Conifer volleyball player Cora Spencer doesn’t let diabetes stop her

Deb Hurley Brobst
Posted 9/16/22

Cora Spencer has a warrior’s spirit.

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Conifer volleyball player Cora Spencer doesn’t let diabetes stop her


Cora Spencer has a warrior’s spirit.

The Conifer senior is a warrior on the volleyball court as the team’s libero, encouraging and teaching her teammates both on and off the court.

She is also a warrior as she manages her Type 1 diabetes, again both on and off the court.

“I’m so amazed by her,” Conifer volleyball head coach Laurie Eddy said. “She is an amazing young athlete and captain. She is so mature in the way she handles her disease. She knows her limits and knows what she needs to do to be safe on the court.”

Spencer was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 4, so she has lived with managing her blood sugar all her life. She said that having a chronic illness is difficult because she doesn’t want it to affect what she does.

“But the bottom line, it affects everything you do,” she said. “When I’m exercising, my blood sugar drops. It can be hard to control. It’s different for every diabetic. My (blood sugar) can drop in the first 30 minutes (of exercising), sometimes a little and sometimes a lot.”

Whether on the court at practice or at games, the team has her back. Teammates know how to check her blood-sugar levels, and they are ready with whatever she needs to feel better and continue playing.

“Diabetes doesn’t hold her back,” teammate Isabella Lee said. “Because I know Cora, I know more about diabetes, and I’m much more aware of the situation.”

Her teammates agreed. As a student and player, Cora always pulls her weight and never slacks.

Fellow senior teammates have played with Cora for several years, and they called her passionate, caring so much about the sport, motivated and confident in her abilities.

“If we are on a losing streak, she says to us, ‘Hey guys, we’ve got this. Just do what we know how to do.’ She knows a lot about the sport," teammate Devon Vanni said.

Senior Emily Gnuechtel added: “She makes sure our spirits are up.”

Mom Brandi Spencer explained: “She’s enthusiastic and so driven when it comes to playing volleyball. It’s so much fun to watch her play.”

Getting started in volleyball

Cora has been playing volleyball since she tried it at a summer camp in fifth grade. She played recreational volleyball in middle school, club volleyball and four years with Conifer.

Brandi explained that volleyball was the first sport Cora played, and she's a natural.

“I like the team aspect of volleyball,” Cora said, noting that she left dance after 11 years to concentrate on the sport.

“I knew I could connect with girls with the same love for the sport,” she said. “I knew I could get respect from the other girls, and we could work together and play a game we all love. I just knew I wanted to keep playing.”

Mixing volleyball and diabetes

She calls her superpower knowing when she needs juice or a snack to bring up her blood-sugar level.

“I can tell the future before I see it (in the numbers),” Cora said. “It’s constant, 24/7 management. Because diabetes is so serious, no matter what your age is, you have to be able to get used to it and manage it on your own. It’s become a way of life.”

It all works because of the support of her teammates and coaches.

“They help if I have to run off the court (to boost my blood-sugar level),” she said. “They constantly ask if I need something: ‘Do you need juice, Gatorade, granola bars?’ Their help is amazing. They know the seriousness of it. I couldn’t ask for a better team.”

Future outlook

Spencer’s future is bright. She's a stellar student with all Advanced Placement classes, involved with the CHS yearbook and works a part-time job. In college, she’s planning to major in sports communication and would like to one day be a team sports photographer.

“I love the whole aspect of talking to people, writing, taking photos and being engaged — and leaving your mark,” she said, noting that she’s looking at colleges out of state.

She considered playing volleyball at the college level but realized that volleyball is not a sport that would lead to playing professionally. She is concerned about balancing the commitments of both volleyball and her studies.

A love for volleyball

She loves volleyball because if it’s competitiveness. As the team’s libero, she is happy setting up the front line to score for the team.

“I’ve always been a competitive person with a driven mindset and the drive to win,” she said. “Being able to see someone else get the kill or the point or ace — it’s fully a team effort. Without each other, there is no way to win a game. To see that look of happiness and joy that they did great is amazing to me.”

She said she will never forget the girls she’s met through the sport.

“Girls you meet through volleyball are lifelong friends,” she said. “They support you in and out of school, and on and off the court. You build a bond with these girls that will last a lifetime. I have felt these bonds like no other.”

Mom Brandi believes Cora would be a great coach because of how encouraging she is and how well she directs the rest of the team.

“She’s a good leader of the team,” Brandi said.

Teammates also called her funny, finding ways to make others smile and laugh with little jokes. She also is a natural leader, they said, because she gives constructive feedback in a way that others see as positive.

“She’s a great human being,” Vanni said. “It’s great to watch her grow off of (diabetes). It never held her back.”


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