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The Eagle's Eye

Injured Captains Return to Court

Pete Skylakos

Pete Skylakos

Cristal Salgado Franco, Reporter

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 A team depends on leadership from its captains. This year’s girls volleyball team had captains who were ready to leave it all on the court, Autumn McGee and Natalie Payne, but first they had to recover from what they had already sacrificed.

Last year, McGee tore her ACL and meniscus after a midseason game against Proviso East, being told that the recovery process would be a long and tough one following surgery.

McGee said, “I wasn’t mad at the fact that I was hurt. I was mad at the fact that I couldn’t be out on the court playing with my teammates.” McGee was lost for all of the last year and not scheduled to return until the end of this season.

Then co-captain Payne rolled her ankle in the first game, leaving her out until September 9 and the Eagles worried about a season with two injuries.

“Autumn and I are both two of the most vocal people on the court,” Payne said, “so I was just worried that the girls on the court would stop talking and therefore start being down on themselves.”

Payne and McGee had no reason to worry, it turns out.

“I relied on Jennifer Parker to take my place,and she did a great job,” Payne said. “She continues to grow as a player and she is a great teammate. If anyone had to take my place I’m happy it was her. We also had a junior, Victoria [Schumeister], play and she did a good job as well. Jenny and I have been giving her tips on how to improve and she is a fast learner. I have nothing but good things to say for both of my teammates.”

With Parker and the rest of the team leading, the Eagles remained competitive, going 2-2 heading into the Eagle Invite. Payne was scheduled to return for that Saturday, and the team also received some good news the Monday before: McGee would also be back. With both captains back, the team won its home tournament, but even with victory, concerns of injury will remain.

While both McGee and Payne were cleared to be back and perform at their best, they had new worries. “Playing it safe” became instilled in the back of their minds. McGee said, “I have to leave everything on the court and can’t hold back, but also play it smart.” She explained that jumping and landing frightened her in her first invite back.

Although the fear of injury might still be there, McGee is able to talk about why the experience made her stronger. “I got close to a lot of new people during therapy, and coming back from this injury made me appreciate what I have more because they could be gone in an instant. I believe that I will come back stronger than ever as well.”

It also gave her the ability to lend advice to athletes coming back. “If you’re currently out due to an injury, listen to what the trainer/therapist tells you. If you wanna get back on the court, work for it. You have to earn it. Even though there might be moments when you want to give up, don’t. Push through it because the results will be rewarding.”

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Injured Captains Return to Court