Going left: Fruita Monument’s Kirtland switches her serve on the fly

Fruita Monument No. 1 singles player Janine Kirtland returns a shot left-handed during a practice this season. A shoulder injury forced her to switch to a left-handed serve on the fly, and so far she’s done just fine.

Fruita Monument’s Janine Kirtland serves left-handed now after an injury to her right shoulder.

Janine Kirtland’s shoulder bothered her so much, she didn’t play club volleyball this season.

The Fruita Monument High School junior, though, didn’t want to skip tennis, so she is improvising her serve.

Kirtland, who usually serves right-handed and plays left-handed, is doing both actions left-handed this season, and it seems to be working just fine.

“All she had to change was her serve and her overheads,” Fruita Monument coach Clint Davis said. “At first, she was serving underhand. I said, ‘Janine, it can’t be that hard, why don’t you give it a try and see how it goes.’ “

The Wildcats’  No. 1 singles player (11-4) took second place in the George Washington Invitational and could lead Fruita Monument to its first Southwestern League title in 19 years with victories this weekend over Central, Montezuma-Cortez and Durango. Fruita hosts Central at 4 p.m. today.

Kirtland tore her labrum in her right shoulder a year and a half ago in volleyball, she said, but never had surgery or gave it an opportunity to heal. Instead, she re-tore it continuing to swing her right shoulder to serve in volleyball and tennis.

The shoulder became so sore, she would feel the pain even when she was sitting still.

“It makes my lower back really sore,” Kirtland said. “It hurt so bad, I couldn’t get out of bed.”

She skipped club volleyball this winter to let her shoulder rest and wears titanium strips on her right shoulder to relieve the pain.

Kirtland realized she needed to get her shoulder examined and was told to avoid using her shoulder for three months. She starts rehabilitation Wednesday and has a physical therapy session once a week.

“It was distracting,” she said. “Now, I don’t use it and it’s getting better. Three months (of rest) will definitely help it a lot.”

Kirtland started serving underhand, but has since made the transition to serving left-handed.

“It’s difficult changing over,” she said. “I’m not used to doing anything overhead with my left hand.”

Although it was a difficult transition, she’s learned serving left-handed could work to her advantage.

“If I can get (the left-handed serve) down enough, I can get some crazy spin on it,” Kirtland said.

Davis believes that would increase her chances of qualifying for state next week.

“She serves left-handed a heck of a lot better than I would,” he said. “It gets better every match. In the end, it could end up being an advantage for her.

“Her game is so solid, she can overcome (serving left-handed).”


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