Saalfrank back on the court after injury

Sean Hastings, Assistant Sports Editor

Senior right-side hitter Abby Saalfrank recorded nine kills during the Panthers' 3-1 home-opening loss to Indiana State on Tuesday.
Jason Howell
Senior right-side hitter Abby Saalfrank recorded nine kills during the Panthers’ 3-1 home-opening loss to Indiana State on Tuesday.

After suffering a major injury in the last match of the 2014 Ohio Valley Conference volleyball tournament, senior outside hitter/setter Abby Saalfrank has made her way back on the court in 2015 with her teammates.

In the final match of the 2014 OVC tournament against Belmont in the semifinals, Saalfrank jumped up to swing at the ball and came down ‘funny’ on her left leg and tore her ACL, MCL, and her meniscus.

Saalfrank’s injury took a lot of time to heal and also required multiple surgeries. Her recovery took around nine months she said.

“It was around Thanksgiving when it happened,” Saalfrank said. “I didn’t have surgery until the end of the year. I ended up having to have another surgery in May.”

Saalfrank’s second surgery required her to do a lot of rehab if she wanted to get back on the court by the start of the 2015 season.

To get back to being able to play, Saalfrank had to do strengthening exercises and getting full range of motion exercises.

“I got into jumping right away even though my vertical wasn’t very good,” Saalfrank said. “Then I finished therapy, and I was kind of on my own.”

For any athlete who deals with an injury, sitting out is not fun. For Saalfrank, the mental aspect of it all was also really tough.

“I think the mental aspect was tough, having to sit and watch all the girls go through the spring season together, and it was tough not being here in the summer,” Saalfrank said.

During the summers, the team usually comes to Eastern to work out and prepare for the upcoming season but with her injury, it was not possible for Saalfrank.

She decided that it was best that she stayed at home the whole summer to keep rehabbing her knee.

The rest of the girls on the team knew how Saalfrank was feeling dealing with her injury and were all there for her.

“They’ve been really supportive throughout the whole thing,” Saalfrank said.

She also said that being at home and having her family by her side helping her get through it was a great help. Coaches Sam Wolinski and Peter Green also stayed in contact with her through spring season and even over the summer.

Wolinski said that she just kept checking in on her to let her know they all still believe in her and will do whatever they need to do to keep her ready.

After the second surgery the thought of not being ready for the start of the 2015 season came into her mind.

“That was a big struggle, not knowing if I was going to be able to come back, Saalfrank said.”

Saalfrank was cleared to return to the court just a few days before the team came back for preseason.

The mental aspect of it all continued even after she was cleared to come back and play.

“I would get frustrated because I wasn’t playing as well as what I was at the end of last season,” Saalfrank said. “It’s still a daily struggle trying to keep in the back of my mind that I’ve only been cleared for four weeks and trying to get back in the swing of things after when I had taken like nine months off.”

Saalfrank’s return to the court right before preseason started was the first time she was in a gym and hitting a ball.

The Panthers have played four matches in the 2015 season and Saalfrank has played in all of them.

Wolinski said it is great to have her back on the court this year.

“She’s worked hard this summer to get herself ready to be on the court,” Wolinski said. “Knowing she could perform again at a high level last weekend gave her a lot of confidence.”

While she plays, even though she says she is not back at 100%, she said that she doesn’t really notice any problems with her knee. But Saalfrank is fighting to get back to her usual self.

“I think I’m getting closer each day,” Saalfrank said. “I don’t think I’m there yet. But I think I’m closer as each day happens.”

This is Saalfrank’s final season playing as a Panther, and her biggest goal for herself is to just get back to the level of play she knows she can play at.

She also wants to play a more dominant role on the court and make sure he team is successful come tournament time to complete the ultimate team goal of winning the OVC.

After the first four matches of the season Saalfrank has 30 kills and is averaging two kills per set.

Saalfrank’s journey back to 100% will continue when the Panthers head to the DePaul Invitational this weekend in Chicago.


Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]