Kelsey Nalepa, the daughter of Maryland assistant coach Lisa Carey’s former Oklahoma softball teammate, was on her way to her softball game when another car hit her parent’s vehicle from behind at a stop. Her parents in the front seat were fine, but Nalepa was not. The 8-year-old girl died April 8 after two days in the hospital.

To show support for the family, Carey wanted to bring the team together. So, the Terps wore purple bows in their hair for the April 14-16 series against Michigan, and some players continued the trend this past weekend against Indiana.

“When they did the visitation and memorial service they said, ‘Kelsey loved purple so when you show up, if you could represent her and wear something purple for the visitation, for the funeral, that’d be fabulous,'” Carey recalled April 19. “So, I was like, ‘What can we do?’ … And I thought bows would be the easiest, so that worked out.”

Carey, who graduated from Oklahoma in 2001, has remained close with her former teammates, including Kelsey Nalepa’s mother Nicole. Carey and Nicole Nalepa were teammates from 1998 to 1999. The Sooners graduates have reunions every year and stay connected through social media.

When Carey proposed the purple bow idea to the team, the players became emotional. Some cried along with Carey.

“It’s so sad because, obviously for that family, but also to see coach Carey so impacted by it,” outfielder Sarah Calta said. “Being able to wear the purple ribbons and coming out and having a series that we did have was just … a really important thing for us to do. And it meant a lot, I hope, to the family and coach Carey.”

The Terps wore the bows during their 1-and-2 series against then-No. 18 Michigan, highlighted by April 15’s 2-1 win.

“It kind of hit home for me,” infielder Skylynne Ellazar said. The junior survived unscathed from a car accident when she was 14.

“It makes you even more want to play for those that couldn’t,” Ellazar said. “I mean, she’s 8 years old, going to a softball game. You would never think something like that would happen.”

The purple bow added personal meaning for Ellazar. In addition to supporting Nalepa’s memory, it served as homage to her late grandfather. Easter Sunday was the one-year anniversary of his death from Alzheimer’s, and the disease’s awareness campaign is represented by the color purple.

“She was huge in softball and loved the game,” Carey said of Kelsey Nalepa. “In the community and at her school, she was just a great girl and very respected. I’m definitely going to keep [my bow] on my backpack for the rest of the year.”