From Injury to Victory
Written by Brad Monastiere
In the midst of a promising freshman year volleyball season, Paige VanderWall, ’19, tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right knee during a victory over Ashland University. The injury was caused by a simple jump and landing, something she had done thousands of times in her career. But this particular time, the landing wasn’t quite right, and VanderWall’s volleyball path for the next eight months was suddenly placed on hold. “Honestly, that night I was mostly in shock,” VanderWall recalls.
Months of isolated rehab followed. While the gym bustled with basketball practice, softball pitchers and catchers, and students flowing in and out of the fitness center, VanderWall worked by herself, with rubber exercise bands, getting her knee back into playing shape. Her strength increased as her recovery continued, and she soon joined her teammates back on the court.
VanderWall was named Second-Team All-American in 2017 and Third-Team All-American in 2018, Midwest Region Player of the Year in 2018, and she was named the Great Midwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year for both the 2017 and 2018 seasons. She was the fourth Charger in school history to be named conference player of the year and is the tenth All-American coached by Chris Gravel.
“A versatile right-side hitter in our offense is preferred,” Gravel says. “Paige is able to hit anywhere along the net effectively. This opens up our ability to score from all other positions. Her being left-hand dominant only enhances her ability to complete this task from the right side.”
From her journey to recovery, VanderWall brings strength and resilience to the team, showing support and encouragement to her teammates as they did to her. “I think one of our most important keys to court synergy is our team chemistry,” she says. “I think if we continue to be intentional in building our relationships as teammates with one another, that will be our big difference maker. I have tried to lead by example, being intentional with my team relationships and working hard with my teammates alongside me. They’re pretty amazing.”
Published in March 2019