The first days of volleyball tryouts at Greenwood Community High School in August carry the potential to be memorable for Caroline Morris.
A two-year varsity starter on course to make it three, the senior defensive specialist has pretty much assured herself an abundance of court time for Woodmen coach Lisa Laug.
What could change is how Morris conditions her body for the physical demands of a regular-season schedule during which she’ll be extending her 5-foot frame horizontally as much as vertically.
In February, Morris was diagnosed as having bilateral patellofemoral syndrome, a relatively common sports injury known for producing pain around one’s kneecap.
“At the beginning of my travel volleyball season my right knee was aching and aching. The doctor told me not to do any conditioning or volleyball for about two months,” said Morris, whose right knee and right hip are out of alignment with one another.
As a result, the preseason conditioning Morris perspires through under the watchful eye of Greenwood strength and conditioning coach Brian Smiley differs from her teammates.
“It really stinks for me. Conditioning is never fun for anyone, but I miss it because it’s kind of a team thing for us,” Morris said.
The basic squat is an essential strength-training exercise for volleyball players as they seek to improve explosiveness by building muscle in one’s quads, buttocks, hips, thighs and hamstrings.
Morris’ right knee was extending outward when performing conventional squats, a practice halted immediately for fear of worsening the injury.
“We don’t do the normal squat and clean with Caroline. If we try the normal lift patterns with her, we’re just aggravating things,” Smiley said. “It’s taken some time to really figure out what it is we need to work on. We adjust however we need to and how Caroline is feeling.”
Maintaining a positive attitude is also a vital component in Morris’ progress — an area Smiley insists doesn’t need fine-tuning.
“It makes it fun when we see positive results and when the kid is motivated,” Smiley said. “Caroline is a team leader and cares about her performance, so that’s where it’s rewarding to help her get back to where she wants to be.”
Laug added, “More than anything, Caroline just loves volleyball. Even as a little kid she was someone I heard about just practicing outside her house. She is a very hard worker.”
Morris goes to physical therapy and plans to wear a knee brace for matches this season.
The IHSAA has designated Aug. 4 as the first day volleyball programs conduct their first day of practice for the upcoming season.
It’s then Morris would like to return to her more traditional weight room routine.
“I am kind of concerned, but I’m very persistent and want things to be back to normal,” she said. “To be able to condition as well as everyone else, that’s my goal.”