September 26, 2002

Comeback Queens of the Court

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Returning to the court after a sprained ankle is one thing.

What junior outside hitter Debbie Quibell and classmate setter Rachel Rice did is an entirely different ball game.

“Those two are coming back from major injuries,” head coach Christie Jackson stated.

Major is probably an understatement.

Quibell, who was named to the All-Ivy first team last season, hit a brick wall last spring when she learned she had degenerated discs in her back.

“It was bound to show up at some point in my volleyball career, and it just happened to show up in the spring,” Quibell sighed. “It is not an injury that can be fixed in any amount of time. It is a chronic condition that I am going to have for the rest of my life.”

When the problem initially appeared, Quibell was forced to stay completely away from volleyball for eight weeks, although she was able to go through rehab and do back exercises. When the semester ended, she continued with rehab to get back on track and gradually reincorporate volleyball into her training.

“This spring, she did everything she could to get better without jumping, and that was a serious challenge,” Jackson recalled. “Then she went home and did everything she was supposed to do and then some, and she is so much better for it.”

“At first, it was really hard to get into the routine because it was a daily exercise,” Quibell said of maintaining motivation. “But once I started to feel the benefits of doing it every day, and if it is something that is going to let me play volleyball with my teammates and compete at the level I want to compete at, it is worth going through the extra hours a day and making that sacrifice. I refuse to let any injury I have impede the success of this team.”

Prior to the beginning of last season, Rice discovered she had a nerve disorder in her leg, a severe blow to the team, as Rice was just beginning to establish herself as the top setter in the league.

After unsucessfully attempting to work through the affliction, Rice did not play volleyball for eight months. The uncertainty of a return to volleyball combined with the demanding rehab schedule could have detoured a less devoted player. But Rice did not give in.

“There was not a point when I wanted to stop, but there were points along the way when I was told I wouldn’t be able to play,” she said.

Rice worked with physical therapists to get her body prepared for another season. She had to readjust to the rhythm of the matches and get a feeling for the ball.

“It was so hard without her, and I just respect her for so much hard work she has done, both mentally and physically,” Jackson said. “I don’t know if you can imagine being out for a whole year and then coming back like that, so it’s pretty impressive.

“She’s clearly the best setter in the league,” Jackson continued. “Having her back is just the greatest thing ever.”

Both stars attributed their recovery to the massive support group that formed around them.

“I had a lot of support from my coaches and teammates, and they made me look forward to playing again,” Rice said.

“If there are days I need to go lighter in practice, coach will hold me out of some drills,” Quibell explained. “My teammates are incredible. They are always willing to step in for me and if I come into practice and I’m sore, I have my teammates just picking up the slack for me.”

Through dedication, encouragement, and desire, Quibell and Rice have overcome serious injuries to return to the court The attitudes of these two women will continue to influence the rest of the team throughout the rest of the season.

“Debbie and Rachel are who I’m completely depending on,” Jackson said.

She could not have picked two better players for that job.

Archived article by Katherine Granish