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Summit girls soccer playing for Elizabeth Murphy

11:44 AM, May 9, 2011   |    comments
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Elizabeth Murphy

That morning, the junior at Summit High School learned her friend and former varsity basketball teammate Elizabeth Murphy was killed when the car she was driving crashed along Highway 9 in Summit County.

Two other occupants in the vehicle - including Murphy's younger sister - were also injured, but survived the wreck.

"I went to a previous class before my first period and this lady asked me to sit down. I said 'Wait. I'm not in this class,'" Malknech said to 9NEWS on Tuesday. "I walked out and they gave me the news. I heard her name and I walked out of the class even before I could hear them finish it.

"I didn't know how to react. I didn't know what to do. I found people crying in the hallways and it was easier for me to cope with it that way."

Malknecht remembered Murphy as an upbeat and outgoing classmate who seemed to have life in perfect perspective.

"You never saw her around school without a smile," she said. "She could make the quietest moment awkward and hilarious.

"She had a funny run. We always teased her about that. She kind of looked like a T-Rex when she ran."

After hearing the news, the last thing on her mind was playing a soccer game that day against Evergreen.

"Your first instinct is like 'How am I supposed to play with this guilt in my head? Just this pain,'" she said.

But, when head coach Tommy Gogolen got his team together, he knew they almost had to play.

"That's just great as a coach to see the students just gather around each other and lift each other up and persevere through this adversity," Gogolen said.

Said Malknecht: "When we came together, we realized that if we go out on the field, we're doing it for her - not for ourselves. We're being strong for her - not for ourselves."

Before the game, each player wrapped tape around their shins and marked it with "R.I.P Lizzie" and other phrases of tribute - a tribute Malknecht said will last for the remainder of the season.

Once the ball was put in play against Evergreen, the game became a necessary distraction for a grieving team and student body.

"It was on our mind the whole day," coach Gogolen said. "I could definitely tell with some of the girls that were really close to Lizzie. But, what's cool about our team is when you saw some of that going on, you'd see some of the other girls lifting each other up."

The fact Evergreen shut out Summit 8-0 was not important. What mattered was the Summit community coming together - even for a couple hours on a soccer field - to try and heal from the sudden loss.

And Malknecht knew the crowd at the game included one more person looking from above.

"I was thinking 'I hope you're watching. I'm trying hard," she said. "She'd probably be saying 'Good job. Keep your head up.'"

Good advice for the entire student body of Summit High School and the community of Frisco, Colorado.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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