There was always something about Jesse King that drew people to him.
It’s hard to pinpoint, but it might have had something to do with his ability to be everyone’s cheerleader — especially on the Cumberland Valley soccer and volleyball teams, and even the club teams he played on.
Sam Briggs, a former Cumberland Valley soccer and volleyball player who played with King and now attends Penn State with him, always saw King cheering others on.
King, who graduated from Cumberland Valley High School in 2019, was the one that got Briggs to try out for the volleyball team. They had known each other since middle school and played soccer together on the Eagles’ JV team in their freshman year. Over the next four years of high school volleyball, Briggs and King grew close.
“He was a cheerleader. I think that’s the best way to put it,” Briggs said. “He was always the most positive person, and since I knew him from sports and he was the captain for the volleyball team, he was the leader, he was the cheerleader, he would stop practice if we weren’t doing well and get us all together and talk to us and bring us together. It was just always positive energy from him, and I think that’s why everybody loves him so much.”
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King now needs others to be his cheerleaders.
In March, King underwent a relatively simple procedure that unexpectedly became life-threatening. He was flown to Hershey Medical Center. There, doctors discovered a mass in his chest that was determined to be Diffuse Large B-Cell (non-Hodgkin’s) Lymphoma — a cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes. It usually grows in lymph nodes, but can also show up in other areas of your body like the skin, according to the American Cancer Society.
He is currently undergoing treatments to shrink the tumor and has started to receive good news, according to Briggs and a Facebook and GoFundMe page set up to track his progress.
“It was just utter shock,” CV volleyball head coach Terry Ranck said about learning the news. “The more I found out about the whole situation and what he went through in a short period of time was just unbelievable. I can’t fathom being as active, and as athletic and just on the run all the time just having this mass in his chest and not having any signs and symptoms until the last minute.
“The story of him going into the emergency room to have something looked at to basically having his heart stop for close to 10 minutes, and that’s just shocking. Never saw any signs or anything. It was extremely shocking, very emotional and we were just trying to see what we could do. All we could do was let his family know that we were there for him.”
Ranck got the news from Central Dauphin volleyball coach Josh Brenneman, and the news quickly spread throughout the volleyball community. From there, Carlisle head coach Drew Kalbach — who also coached King as an assistant at CV around 2015 — reached out with an idea to host a benefit match to help King and his family.
“Jesse’s Warrior Kingdom” benefit match will take place Monday when Carlisle travels to Cumberland Valley at 7. The matchup between the longtime Mid-Penn Commonwealth rivals will include multiple fundraisers, including collection bins that will be placed at the entrance of the gym, QR codes that can be scanned to donate, cookies that will be sold and T-shirts that can be purchased to help the family.
“It’s just good that we can do something to help his family out as they start this new process of going through days and hours of chemo to try and get this under control,” Ranck said.
Ranck said a group of mothers, including the family’s neighbor, Erin Quinn, took charge early on in the formation of the the benefit match.
“I think there’s going to be some tears and lots of emotions, but overall it’s going to be about the right thing,” Ranck said. “Just being there for people and helping each other out in a tough time.”
Within COVID-19 capacity restrictions currently in place, Briggs and former and current Cumberland Valley students will be in attendance Monday, including a large portion of the soccer team.
“The weekend after we heard about it — there’s a lot of Cumberland Valley kids up here at Penn State — we all got together, and we’ve been all checking up and talking about him whenever we see each other,” Briggs said.
King fulfilled every aspect of the volleyball team’s “One Team” mantra, according to Ranck. Ranck said King was an incredible teammate, always picking people up, leading by example and working hard in the gym.
“When I said cheerleader, even when the JV team was playing and we were preparing for our own game, Jesse would be the only one of us cheering for them and he’d be louder than anyone in the stands,” Briggs said. “When we would go to tournaments, whether it was clubs or for school, the other teams always knew Jesse. He was always hanging out with other kids, and I think everybody knew Jesse.
“He was a role model, and I wish I could have been like that, known so many other people and impacted so many people’s lives.”
In Jesse King's Words: A look back at Cumberland Valley's Jesse King's weekly In My Words entries from 2019
In King's Words: One goal in mind
In my last season with Cumberland Valley, we really have utilized our phrase “One Team” both on the court and off. It has been our motto ever since the first day we stepped on the court freshmen year. Our team chemistry has built up over the years with the eight seniors on the team that we have, and we push each other to be able to play to the best of our abilities. Now that the season has started, our team keeps getting better and better every time we step on the court, with a great finish at the Northeastern tournament finishing third out of 40 teams.
Our goal this year is to win the Mid-Penn Commonwealth and get back to the district championship as we fell short last year coming in second place. We have a long way to go to get to that point, but these two matches this week on Tuesday at Carlisle and Thursday at Altoona will be big in the Mid-Penn title race. We plan to take one game at a time, but we have the thought of getting back to the championship in the back of our minds.
In King's Words: Putting in work
Our games were tough this week, as they always are, but this week was different — we had lost our starting setter. It was hard to see him this way because we all know that he wants to play, but there is always adversity in a season and we knew coming into this that we would eventually face it.
After beating Carlisle on Tuesday 3-1, our setter had gotten Injured, so our JV setter had to step up and played really well against Altoona, who we beat 3-0, on Thursday. It’s times like this in the season where your team really comes together and bonds as everyone is going through the same thing. Hopefully our starter, Sam Briggs, will be back soon, but for now we are playing with Nate Erb who’s doing a really good job at filling this daunting role. It’s hard for someone to do this, let alone being his first ever varsity game. We all really appreciate the work he’s putting in, the extra time in the gym and the whole team is encouraging him and helping him to get better as he is making us better.
