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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
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Life outside of tennis

By Kim Peterson

U tennis coach Megan Dorny had a hard time telling her daughter that Ana Williams wasn’t coming back.

On Feb. 9, a drunken-driving accident took the lives of Dorny’s sister-in-law, Michelle Williams; niece, Ana Williams, 9; and nephew, Ben Williams, 11. The accident that rocked a community also left her brother-in-law, Chris Williams, in critical condition.

“Ana and my daughter Jane were really close. Jane was like a big sister to Ana,” Dorny said.

Dorny’s husband and his sister Michelle Williams had a close relationship; the two families lived just down the street from each other.

“It’s one of those situations that you never envision yourself in,” Megan Dorny said.

She and her husband received a late-night phone call Feb. 9 and knew something was wrong.

“It’s hard to comprehend that some of the closest people in your life are gone,” she said.

“A lot of us aren’t from Utah, so Megan (Dorny’s) husband, his parents and family are like our parents away from home,” said Ute sophomore tennis player Leigh Walsh.

Team members said that Michelle Williams was at almost all their matches; her children often came with her and sometimes hit balls on the court after matches were over.

“She was the first person to congratulate you (after a win) or cheer you up after you lost,” Walsh said.

On Feb. 12, the Monday after the accident, Dorny sat down with her team and talked about the tragedy. She welcomed any questions the players had.

“Someone in my situation starts the talking first,” Dorny said.

In response to the tragedy, the tennis team held a memorial on Feb. 14 during its match against Weber State.

“The memorial was for ourselves, and?so (Dorny) knew she could count on us for support,” said junior Liz Ferris.

The team put together ribbons, contacted media to increase awareness and raised funds for the family.

During the match, the team’s feeling of loss was more prominent than the tennis.

“There was a sense something was missing. A part of us was,” Walsh said. “That day when we played, you’d look up and almost start seeing them there?(in the past) if I lost my temper, Michelle (Williams) would be the one smiling and laughing at me.”

They didn’t realize how much the little things–like the food the Williams family made for fans at the matches or the congratulations after a game–meant to them, team members said.

Despite the win, team practices were hard that week. In fact, according to many players, there was a “bad vibe.”

“The whole week of practice, we didn’t do much. Didn’t want to play. We didn’t even play an hour a day,” Ferris said.

The week ended with a road trip to Kansas. Dorny stayed in Utah for funeral services. The Utes lost to Kansas State, then were beaten by a single point in a heartbreaker against Kansas the following day. It was a frustrating road trip, to say the least, but Utah remains optimistic about reaching its goal of becoming nationally ranked.

With an entire week of practice under their belts, the Utes now feel confident facing nationally ranked Rice tonight at the Eccles Tennis Center. The team feels that with a home court advantage, it has a good chance. If the Utes win, they will be a step closer to their goal.

The tragedy gave Utah a new perspective, which may help them perform better as a team.

“I think it made us realize while tennis is important, when you lose or win it doesn’t mean that you’re great or terrible. It’s not the end of the world,” Walsh said.

Dorny said she feels they learned from it as a team and hopes her players realizes that as important as tennis is to them, there are more important things in life. She thinks that if anything, this lesson will help the team.

“None of these girls want to lose, but sometimes they want to win so badly they get fearful. (The new perspective) almost makes things easier,” Dorny said. “Control what you can and do the best you can–it’s a reflection of how Ana, Ben and Michelle lived?They’ve done their best and given it all. The most important things in life are the people who are close to you.”

Dorny says the team has “come together in a way you want every team to come together” and hopes the new outlook will help the team earn a national ranking. On a more personal level, she hopes the team can get something more from the tragedy.

“Winning is great, but the important thing is lessons we learn,” Dorny said. “I still hope we win a lot, but ultimately I hope the girls learn life’s lessons. That’s the point we’re trying to hit home.”

Team members say that though they are doing better, both emotionally and mentally, the family is still in their hearts.

“It’s a lot easier, but it’s still in the back of my mind,” Ferris said.

“Some days I can fully grasp what has happened,” Dorny said. “After going to the funeral, viewing and going to the gravesite, you’d think it’s real.”

The hardest part for her, she says, is having to watch the rest of the Williams family — Chris, Michael and Sam — try to pick up all the pieces. It’ll be difficult for all of them, she says. Michelle Williams was the social director of her family.

For Dorny, some days are better than others, and she knows that time will take the pain away–maybe not all of it, but life will go on.

Tyler Cobb

Megan Dorny

Tyler Cobb

Karine Bourdages, Leigh Walsh and Elizabeth Ferris react after the moment of silence during the memorial Utah held to pay tribute and raise funds for the Williams family at their Feb. 14 match against Weber State in the Eccles Tennis Center.

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