Determination triumphs adversity as Sydney Stolz returns to the court for the 2017 season, stronger than when she left. The junior public relations major and middle defensive player of the UMHB volleyball team tore her ACL last season. Although not yet a starting middle, Stolz sees some playing time as Coach Frost allows. Nonetheless, being back with her team has made all the difference, and has fostered a sense of thankfulness.
“After every game or practice, I’m thankful that I made it through. I like getting to meet people who have gone through the same injury and encourage them. I made so many connections throughout this process.” Stolz was on the court during a conference home game against McMurry University last season.
“We were losing, so I was mad, and I play harder when I’m mad. I went to the right side to block a hit and felt my ACL pop.” The experience was not only painful because of the injury, but also because it happened in front of loved ones. “My whole family was there, all my friends… it was horrible,” Stolz said.
But despite her injury, Stoltz’s priorities stayed intact. The volleyball player went through a full year of intense recovery and physical therapy to heal from her tear, and is still recovering now.
“I had to go to physical therapy two days after my surgery just to get it moving again,” Stolz said. “I went to [physical therapy at] Scott and White twice a week, and went every day to my trainers here at UMHB.” Stolz praised her trainers for their patience with her. “My trainer Emily Patrick was fantastic,” she said. She is now playing again at full strength, albeit inhibited by the brace.
“I came in stronger this season—with more muscle mass, so that was a big win.” Coach Rob Frost, who has been the head volleyball coach for seven seasons at UMHB, praises her recovery and athletic talent.
“She’s able to practice and play 100 percent. She’s working hard to recover her transition speed. Her jump touch and hitting strength are in a great spot right now.” Having gone through several ACL recoveries himself, Frost was empathetic to Stolz during her recovery time. “He was very supportive through all this. He’s been very motivating. He checked in with me throughout the whole process but not pushing me to a point where it’s not healthy for me. He knows how easy it is to re-injure it,” Stolz said.
The volleyball player’s teammates were also a major support system.
“They checked on me a lot throughout my recovery. I got to talk to them on the phone while they were in the locker room before their game with Sul Ross, since I wasn’t able to make it, which was really cool. Even now they check in all the time and tell me I look really great on the court again.” Although Stoltz is gaining strength and returning to play, it has been a long road to recovery. “I tore my ACL Oct. 5, but couldn’t get the surgery until Oct. 28 because the swelling was so bad,” she said. “The surgery was miserable. It hurt worse than tearing it.”
Surgeons took a section from a tendon in her quadricep, which her body then converted to a ligament. She also has two titanium buttons holding her new “ligament” in place.
“At first after the surgery, I thought I was never going to walk again,” Stolz said. However, while Stolz occasionally experiences pain in her quad, she is nearly back to normal with the addition of a knee brace, which gives her confidence and security to play. Stolz stays busy on and off the court with her involvement as a college intern at Vista Community Church, a YoungLife leader for Belton High School and the representative for the volleyball team on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, which acts as a go-between for professors and student athletes to make sure the team in keeping up with their school work.
“This injury taught me a lot about the ability to be an athlete. It’s a gift and can be taken away at any moment, so I want to make good use of every time I get on the court and be a good teammate and encourager.”