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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Sports

Injury serves sophomore new perspective


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Sophomore Brookah Palmer was one of the most dominant players on the court last season, but has been sidelined due to injury for all of 2016. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

One of the most anticipated aspects of the 2016 volleyball season was supposed to be the return of phenomenon sophomore Brookah Palmer. A shoulder injury changed all that.

The Carrollton, Texas native was named to the All-American Athletic Conference First Team after a freshman season where she started in all 32 matches and recorded 502 kills, 301 digs and 24 blocks.

Palmer was twice named the conference’s Offensive Player of the Week while leading the conference in kills per set (4.15), total points (582) and aces (50). Her 50 aces tied her for 16th nationally and sixth-most in school history for a single season.

Palmer’s achievements came while she endured a shoulder injury for a good part of the second half of the season.

“Last season we were playing against (University of South Florida) or (University of Central Florida) and I took a wrong dive, and that’s when I started having shoulder pain,” Palmer said. “All the playing, hitting and serving made it worse so finally we called it quits.”

‘This is different”

It hit everyone hard — for Palmer, more so — when news broke that she would miss the entire season. This was the first big injury of her career that forced her to miss time on the court.

Palmer said the news brought her to tears. She was devastated.

“I knew the pain was getting to a point where I would not be performing at my best,” Palmer said. “(It was hard) to go from the season I had my freshman year and then to just not play this season. I’ve always had minor injuries, but I’ve played through them. This is different — sitting out, not playing volleyball, not working out.”

It’s not all bad news, however: The injury was taken care of early enough so that Palmer will be able to redshirt this season, giving her another year of eligibility.

When Palmer returned, she will have three years remaining to catch up.

“I’m glad we found out before we wasted the year and were able to (redshirt),” said head coach Kaddie Platt. “She’s doing great, we have the best doctors there are. They fixed her up and her rehab has been going excellent.”

The same intensity that has driven Palmer to success on the court was present when she worked through rehab.

Seeing more

Already without a sling, she is working to be ahead of schedule in her recovery. It’s not without hardships as Palmer has to learn how to do everything with her non-dominant hand.

“There’s good days and bad days,” Palmer said. “Some days my shoulder’s killing me so I want to cut it off, but there are some days where I’m making great improvements. Having to do everything with my left hand is different; it makes you think twice about what you’re doing.”

The injury gives Palmer a different perspective on volleyball and life. Spending time on the sideline makes Palmer more aware of her team’s blunders and how she can improve them when she returns from injury.

“I’m used to just ‘go, go, go,’ but now I’m seeing mistakes being made and I’m like, ‘What’s something you could do differently to not make that same mistake again?,” Palmer said. “What do I do outside of volleyball and who am I? It makes you think and gives you a different perspective on what you’re doing.”

Ready to return

Her teammates felt the sting of her loss as well.

They knew they’d all have to step up and improve their game to replace the production they were lacking with Palmer on the bench.

One person who is rising to the occasion is junior outside hitter Sarah Afflerbaugh. After a sophomore season in which she appeared in just 74 sets with 150 kills, the Austin native leads the team with 176 kills while appearing in 65 out of 68 possible sets.

“It sucks losing a teammate — any teammate — but I knew (Palmer’s) going to have a fast recovery and I can’t wait to see her next year,” said junior setter Keandra McCardell.

McCardell said that Afflerbaugh has been the team’s go to player and leader on the court.

Despite not being able to play and help her teammates, her fiery spirit and competitiveness remain intense.

The 2017 season can’t come soon enough for her.

“I miss everything about it,” Palmer said. “I’m used to hitting, passing, serving. I do everything. To not do anything at all it’s killing me, but I’m excited to just getting back playing and being competitive again.”

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