Varsity volleyball faces challenging season due to player injuries
by Grace Laubenthal
“Well, obviously, the people that play immediately, at the start of the game, are starters.”
While most of the time this is true in sports, it hasn’t been the case for the volleyball team this year.
Over the course of this year’s volleyball season, the varsity team has had to deal with many injuries and illnesses. This created a problem for the team because of the need for players to adapt to changes in their lineups and for younger players to fill in for older players who would normally be starting in the game.
It all started when senior Jayda Harris was injured.
“I’ve started giving more of myself to my sports because they could be gone at any time,” Harris said.
Harris, a starting right side hitter for the varsity volleyball team, was injured part-way into this year's season. She tore her ACL and partially tore her outer meniscus at a practice when she collapsed while playing. Harris landed with too much weight on her left leg and her knee gave out. The recovery time for this injury will be six months to a year.
“I’m very sad about not being able to play my last season with all the girls. I was very excited to get back to normalcy,” Harris said.
Junior Isabella Scott was present when this injury occurred. Scott described what happened.
“...it was scary, like, to see her go down like that because she's one of the most, like, cheerful people on our team always hyping everyone up, but it's good to have her as a supporter too,” Scott said.
Another player who was recently injured is junior Hadley Vandenberghe. Vandenberghe dislocated her shoulder twice, resulting in tendonitis on her rotator cuff.
Her family is hosting a foreign exchange student this year, junior Patricia Martinez. She has been playing with the team throughout the season to experience the culture. Vandenberghe said she felt proud when watching Martinez play, even though she herself isn’t able to.
“I like that she is getting to experience this and seeing her learn a lot this season was cool,” Vandenberghe said.
Both Vandenberghe and Harris have gone to every practice and game they have been able to attend since their injuries.
”I committed to being on the team and making it my top priority and I just love being around the girls and everyone,” Harris said.
The team hasn’t been able to use a normal lineup this season due to an influx of injuries. While the two major injuries were difficult to deal with, there were also minor injuries that had to be dealt with along the way as well as illnesses.
Varsity coach Billie Jo Olcheske had to go through an intense decision making process when creating new lineups.
”Thank goodness for our role players that stepped into the spotlight and our freshman, Sadie, to fill in our gaps. You really need a quick middle and a good block on the outside,” Olcheske said. “If you make varsity, you are a varsity athlete and I should be able to put any player in and trust them to get things done. I trust my whole team.”
With so many injuries occurring this season, the girls on the team have had to take on new roles. Junior Isiah Maloney, who attended several home games this year, said that he couldn’t tell the team was missing key players and would have assumed that they were all starters.
Players and students continued to stay confident in the team’s abilities. Olcheske said she believed in the team despite the fact that there were starters unable to play.
“...I always think we are winning. That doesn’t transfer to every player but I am older and have seen many scenarios and know that it will be alright,” Olcheske said.
Scott said that as a player, she was repeatedly adjusting to new lineups on short notice. While it was difficult because the team never knew what to expect, she said there were more important things than the injuries.
“...I think that everyone is, like, strong in their own way and it more depends on, like, us playing as a team,” Scott said.
These injuries weren’t the only difficulty the team faced.
Over the last two years, the team was also affected by COVID-19. Olcheske said that it has brought the girls closer together, and Harris said her injury and the pandemic changed her outlook on sports.
”It changed how much I valued being able to play and being around my teammates. It also changed my attitude,” Harris said.
Before the injuries occurred and before any games had taken place, the Lansing State Journal predicted that Holt would rank fifth out of the seven teams in the league based on the talent the schools in the league were losing and possibly gaining for the season. Most people agreed with the top three teams, Okemos, Dewitt, and Grand Ledge, but there was a lot of disagreement about the bottom four teams. East Lansing was ranked above Holt.
“That's unacceptable. So bad. I mean, maybe fourth but, like, behind East Lansing? That was so unfair,” Scott said.
Holt played East Lansing twice and won both times despite the fact they were ranked lower. The first time Holt played East Lansing, they did so when the highest number of girls were unable to play due to injuries. After proving themselves against East Lansing, Scott was looking forward to seeing the team perform in Districts.
“I am excited about that because we get a bye our first time and then we play Everett so we'll be in there pumped for life, hopefully,” Scott said. “And we have a chance, I called it from the beginning of this year, I said we're gonna win Districts this year so hopefully my prediction is right…”
Because of the draw the team received for Districts, they didn’t have to play in the first game of the tournament. Instead, they went straight to the semi-finals against Everett. They won, sending them into the championship game against Okemos, the team that ranked highest in their league. The team had played and lost to Okemos three times prior to the District game.
The players remained positive and were determined to make the best of their situation. They were in agreement that whether they won or lost, they would try their best and make it a good game. The team ended up losing to Okemos, but still enjoyed the game.
Vandenberghe said, “I’m sad that it’s over because I grew close to my teammates, but it was a fun game.”
Senior Jayda Harris after Holt lost districts to Okemos in volleyball. Harris injured her knee while in practice early on in the season.