Mind over matter
Despite injured shoulder, Schuller leads 'Cats past Montrose
Monday, MacKenzie Schuller learned the injury that’s plagued her throughout this volleyball season is a torn labrum in the right-handed hitter’s right shoulder.
Tuesday, she played like the front-row force Fruita Monument was used to seeing a year ago.
Schuller, a 6-foot senior, finished with 13 kills, including three in a row during a stretch of Game 2 that revived the Wildcats after a lackluster start. As a result, Fruita rallied to win that game, then rallied again in Game 3 as the Wildcats turned back Montrose 25-13, 25-22, 25-23 in a showdown between the Southwestern League’s top two teams.
The win kept Fruita (12-2, 7-0), Class 5A’s ninth-ranked team, unbeaten in the league and gave it a two-game lead over the Indians (11-3, 5-2), who are ranked No. 7 in Class 4A, with three league games to go.
“This was a big game. It was super important to us to stay undefeated in the league,” said Schuller, whose kill total was second to Jordan Eatwell’s 15. “It’s something we’ve been working really hard for. They’re a good team, and they always give us a tough match. It’s a lot of fun playing Montrose.”
It’s more fun winning, and the Indians made the Wildcats earn it.
Fruita took a while to warm up in Game 1, but once it did, the Wildcats dug up every hit from Montrose and scored with a combination of their own kills and the Indians’ errors.
Errors ultimately were the difference in the match, according to Montrose coach Shane Forrest, but she also lauded the Wildcats.
“Fruita is just a clean, solid team that doesn’t make a lot of errors,” Forrest said. “And they hit over our block a lot.
“When we got ahead, we couldn’t control it. We didn’t get side-outs. We made too many errors.”
The Indians took an 11-4 lead in Game 2 until Schuller turned the tide. Hitting from the right outside, she spiked a ball down the right sideline for a kill to take the serve away from Montrose. Then she helped Joelle LeFevre serve for six points by showing some finesse and placing a kill into an open spot. Then, when Montrose bumped a LeFevre serve back to the net, Schuller was waiting to block it straight down.
Montrose kept Fruita anywhere from one point to two points back for a while, but the Wildcats finally evened the score at 18-18. After ties at 19, 20, 21 and 22, Eatwell’s kill into a block gave Fruita the lead for good, 23-22, and two Montrose hitting errors ended the game.
Montrose led throughout Game 3 and ran its advantage to 19-12, but an Eatwell tip kill tied the match 21-21, and she delivered a hard spike to make it 22-22. After Montrose tied the game at 23-23, though, the Indians made two errors for the final two Fruita points.
Wildcats coach Bob Richardson said his team’s composure and comebacks are a reflection of the all-senior, eight-player varsity lineup.
“We have a senior group that doesn’t get rattled,” he said.
Schuller added, “When we get down, we do a good job of getting out of it.”
Schuller said she was told by a doctor her labrum may tear more, but it won’t keep her from playing, and she will be able to finish the season before having surgery soon after its conclusion.
Ibuprofen and ice have been her treatment regimen, and she added, “In practice I take it easy, and that allows me to be ready for the games. Usually the day after (a game) is the worst, but during the game, once I get warmed up, it’s not too bad.”
Tuesday, Schuller was swinging better than she has been, Richardson said, adding, “She was doing the things we’re used to seeing her do.”