No matter how many times UMKC volleyball coach Christi Posey watches the play, it still exhilarates her.
Here was 6-foot-2 senior middle hitter Emma Hagedorn in an October match against Cal State Bakersfield, soaring to seemingly new heights and blasting a kill that practically ricocheted off the ceiling of the Swinney Recreation Center.
The play would be recognized as the NCAA volleyball national play of the week, though in some ways it was just part of the norm for Hagedorn, who led Division I with a .439 hitting percentage.
But Hagedorn’s path to this point, and to graduating earlier this month and getting married on Friday and Posey’s particular joy in it all, was decidedly abnormal.
It was even fraught with moments of despair before she learned a few things about unconditional love.
From her family and UMKC coaches and teammates, for starters.
Through it all, she also fulfilled what she deemed a need for redemption.
“It was very difficult and emotional, but I was given a second chance,” Hagedorn said. “And that’s not something I feel like every girl is given in this situation.”
Hagedorn, a Park Hill South graduate, was in Posey’s first recruiting class at UMKC, one key to a 2014 Western Athletic Conference title boosted by Hagedorn’s ascension to WAC player of the year.
So there was hope for more of the same and beyond in 2015 … only for Hagedorn to incur a life-changing development with boyfriend Trevan Hiatt, with whom she had rekindled a relationship after meeting in church years before.
When she learned she was pregnant that April, she couldn’t stop crying and Hiatt “couldn’t make words,” as he put it.
“When a child is not planned, the future is very unknown, and it’s scary,” she said as beaming 1-year-old daughter Charlie roamed around her in Swinney. “There’s that factor of the unknown. … ‘Am I going to keep my scholarship? Am I going to have to quit school?’
“And I’m going to have to figure out what I’m doing in the future now.”
To say nothing of about the hardest thing either had ever done: tell their parents and, in Hagedorn’s case, coaches.
However upset anyone was about the circumstances, the most meaningful message soon was emphatically clear from her parents, Tom and Cheri. Their first grandchild was going to be a welcome wonder, and they would all figure this out together.
Meanwhile, some believed the couple should go right to the courthouse.
But as they thought it through with family and friends and Pastor Phillip O’Reilly at their church, The Rock KC, they decided to focus first on the baby and make sure about each other before adding another instant lifetime commitment to the impending changes.
So each moved back in with their parents, to save money and give themselves space to know each other and best prepare for parenthood.
Hagedorn would soon be a fulltime mother and fulltime student while taking on an internship that led to a fulltime job starting next month at ThinkViral, which helps businesses develop through social media.
For all that was changing, including routinely attending to Charlie in the middle of the night, Hagedorn was driven to make good on her commitment to UMKC – which she initially feared might reject her for letting down the program.
Instead, when a mournful Hagedorn visited Posey to break the news, she got immediate warmth and reassurance.
“She’s a loving and warm and wonderful and sincere young woman, and she was genuinely so apologetic,” Posey recalled.
Hagedorn asked to deliver the news herself to the team, and so she did — to an audience with no dry eyes by the time she was done.
“All of them were, like, ‘We’re going to do this,’ ” Hagedorn said.
Not that it wasn’t complicated for Posey at times, too.
Through more than three decades as a coach, including at Blue Valley Northwest and as an assistant at Kansas, she never had quite encountered a situation like this.
She felt so much for Hagedorn but was conflicted about certain things.
For instance, should Hagedorn be on the bench with the team?
She wanted it understood that as coaches they realize youngsters sometimes make bad decisions and still need to be loved and supported, but she wrestled with the idea of young recruits in the stands thinking, “Well, that seems OK.”
Then she came to this.
“ ‘This is Emma. This is one of ours,’” she said. “It’s what happens in families. So you live it, and you make it a positive. …
“We’re in the business of influencing and impacting young people, and so what stronger message can we provide than this is an unconditional love for our own?”
A few weeks after Charlie was born, Posey and assistant coach Trent Jones visited the Hagedorn home in Parkville to “make that connection right away.”
Amid her dizzying new life, Hagedorn soon showed up for the first day of winter workouts for the 2016 season.
During circuit training, she “about passed out.” She felt like she couldn’t run and was staggered by how much leap she’d lost.
All of which apparently just made her more determined.
Thanks to her drive and her family and Charlie’s smile that made it all worthwhile and “God and a lot of coffee,” she didn’t just return for one last season but ascended new heights.
Beyond her play itself, Hagedorn offered something else.
“Her attitude towards our team was maternal,” Posey said. “There was a true strength of compassion with her.”
The girl who arrived her five years ago somewhat young for her age, by Posey’s estimation, leaves a woman wise and capable quite beyond her 23 years.
Parenthood has taught her about being there more for others — even in volleyball, which taught her how to balance a lot of things in her life and taught her what it means to give her absolute best every day.
So in that way it prepared her — some, anyway — to be a parent.
“No matter what, every single day, I have to show up; I have to do my job. I have to be the best,” she said. “Because somebody’s depending on me.”
It’s not quite how anyone would have drawn this up, obviously, but life has a way of throwing curveballs.
Somehow, everyone ultimately handled this one as if they knew it was coming.
So at the Hagedorn-Hiatt wedding on Friday at the Carriage Club, Charlie was to be the flower girl for an audience that helped guide their way to this celebration.
There are a million reasons why this could have played out differently, and everyone involved knows that many in such a predicament don’t have the same support or means of coping.
But those unique aspects are part of the point, too, as Posey thinks of what Hagedorn’s journey has reminded her of the power of love to propel you beyond what you could do before.
“Have faith,” she said, “and believe that things can work out.”