MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — Pete Ehrlich is always with the Bishop Fenwick High School boys volleyball team.
Ehrlich, the former Fenwick head boys volleyball coach, died in October 2021 after he lived with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — also called ALS — for two years.
"I think about him every day," Fenwick coach Tina Gustely said. "We lost a tough set to CJ (Chaminade Julienne) in five and I thought, what would Pete say today?'"
The 58-year-old Ehrlich led the 2021 Division II state champion boys volleyball team and helped to inspire the Fenwick High School community in Warren County.
"I really think he loved the boys, each of the boys," Gustely said. "And I think he was invested in their spirituality as well as their athleticism. He was really rooted in the Fenwick family and he brought a lot of families together for sure."
Nearly a year after the state final match, Ehrlich's messages of courage, faith, hope and love continue to shape the lives of student-athletes and coaches.
"He's a big part of our lives still and we still obviously hear him talking to us," said sophomore middle blocker Todd Snyder.
Fenwick will have 'Coach Pete' on its mind and in its prayers May 10 when the Falcons play their final regular-season home match of the season against Alter, one of its Greater Catholic League Co-Ed division opponents.
Ehrlich's family is scheduled to attend that match when the Falcons will unveil the 2021 state championship banner in the gymnasium and receive their state title rings.
"We're just looking forward to show his faith and what he cared about it and what he taught all of our student-athletes as well," Fenwick athletic director Kyle Sasalsa said. "We're super excited to keep him and his family in our prayers."
Ehrlich received the loudest cheers during the state championship medal ceremony at Pickerington Central High School in June 2021.
The team and school community adapted #PlayforPete last spring. Everything had a purpose within the program. Ehrlich reminded his players that they were champions in life regardless of wins or losses.
"A lot of people still talk about the impact he had on us today and just the lessons he taught us and how he was a role model to all of us," senior middle block Kiefer Gavigan said.
Ehrlich's legacy is with the Falcons throughout this season. The team places a velvet chair cover on the first seat of the bench before every home and road match.
"We always say he's with us no matter what," Gustely said. "We pray the 'Hail Mary' and we say, 'Coach Pete, pray for us. Our Lady of Victory, pray for us' every we time we play."
Gustely's emotion-filled voice trailed off.
"We are blessed that we still have him with us in our hearts," said Gustely.