Team manages to stay competitive despite injuries
By Devon Jeffreys | email@example.com
The roller coaster ride that has been the 2007 season is headed toward its final loop and the Flagler Saints volleyball team may finish without two of their most experienced players.
Saints senior Jessica Wedemyer, injured earlier in the season, will miss the rest of the year with a knee injury and junior Leah Melton may miss the conclusion of the season with a stress fracture in her right tibia.
The injuries, coupled with inconsistencies on the court have left the Saints with a 16-11 record with eight games to play. The team will now have to work out the kinks without both Wedemyer and Melton.
Wedemyer’s injury is called chondromalacia, often referred to as runner’s knee. According to coach Taylor Mott, Wedemyer’s injury happened early enough in the season that she could red shirt this year.
Wedemyer said she could have played out the rest of the season on the knee, but there would have been some risks she was not willing to take.
“I thought about just dealing with whatever damage is done to my knee at the end of the season, but I want to be active for the rest of my life so I needed to do it now,” she said.
Melton’s injury developed from shin splints that she had been suffering from for over a year.
“The bone is fractured and I don’t know what is going to happen or when I’ll be back or what,” Melton said. “We’re trying to get the inflammation down and letting it heal some. Then we’re going to do rehab and strengthening.”
Melton said the shin splints have bothered her all year but about two weeks ago it got noticeably worse. She also said there is a possibility of the bone breaking, so she is going to take it slow.
Though she won’t rule it out, Mott is not counting on Melton’s return this season. “We’re hoping she’ll be able to rehab all spring and even all summer and be able to come back,” Mott said.
Melton is not eligible to red shirt because she has played in more than 20 percent of the team’s games this season.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Melton said. “I feel like this whole season has been sort of a wash for me. I’ve been struggling with it the whole time and now this has happened.”
Without Wedemyer and Melton on the court, the team rebounded from a tough loss on the road at Rollins to beat St. Thomas at home the next day. The following day, the Saints hosted Webber International. Webber entered the match with a 20-2 record and ranked No. 21 in the NAIA. After the teams traded the first two games, the Warriors took game three and had the Saints on the ropes. Despite trailing early in the fourth game, Flagler came roaring back and sent the match to a fifth and deciding game.
The Warriors jumped out to a 6-1 lead when Mott called a time out to rally her team. “Normally that’s curtains when you get that far behind,” Mott said.
The Saints came right back, on the strength of serves by Katie Beale, and ended the game on a 5-1 run to grab the victory.
“It was such an awesome feeling being able to pull it out in five, with all the fans we had there,” junior Kelly Boese said. “It was so exciting and really made for a really great night.”
Boese, an outside hitter in her first two years at Flagler, has moved to middle blocker to fill in for the injured players.
“It was like riding a bike. Once you do it, you never forget,” Boese said.
According to Mott, freshman setter Rebecca Royal has also stepped up late in the season.
“Being six-foot-two, there’s balls traveling into the plain of the net where, our shorter setters, there’s not a whole lot they can do with it,” Mott said.
Despite the confidence boost of the victory over Webber, The Saints lost their next two matches to Savannah College of Art and Design and Armstrong Atlantic State, in Savannah. They returned to the win column this past weekend with victories over St. Francis and Embry-Riddle.
With five of their final eight matches against NCAA Div. II schools and one against NCAA Div. I Stetson, the Saints want to finish their season by winning matches against higher competition.
“Last year we didn’t play tough teams,” senior Krista McAra said. “Now this year we have a harder schedule. Our competition is a lot higher and I just think we need to have confidence.”