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The long road back

Sipiora itching to play volleyball again after knee injury
By: Matt Long Telegraph Sports Editor
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When Caroline Sipiora injured her knee on Feb. 1, she knew exactly what happened. In a full sprint, Sipiora made a hard cut to her left and she heard a pop, her left knee collapsed and she went to the ground. ?I said to myself, ?I just torn my ACL,?? Sipiora said. ?I knew it. I?ve had friends who have done it. After that I started thinking about everything; Utah, volleyball, my high school team, my club team, my parents. Everything was rushing through my head.? Sipiora did more than tear her anterior cruciate ligament, one of four major ligaments in the knee. She also tore her medial collateral ligament and suffered a compression fracture in her femur. Sipiora, 17, is the leader of Vista del Lago?s volleyball team, helping the team to 71 wins against only 18 losses the last two years, including back-to-back Division III section championships. She earned a scholarship to the University of Utah and was not only looking forward to a chance at winning a third consecutive section title in her upcoming senior year, but also looking toward an exciting future at Utah. On Feb. 1 those thoughts left her mind as she sat holding her knee, which was causing her far more emotional pain than physical pain. ?The knee didn?t hurt at all,? Sipiora said. ?Really it?s never hurt this whole time. I just felt a lot of pressure in my knee, especially on the inside of my knee.? On March 23 Sipiora underwent arthroscopic surgery, as surgeons used a tendon from her hamstring to take the place of her damaged ACL. The day after the surgery she began to rehabilitate the knee, doing range-of-motion exercises. The worst part of the injury was behind her. ?The worst time was between the injury and surgery,? Sipiora said. ?I love volleyball and being active and running and jumping and I could do absolutely nothing and it was hard and a very emotional time. I learned to be strong and tough it out.? Recovering from a torn ACL is not easy. Doctors told her it takes six months from the date of the surgery, given proper rehab, for the knee to be 100 percent healed. On top of that it could take another three months for an athlete such as Sipiora to get back to the top of her game. Just last week Sipiora was cleared to begin running for the first time since that fateful day in February. While she was incredibly nervous about the prospect of running, Sipiora completed her first running exercise without incident. If all goes well, she will be allowed to start jumping in September. ?I will probably be so scared to jump I?ll just jump two inches off the ground,? she said. Patrick Sanders, Sipiora?s volleyball coach at Vista del Lago, said Sipiora has faced her rehab as well as possible. ?She?s been diligent and is going about it in the right way,? Sanders said. ?She?s very conscientious of what she can and can?t do. She works hard, but she knows what her limits are. She?s really mature beyond her years, especially considering how competitive she is. I know she?s dying to do all the things she used to do. She?s itching to get out there. She?s made good progress. Playing next year at Utah is the big thing so she knows not to go too fast.? Sipiora hopes to play for Vista this season, as she eyes getting back on the court in mid-October. She doesn?t care whether it?s at her normal position on the team at outside hitter or if it?s just in the back row, she just wants to be back on the court. ?It?s definitely mentally challenging,? Sipiora said. ?It?s a slow and gradual process and I need to be patient, which isn?t one of my strong suits.? Until then, Sipiora is doing whatever she can to be a team leader, helping Sanders run drills during summer camp, supporting her teammates and keeping the team loose and laughing. ?I just want to be a good leader for the girls,? Sipiora said. While the ordeal hasn?t been easy for her to handle, Sipiora?s mom, Christina, said some good has come out of it. ?I am very impressed and proud of how Caroline has handled herself during this devastating setback. She?s supported her club team and her high school team at every opportunity, even though it was very tough to see them play. If there is something good that has come of this setback for Caroline it has been her realization as to how much her leadership impacts her teams. I think this will make her a better player and team leader in the long run.?