Playing through the pain: Weir Red Rider family reflects on loss of teammate, friend
WEIRTON — During its first home game since the death of a teammate and her mother, the Weir High girls soccer team wore its red jerseys during Wednesday’s contest against Brooke.
The same jersey could be seen earlier in the day at the Greco-Hertnick Funeral Home for Madison Crowe and her mother, Melissa Rowland. After today’s funeral services conclude, it will be the last time anybody wears No. 3 on the girls squad, as Crowe will be buried in it.
Her white jersey will hang on a nearby fence during games for the remainder of the season. For warmups, every Weir High player and coach wears the same sky blue shirt with a halo floating above the word “MADFLO” on the front and the No. 3 wrapped in angel’s wings on the back.
That was Crowe’s nickname and favorite color. It represents one of many honors for the fallen teammate and her mother.
“I tell them during the game to look up. If they’re tired or not feeling right or missing, look up. There’s something in the air, and just look for it. This is isn’t easy for anyone,” head soccer coach Jeremy Angelo said.
Crowe and Rowland, the wife of Chad Rowland, were shot to death last Thursday. A moment of silence was held prior to Wednesday’s game, as well as Weir High and Brooke gathering in a circle around midfield at Jimmy Carey Stadium.
“No matter what type of day anybody was having, she would always be there to make everybody laugh,” Weir High sophomore Jules Glodkowski said about Crowe. “She was very outgoing and wasn’t scared. Girls on the other teams always underestimated her. She would dominate on that field every single day.
“She would want us to play. She’d be mad if we didn’t.”
As part of another tribute, the Red Riders began with only 10 players (rather than 11) on the field for the first three minutes. They did same during Monday’s contest at St. Clairsville, their first game back since learning of the deaths Wednesday marked the first home contest since.
The Red Riders will begin every game for the remainder of the season with only 10 players for three minutes.
“She loved soccer, and she wouldn’t want us to do anything different,” Weir High sophomore Ava Taylor said. “(Wednesday) was really hard to come out and play against Brooke, but we know she would’ve wanted us to. This is our turf, and we know she would want us to defeat Brooke because we lost to them last year.”
Brooke also helped with the honors. After those first three minutes concluded, the game paused for the Bruins to release red and black balloons, as well as a silver No. 3 balloon.
“Maddie played travel (ball). Her dad coached my daughter for two years in travel. Before that, I coached her sister on travel,” Brooke head coach Elias Hannaoui said. “All of the Ohio Valley has been affected by this tragedy. (Wednesday) is just a healing game, and we’re trying to help them heal, get back on their feet and hopefully they’ll play for her.”
Angelo has coached at Weir High for the past four seasons and was at Edison for 19 years prior. Out of his 23-plus years in the game, he never had to deal with this type of situation.
The closest came when he coached basketball at Edison and a former player died two years later in an automobile accident. He also dealt with family members passing away from other accidents, but nothing like this.
“She was just a happy-go-lucky, hard-working young lady. She played hard, was competitive and physical,” Angelo said. “She played the game right and never started any cheap stuff. If you cheap-shotted her, she might get you back, but she wasn’t going to start it.
“Off the field as a classmate and a friend, all of the girls loved her. I haven’t found anyone who has anything bad to say about her. She always had a smile on her face. If she ever was upset, it was because of the way we played. She always wanted to get better.”
Most of those involved with Weir High athletics also knew Rowland well. She was very proactive in her daughter’s love for soccer and always was there.
“She was a second mother to me,” Taylor said. “Any time I needed a ride, she would give me one. If I needed dinner, she would make it.”
Angelo knew Rowland for more than 20 years, while she traveled with Hannaoui and his teams when Crowe played. It also was not hard to know where Rowland was sitting and cheering Crowe on.
“She had the most obnoxious laugh ever. It was so funny,” Glodkowski said. “You can hear it from all the way over to the other side (of the field). It was so funny.”
While the deaths of Crowe and Rowland hit the girls team the hardest, they also have affected the entire school, community and valley.
“It’s more than just the athletics. This goes throughout the entire school,” said Donna Ferguson, the athletic director at Weir High. “It’s just important that we’re there for the kids and providing the right support for them, providing the opportunities to meet with counselors and just being there. We know how hard it is for us as adults to process things like this, so we can only imagine the difficulty they’re having to process this. It’s just a matter of the whole community coming together and supporting these kids for this time.”
One of the first steps for healing occurred shorty after the news broke last Thursday. A vigil was held just outside of the stadium and was organized by a group of soccer parents. Ferguson was one of many who attended.
The hallways and classes at Weir High School have not been the same since last Thursday. Assistant principal Jeanne Pellegrino said it is quieter, although it can be tough to tell. The school has been more quiet this year to begin with due to the coronavirus pandemic, but there is a difference.
“It’s really quiet at school anyway because we have so few students. There’s really not a lot going on,” she said.
“I think it’s great that the kids (are honoring) them. They’re going to be doing more, and I know they will. That’s really good. It’s a really bad situation, but they need to have their closure. That helps the kids heal.”
Visitation Wednesday began at 1 p.m. and ended at 8 p.m. A private funeral service was held today. A scholarship will be established in Crowe’s memory, and a Go Fund Me account was set up over the weekend to help the families.
Angelo knows his team and the community will heal from the tragic event. One of the best ways for Weir High to honor Crowe and Rowland is to keep playing soccer because it is what they would have wanted.
“The girls just show up ready to play,” Angelo said. “I’ve told them that they’re winners. Everyone’s behind them. It’s going to be hard, but once they start playing the game, they just play.”