After losing the second game of Tuesday’s match to Camdenton, Hickman setter Jessie Strother slowly crouched to the ground, balled up with an unbearable pain in her lower back that’s becoming all too familiar for the freshman.
Strother’s 25 assists were enough to propel the Kewpies to victory over Camdenton 25-19, 21-25, 25-17. But no one except Strother was sure she would play in the third game.
With her teammates searching for answers to combat the Lakers’ attack before the deciding game, Strother stayed down on the opposite side of the court. Hickman coach Greg Gunn didn’t know how much pain Strother was in but the competitive Strother refused to come out of the game. Gunn left the decision to be made by someone who knew more about the situation, Strother’s mother, who gave her daughter the OK.
“It looked to me like she was in a lot of pain,” Gunn said. “But she’ll always tell me that she’s fine and ready to play.”
Gunn said he wasn’t surprised she was able to come out for the third game but told her she had to play well if she was going to play at all.
The conversation only lasted a minute, and Strother’s mom had a short message for her daughter.
“She said that if I wanted to play I needed to tough it out,” Strother said.
Strother did tough it out and played the entire game. She served the final point of the match.
“The beginning of the second game, it gets to be the worst,” Strother said. “I try to forget about it. I fought it out and I can’t believe I did that.”
Strother undergoes therapy for her back every day. Almost immediately after the game, her lower back was heavily wrapped with ice.
Gunn said despite the pain, Strother should be able to play through it in the future.
Senior outside hitter Jenny Keener stood with her teammates, all with concerned looks on their faces, while Strother was down.
“We knew there was a possibility she might not play,” Keener said.
“It worried me because we were in such a rhythm playing with the people where they are now. If we mix it up a little bit it’s too different.”