It took nearly seven months of recuperation and rehab, but Summit’s Arianna Baker is ready to patrol the net again for the Lady Jaguars.
Last season in the first meeting with district rival, Legacy, Baker came down off a block to find her left knee wasn’t quite right. But she continued to play, registering another block and a kill, albeit needing to get lift off her right leg.
“In the second rotation after I came down on my left knee, I tried to do a top-spin jump-serve and my left knee wouldn’t come off the ground,” Baker recounted.
Baker would have to come to grips with the reality of a torn lateral meniscus in the knee.
“I only thought it was a minor injury and that the next week I could play,” she said. “But I ran up the stairs and fell on my face. I thought I was invincible,” Baker said.
Two days later, she got the MRI.
Summit’s leading blocker – despite missing the remainder of the district schedule and a first-round playoff game – spent eight weeks on crutches after her surgery and then the next several months in rehab.
Baker admitted it wasn’t until when she saw the cast on her leg that reality began to set in.
“I was on the treadmill and always in the gym and on the field doing rehab,” Baker said following her Oct. 28 surgery. “In May, I felt like I could play but wasn’t released.”
Saying Baker is excited to be back for her senior season is a vast understatement.
The summer has already been used to the fullest for further preparations for her return, including running, work on the treadmill and jumping blocks to re-establish her explosiveness at the net.
“I don’t think you can tell I had been out for six months,” Baker said. “I’m running and jumping, and working harder and harder to get back to where I used to be.”
What may be as difficult to rehab for Baker is her sense of responsibility to the team.
“I really did think I felt like I had let the team down,” she said. “I felt it was my fault and told everyone ‘I’m sorry,’ but I couldn’t control being hurt. It wasn’t my choice to get hurt.”
With her teammates’ support and the passage of time, Baker put any guilt aside and took pride in the team’s third-place district finish and the playoff appearance.
Baker will embark on her fourth year as a starter for Summit, and the prospects appear as bright as ever.
The Lady Jaguars lost five seniors to graduation, but there plenty of starters returning. Baker said she feels they have what it takes to return to the playoffs and make more of a statement.
“I’ve been cleared and released and I’m working out every day with the team,” Baker said, noting the work ethic of the team over the course of the summer is encouraging.
“Volleyball tryouts start Aug. 6 and I’m so excited to get started,” she said.
One of the new twists in training for the team includes boxing workouts on Wednesdays. And that fighting spirit will likely show this season, especially with all that Baker has to prove.
With desires to play at the next level, Baker’s injury may have cooled some enthusiasm from college coaches.
“Recruiters stepped back after the injury,” Baker said. “I hope to win them back plus some others this year.”