By Greg Dudek
Senior captain Melanie Appleman thought she would be out just a few days after injuring her ankle in the preseason.
Six weeks later, Appleman is still not at 100 percent, but she has fought every step of the way to get back out onto the court for the Bridgewater State University volleyball team.
“The only way you can take it is positive,” Appleman said. “As frustrating as it is to be a senior and out for the majority of your season, the best way to look at it is I’m going to be cheering on my team, doing whatever I can to help out in any respect possible.”
Just four days into the preseason on August 27, Appleman suffered a high ankle sprain during a blocking drill when she landed on a teammate’s foot. After recovering from previous injuries quickly, Appleman thought she wouldn’t miss much time. However, a trip to the doctors revealed she would be out an extended period of time.
“When it happened, I was obviously very upset,” Appleman said. “I thought, ‘You know what, it’s fine. This is my third sprain, so every other time it’s been three days max.’ I went to the doctors and they said four to eight weeks. I literally didn’t believe it. To hear four to eight weeks, I was in denial.”
With Appleman sidelined, the Lady Bears played their first 13 matches of the season without her. While out, Appleman stayed positive, as she tried to do whatever she could for the team even though she couldn’t be out on the court.
“I just had to stay positive and encourage the team,” Appleman said. “I had to be there for everyone and just try to be that positive captain from the sideline.”
The rehab process has been long for Appleman, but Bridgewater State head coach Elizabeth Morris saw her senior leader persevere against it.
“Definitely not an easy process, but Mel is very determined,” Morris said. “Her work ethic is extraordinary. Seeing her here at every practice, showing up at every game, supporting the team, taking notes on game play, and then being out here on the court, was very motivating for the team and for herself.”
Appleman finally did return to action on October 2 against Massachusetts Maritime Academy and paced Bridgewater State to a 3-0 win. Appleman led the way with 18 assists, four aces, five digs and two kills.
For Appleman, getting back onto the court for the first time in her senior season brought a whirlwind of emotion.
“I was so excited, I didn’t care what team it was, I was just excited to be back on the court,” Appleman said. “It’s so weird to have that alien feeling of your first time, but at the same time, it was so right. This whole being off and being injured and not as fast and not myself, is so wrong, but slowly but surely I’ll get back to it.”
It will take time for her to fully recover from the injury, as Morris is not trying to make her do too much too soon.
“It was really nice to see her back there because she deserves to be there especially in her senior year,” Morris said. “It was overwhelming emotion because we wanted to go, go, go, but realized it was a slow transition and we are starting to actually get her back now.”
Since then, Appleman has played here and there, but is still limited by her injury. Just her presence alone though is key for the Lady Bears down the stretch and into the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Tournament.
A captain since her sophomore season, Appleman has an ample amount of experience from her four years at Bridgewater State, where she started in every game before her injury.
“It’s going to bring a level of comfortability and a level of trust,” said senior teammate Emily Boyer. “We all trust Mel to do her job and she is a hard player. When she’s back in the swing of things, she will come back strong and lead our team to victory.”
Recently, Appleman played well in the Coast Guard Bears Classic against Worcester State University. In the win over the Lancers, Appleman had 19 assists, 12 digs, three kills and an ace.
Appleman now has 1,940 assists in her career, and is attempting to become just the fifth player in Bridgewater State volleyball history to reach the 2,000-assist milestone.
And with time running out not only in her senior season, but in her volleyball career at Bridgewater State, Appleman won’t let the high ankle sprain stop her from finishing out the season.
“My goal is to do whatever I can,” Appleman said. “I know in some games I barely played. And if it means I am on the sideline cheering, that’s what I can do. I would love to come back full throttle and just kill it, but I’ll do whatever I am capable of and whatever is helping the team.”
Greg Dudek is The Comment’s Editor-In-Chief. Follow him on Twitter at gdudek10 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.