PLNU women’s basketball team signs 15-year-old battling rare disorder

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SAN DIEGO -- A 15-year-old student from West Hills High School has found a new set of sisters in the Point Loma Nazarene University women's basketball team.

Angelina Rechirei, AKA Angel, is the team's honorary team captain.

"Because I love basketball and I've always wanted to be on a good team, the best team," Rechirei said.

She signed with the Sea Lions Dec. 10 and will be a part of the team for the next two years.

"Really fun, so I get to go behind the scenes with them too," Rechirei said. "Get to know their talks … have a little fun with them."

Angelina was connected to the PLNU women's basketball team through Team Impact, a nonprofit organization that takes children battling serious or chronic illnesses and pairs them with college athletic teams.

"It's been such a blessing for our whole team," said junior shooting guard Isabel Turk. "We absolutely love her. She brings a whole new energy that we didn't have before. She's our girl, she's our captain. We look to her when we are down in the locker room at halftime, we will ask her what she thinks we need to change ... it's really changed the dynamic of our team."

Rechirei suffers from neurofibromatosis, also known as NF. The serious genetic disease that causes tumors to develop on the nervous system. The disease took her younger sister about three years ago.

Being with the Sea Lions is an escape for Rechirei.

"It's hard to go through school with it because it gives me difficulties, but I also like it because it's challenges," Rechirei said.

"I think it's a getaway for her," said head coach Lisa Faulkner. "It's probably fun to have teammates and sisters really and get to connect. I know sometimes she says it's hard at school, and so she gets away from that and she gets to have 12 to 15 people that really connect to her and that's the cool part of being on a team."

Rechirei brings positivity and encouragement each game.

"I think honestly her halftime talks are the best," Turk said. "Even now when we're down at halftime, she's like this is what we need to do. She really gets us fired up and ready to go out today. It was awesome she spoke up and it really gave us that push we needed to start the second half strong."

"Thank you for being there for me, helping me, encouraging me, making me less shy than I am … there's so much to say, I don't have the words," Rechirei said.

You can catch captain Rechirei on the bench, cheering for her Sea Lions at any PLNU home women's basketball game.

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