This week is going to be a tough week as we played State College on Monday, our rival Central Dauphin on Wednesday, Dallastown on Thursday and cap off our week with the Central York tournament. We always play at our best when the stakes are high and these four events should really test how our team is coming along and even shake up the Mid-Penn.
In King's Words: Rolling past challenges and hitting milestones
This week was a really tough week as we had three games and a tournament on Saturday, but it was probably the best week we’ve had all season. Our team is getting better and better each week, and we are showing glimpses of why we are one of the best teams in the district.
Monday was a tough matchup as we played State College, but we won 3-0 and played our most complete game of the season. Wednesday we played Central Dauphin at home and won 3-0 and then Thursday night was against Dallastown, which was a big 3-0 victory and big night for one of our players. In sports it’s very hard to start all four years, especially in volleyball where Blake Liprando and I have done, but especially Blake, where he had surpassed 1,000 kills, which is a huge milestone. He has worked hard for this and wants to achieve more for our team goals.
This week is a tough schedule as well as we play CD East on Monday, at Chambersburg on Wednesday and Thursday, which is our charity night and biggest match of the year against the defending Class 2A state champion, Northeastern. We have faced challenges all year and I believe our team is up for the task of the three games this week and the season yet to come.
In King's Words: Just keep improving
This past week was a thrill ride that only went up.
We started off the week beating CD East 3-0 on Monday and then beat Chambersburg 3-1 on Wednesday. Both of those games were what prepared us for the biggest game of the season on Thursday against the six-time defending state champions, Northeastern. This is what we have worked for all year and it showed on Thursday night. We swept Northeastern 3-0, playing a great game where everyone contributed. The game was very exciting and the gym was the loudest that any of us have ever heard. It was also our charity night where we raised over $1,000!
This team has just gotten better and better every week and we keep improving on how we play. Our team never gives up and our goal of winning the district championship is just a couple games closer. Everyone is contributing and to win anything that has to keep happening.
This week is not as heavy on games as we take on Red Lion Monday and Carlisle on Thursday, both games at home. This season is going really well as we are first in the district, as well as the state right now, and we are looking to make it even better.
In King's Words: Ready for anything
Last week was a little bit of a recovery week for us as we only had two games instead of three, which we usually have, but they were still intense games.
The good thing about these weeks is that we get to practice more than usual, which helps as we progress during the season. Last week we played Red Lion on Monday, which we won 3-1 and Carlisle on Thursday, which we also won 3–0.
This team is playing really well right now and it’s good to see this group achieve this because at the first tournament of the season we did not really know what was to become of this season. But now we are playing our best volleyball and can only go up from there. The more games we play the better we get and we keep working toward our goal of first winning the Mid-Penn, and then getting back to the district championship. We take it one game at a time and work for every point.
This week is another tough week as we have three games, two back to back on Monday and Tuesday and then the Mid-Penn title match on Thursday against State College, who only has one loss which was to us. This team is ready every time they step on the court and I wouldn’t want to be with any other team.
In King's Words: Keeping the long view
From last week to this week it was a tough road as we had three games last week to try and remain unbeaten.
It’s been a long road leading up to this point as we had clinched at least a share Of the Mid-Penn Commonwealth after beating State College on Thursday (May 2). It was a tough game as we played hard and still came out on top.
In conference we need one more win this week to secure the Mid-Penn outright, which has been our goal all year, but our big goal still lies ahead as we patiently wait to get back in the district tournament. We are the No. 1 seed as of right now in the district, and this team is poised to stay in that top spot heading into the district tournament next week.
We’ve had some struggles the past couple weeks with kids getting sick and players getting injured, but it’s just the time for others on the team to step up and fill the role. It’s how our team has been all year where you play to win that spot in practice.
All of this is leading up to the district tournament and we hope to get back into the championship game.
Editor's note: This entry was submitted mid-week and may include some information about the week before it happened.
In King's Words: Ready for anything
We finally get a break in the action as we hit a week of nothing until the week after we start the district tournament. We are seeded No. 1 in the district as well as the state power rankings as No. 1. Our team is ready to face anyone and we believe that with hard work we put into these practices this week that it will prepare us for the games to come.
Last week was a special moment. On Tuesday we beat Central Dauphin and became the outright champion of the Mid-Penn Commonwealth. Thursday was filled with emotions as it was our senior night. We have worked hard until this point and it was one of the last times that we will ever play on that court. It was an emotional night, but we won 3-0 and now our eyes are set on something even greater.
We received a first round bye in the district tournament and our next game is May 20 at home. We are fully prepared to play anyone that comes against us and are ready to play again.
In King's Words: Proving we're a team that plays to win
The time has finally come for our team to finally play a game. We have waited a week for this to come and I don’t think anyone could be more excited. As we secured the first round bye in districts as the top seed, we have been practicing all week for this game. We play Chambersburg Monday night at home. Everyone on this team is focused and ready to play a match where if we win, we are able to advance to the PIAA tournament. This is not what our eyes are set on though because we want more.
I have been talking about how our goal has been to get back to the district championship for this entire year, but the time has finally come for this team to prove that we want this. As a team who at the start of the year was slept on and doubted, we have fought hard to make our way up until this point and we have to prove to everyone that we are a team who will always play to win. We start our district run Monday night and I know that this team will be ready to play anyone we come up against.
Email Mallory Merda at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @MalloryMerda