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Salas pushes through the pain

September 20, 2012

Senior Libero Stephany Salas poses with her cast. – Photos by Deepanjan Mukhopadhyay

 

REINA KEMPT
Sports Editor

 

In a time of urgency, one must push past all obstacles no matter what gets in their way, even if it’s a broken hand. That’s one of many things senior libero Stephany Salas has had to deal with this season.

 

Now in her last year, Salas is not only the captain of the Louisiana Tech volleyball team, but with a new coaching staff, she is one of the only veterans in the program. Salas’ junior year was explosive as she made a name for herself with leading the Western Athletic Conference in digs and has received high expectations from the volleyball world for her senior season. With all of these factors, of course this would be seen as her year to shine.

 

But something unfortunate happened in the peak of her college career. While playing against Lamar in the Lamar Invitational in August, she dived for the ball and hit her left hand on her teammate’s knee. Salas said she thought she just dislocated her finger as she tried to pop it back in place, tape it up and continue to play through the pain.

 

“I just taped my fingers together and started to play again, but by the end of the game it felt like shots were going all the way up my arm,” Salas said. “That’s when the trainer told me I broke my finger.”

 

Once the Techsters came back home from the Lamar Invitational, X-rays discovered that not only her left ring finger was broken, but her metacarpal, which is the bone in her hand connecting to her ring finger, was also broken.

 

She sprained her meniscus six days prior to her hand injury.

 

Salas has been wearing a knee brace since the Techsters’ first tournament in a match against South Alabama.

 

For anyone else, this might seem like the end of their career. Suffering a serious injury in the prime of their career would crush anyone‘s confidence, but for Salas it was just a challenge.

 

“They wanted to put me in a hard cast but that meant not playing for six weeks,” Salas said. “There was no way that I wasn’t going to play, so we came up with the soft cast which is about an inch and a half of padding and it’s removable so now I can play with it.”

 

Salas bumping the volleyball in practice.

As the Techsters get their feet wet, Salas said she refuses to let her team go into the most crucial part of the season without their leader. But now with the cast comes more obstacles. The thick padding makes for an awkward serving position and for difficult-looking bumps and digs, but for the sake of the team, she makes it happen.

 

“The day I received my soft cast I spent all morning in the gym practicing, trying to figure out how I’m going to serve,” Salas said. “It’s difficult but I’m not the only person who is injured. I just have to go with it.”

 

Salas gets a lot of attention in the game when she sets herself up to serve the ball by balancing the ball on her cast, popping it up, then striking it into the air.

 

Junior middle blocker Caitlin Germany said she was amazed at by how calm Salas took the whole situation.

 

Salas is known for being a bubbly and positive person.

 

“We were all worried, but Stephany was like, ‘I’ll be back, don’t worry; I’m still going to play,’” Germany said. “It was like it wasn’t a big deal to her. And she hasn’t missed a game since.”

 

Germany has been out for the past two weeks with an MCL sprain, but she will return to the floor Thursday in Las Cruces, N.M., against New Mexico State at 8 p.m. She said seeing Salas playing with an injury makes her want to play even harder.

 

“Even if I come back and I’m not as great as I was before the injury, I know Stephany and my teammates will push me to work hard.” Germany said.

 

With the Lady Techsters getting into conference play and

having a less than satisfactory record, this is their last chance to turn a season around. Salas and Germany both will have to mask their pain and hustle hard for their team.

 

Salas has found another type of fulfillment besides finishing her college career despite all obstacles. She said she has received everything from calls and texts from friends and fans who feel as if her strength and perseverance are inspiration for their own lives.

 

“After we played Grambling, someone texted me and said I inspire them to work harder because I’m still playing in a cast and a knee brace,” Salas said. “And it made me realize that even though I feel like I’m not doing enough, I actually am. I’m inspiring people.”

 

This year may not have started off ideal for Salas, but she has learned that positive things can evolve from a mishap. She has risen to something more than just the captain of the team, but as an inspiration to people off the court as well.

 

Email comments to rjk007@latech.edu.

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