an oral commitment to the school several weeks ago after making her official visit and talking it over with her mother.

In an interview before her mother's passing, Albury was excited about the future. She can officially sign with the school on April 16, and will turn 18 on April 25.

Albury will join a team that was eliminated from postseason play by the eventual national champion in consecutive seasons. The Spartans won their seventh straight Sunshine State Conference championship, the NCAA South Region Tournament and posted a 22-match winning streak.

"Most schools' big sport is football or whatever," Albury said. "Well, their big sport is volleyball because they've won their conference seven years and went to nationals this year. So they're known for being a good volleyball school, and they play a lot of Division I schools and beat them."

Albury said she was told she probably would not see a ton of playing time as a freshman, but will be a four-year contributor and has no plans to redshirt. During the visit, the UT staff critiqued Albury and said they will work on her armswing and refine her technique. The UT staff measured her approach jump and Albury reached 9-11 1/2, a fingertip shorter than a basketball rim.

After competing in three sports during her prep career, Albury will concentrate on volleyball, which easily became her favorite sport.

"I'm looking forward to just focusing on that," she said.

Albury has attended small schools her entire life and said Tampa's size is perfect. UT has approximately 4,250 students.

Another reason the school was so attractive was its proximity to Citrus County. Nancy planned to attend every home match and as many road contests as possible. Said Cantrell: "I think Tampa's going to get even a better volleyball player than they might have had simply because Danielle's the type that might dedicate her volleyball to her mom."

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