Sophomore outside hitter Alex Fuelling and senior setter Jacqui Seidel celebrate after getting a point at the match against the University of Toledo on Nov. 7 at Worthen Arena. DN PHOTO EMILY SOBECKI
WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Fuelling fights through injury
After injuring her ankle in practice earlier this season, recovering physically has only been half the battle for Alex Fuelling.
When the sophomore outside hitter took the court against the University of Toledo on Tuesday, being physically ready was only the start of being fully healthy.
“I wanted to worry about how to attack Toledo and less about my ankle,” Fuelling said after the match. “Concentrate on my opponent and how I can help the team rather than the injury.”
Fuelling’s final 2 matches before injury:
vs. Kent State University: 15 kills, 2 errors, 38 attempts, .342 attack percentage
vs. Ohio University: 16 kills, 7 errors, 51 attempts .176 attack percentage
First two matches after injury:
vs. University of Toledo: 21 kills, 10 errors, 47 attempts, .234 attack percentage
vs. University of Akron: 15 kills, 5 errors, 35 attempts, .286 attack percentage
The transfer from Morehead State University spearheaded the Ball State offense that night with 21 kills, although it took her 47 attempts to get there.
Late in the match, Fuelling lacked the explosion her team is used to seeing. After making the fourth set 15-14, Fuelling didn’t record another kill for the rest of the match, not leaping as high on her attacks as usual.
After the match, she said her injury wasn’t bothering her and that she was pushing through the mental block of fearing re-injury, but Ball State head coach Steve Shondell disagreed.
“I think she was only at 80 percent tonight,” he said after the match. “I thought she played well considering I probably could have given her some rest and put Jenna [Spadafora] in there.”
Fuelling didn’t have much time to rest because Ball State played the University of Akron just two days later. Shondell said he thought she looked better, but was still hampered by the injury.
Ball State dropped both of the matches, and Shondell wasn’t hesitant to explain what needs to change for his team to get back on the winning track.
“Getting Alex back to 100 percent,” he said. “She’s fighting her heart out and gutting it out, each week she’s going to be stronger.”
He said he hopes that she’ll make it back to 100 percent before the Mid-American Conference Tournament begins.
But before that, Ball State has two more matches to play this weekend. Beating the mental block of being scared to injure her ankle again is something she said she works on during each match.
“I try not to think about it too much,” Fuelling said. “Once I’m on the court, I kind of forget about it; I just try to play the game and not worry about it.”
The injury cost Fuelling four matches, Ball State went 3-1 in that span. Each match she was forced to sit on the bench, sometimes wearing a walking boot, and watch her teammates compete without her.
Although sitting out four games wasn’t ideal, Fuelling made the most of it. After sitting out last season due to transfer regulations, riding the bench was nothing new.
Instead of holding a volleyball, she was holding a theoretical clipboard. Fuelling decided that just because she couldn’t play didn’t mean she couldn’t help the team.
“It was difficult, not playing,” she said. “At that point, I started coaching them and cheering, being the best teammate I could be, and sitting out last year helped me understand how to do that.”
After the loss to Toledo, Fuelling said it felt good to get back on the court instead of watching the match from the sidelines.
Even if she was still trying to put the injury out of her mind.