By Taylor Lupetti (@tayclupetti):
For some volleyball players, their injuries have been season ending. Then there are the lucky few who miss a few weeks. Regardless of their injuries, they are all known as members of the volleyball team that has earned it’s most wins in the last five years.
With 17 wins so far this season (the most since 2012), the Spartans have earned a top-three spot in the Mountain West Conference despite several key injuries.
“There’s been some (injuries) that have been season ending and there’s been some where we’ve gotten the student athletes back,” said head coach Jolene Shepardson. “If I were to total them, I don’t even know, we’d have to get our trainer involved.”
Injuries is not unusual for a sports team, but for the SJSU volleyball players, the breaks from losing players were rare.
“Every year we battle with a lot of injuries,” said senior setter Breann Robinson. “But this year it just felt like one after the other every week for sure and it has been very dramatic, it’s weird but it always tend to bring us together”
It’s not easy to see one of their own injured, but the team has managed to take it upon themselves and fill the voids.
“Playing your best is the best way you can help them,” said senior middle blocker Nandyala Gama. “When injured, if you see your team doing well, you feel like you are part of the team and you want to help so if you see your team doing well, you feel proud and it helps you in your recovery.”
As for the injured players, the loss of being able to play the sport allows them to see different sides to the game and what it actually means to them.
“Every athlete is going to deal with it at some point,” said redshirt junior Summer Avery
Avery has been battling injuries all season and has not been able to play from the beginning.
“It really tests your love for the team and it makes you stronger because you have to be mentally in the game and not be able to be there physically so I think that is a unique part of injuries,” Avery said.
Senior libero Jamie Hirai has not been injured once in her four years on the team. Since coming to SJSU as a freshman, Jamie has not missed a game but has been around long enough to observe what it can do to your team.
“I’ve never been injured, to where I have to sit out,” Hirai said. “So, I’ve seen it and I’ve been around it and it has an effect on your team but it’s about the mentality of the group in general.”
To occupy the players while they are injured, Shepardson finds other things for her players to do while they are out.
“Sport doesn’t define a person,” Shepardson said. “There is still a lot of things that they can bring to the team and I always want to keep them involved in the program when they’re injured to keep to still keep good chemistry with the teammates.”
The loss of any player can shake the team drastically. With a missing teammate comes the reorganization of everything from line-ups to game plans. This season, the Spartans have handled the pressures of having to change everything extremely well.
Losing players this season such as junior outside hitter Giulia Gavio has been a major hit to the team, but it has also allowed younger players more time on the court. As the volleyball team is very mature, the opportunities for the freshman can only help the team grow.
“This is our fourth season,” Shepardson said. “The culture is strong and it helps when you have a couple of upperclassmen that have played for you for a while and know the expectations, we came here to work towards the top of the conference and they desired those goals as well.”
With the NCAA tournament fast approaching, the team is still missing some key players such as Gavio. While a healthy team would be beneficial, the Spartans are not allowing any injury stop them from winning.