ILLIOPOLIS, Ill. (WAND) — Mary Scanavino's lessons last long after the whistle.

"Volleyball just keeps pushing me," she said.

The Warrensburg-Latham middle school volleyball coach constantly pushes her athletes to be their best.

And each time she steps onto the court, she's showing them just how tough she can be.

"I'm a very lucky person at this rate," Scanavino said with a laugh.

Scanavino has battled uterine and ovarian cancer since July, powering through surgery and chemotherapy while simultaneously support her mother while she fights cancer.

"[My players] keep me going so when I feel weak or tired around them, they give me the energy I need and the strength I need to keep going," she said. "They have been a big help to just push me through."

The rivalry between Warrensburg-Latham and Sangamon Valley pits sister against brother. Mary Scanavino's brother Joe Scanavino coaches the 8th grade squad at Sangamon Valley.

That connection brought together two teams — two communities — to raise funds for the Scanavino family.

"It's neat to see that rivalry...and to see the girls get along and know there are other things important in life than just a game," Joe Scanavino said.

From the "Scan's Squad" shirts in the stands and on the court to the silent auction just inside the entrance, Tuesday's game was all about supporting the Scanavinos.

The Warrensburg-Latham 7th graders won in straight sets — but that was never the point.

"I've learned a lot of good lessons and [Coach Scanavino] is one of my biggest role models," said 7th grade player Katie Czajkowski. "I've learned that no matter how tough times can get, you got to push through and keep going."

The key lesson Mary Scanavino wants to teach her team: positivity.

"You have to have a positive attitude and you have to keep moving," she said. "If you give up and think negative thoughts, bad things are going to happen."

If there's someone you would like to nominate for the Spirit of Central Illinois, email Deron Molen ( or click here.