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 Thursday, November 7, 2002 15:12 EST

Women's team records emotional victory

[Associated Press]

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio -- A bouquet of pink carnations sat between the benches on the field where an 18-year-old Bowling Green soccer player collapsed and later died.

Fans wore yellow ribbons, and teammates of freshman Leslie Dawley wore black jerseys instead of their traditional home whites. Players from Bowling Green and Buffalo fought through tears Wednesday in the Mid-American Conference tournament quarterfinal that had been postponed the day before.

The Falcons weren't sure they wanted to play. But they agreed after Dawley's parents said it was what their daughter would have wanted.

``It gave them something to do instead of sit around in their dorm rooms or go to class and think about what happened,'' Bowling Green coach Andy Richards said.

Bowling Green won 2-1 on a penalty kick in double overtime.

Dawley fell face down five minutes into the game Tuesday. Some players said they heard her scream just before she collapsed.

Trainers rushed onto the field and tried to revive her. Teammates covered her with jackets before she was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where she died. The coroner's office has not released the cause of death.

Dawley had asthma and was tested in October after she complained she was having trouble breathing, said her mother, Wendy Dawley. The tests showed nothing wrong.

``She died playing the game that she loved the most,'' Wendy Dawley said. The family, which lives in suburban Columbus, did not attend Wednesday's game.

Teammates said Dawley had fun on the field. Although she was homesick when she first got to Bowling Green, she quickly grew to love the school, senior Erika Flanders said.

``She was always smiling and always laughing,'' Flanders said. ``She was always happy.''

Bowling Green players wore black armbands with Dawley's No. 18 and yellow ribbons on their warmups. Some looked away from the spot where Dawley collapsed while others stared, blankly, into the sky.

Their eyes were dark and heavy and their faces were emotionless. Most had stayed up all night talking, and a few didn't eat.

``We had cried all day,'' Flanders said. ``We played on our emotion for her.''

Referees, players and coaches from both teams gathered at midfield before the game and held hands in a circle during a moment of silence. They exchanged hugs and wiped away tears.

Buffalo coach Jean-A. Tassy carried the bouquet of carnations onto the sideline. His players gave each Bowling Green player a yellow rose, which the Falcons left at midfield after the game.

``Things that were important are no longer important,'' Tassy said.

Karen Rieman, whose daughter, Beth, is a sophomore on the Bowling Green team, said she understood the need to play.

``If it was my daughter, I know that's what she would want,'' she said.

Freshman Julie Trundle scored the game-winning goal and was mobbed by teammates. She said she was thinking about Dawley just before the winning kick.

``We just wanted to go out there and play for Leslie even though it was difficult,'' she said.

Richards walked alone after the game, wiping away tears.

``The game of soccer pales in comparison to what happened here,'' he said. ``Anyone who was here will never forget this.''

Bowling Green women's soccer player dies after collapsing

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