The positive state of mind Meredith Avery maintained when her senior season was cut short due to injury carried over to what turned out to be a dramatically reduced rehab.
Avery suffered a torn labrum two-thirds the way through her senior season. But the defensive specialist was back to playing club ball by December, setting her up for her signing with Evangel this spring.
A collision with a teammate during practice resulted in Avery injuring her left shoulder.
"I was chasing down a ball and as soon as we collided, I knew something was off," Avery said. "I went to the doctor that week and had surgery the following week. It was a little bit of a bummer. Obviously, you wait so many years to play your senior season. But I was grateful to still be a part of the team. It showed me how much you can put into it and all the encouragement you can give, even when you’re not playing."
She made it a point not to feel sorry for herself and stay upbeat.
"That was really the only way to deal with it," said Avery, who recorded 169 digs and 209 serve receptions in 52 sets as as senior and collected 341 digs and 400 serve receptions over her career.
Avery's ensuing rehab couldn't have gone any better.
"I've got to give a lot of credit to our trainer. He put in a lot of work with me and I was able to get back in two short months, when doctors first estimated I would be out four to six months," Avery said. "Returning to play club ball in December did wonders for me. I played all winter. They told me to only go 60 percent at first. But if you know how competitive I am, I want to give it my all always. I went 100 percent and it all went good. I didn’t have any problems.
"I felt like I was on top of the world when I came back," she added. "After working really hard, it was amazing to be back in that element. I put in the work during rehab every day and really came back feeling better than ever."
At Evangel, Avery will be teammates for the first time with Nixa 2019 grad Cierra Reyes. An outside hitter, Reyes collected 161 kills and 35 blocks her freshman year for the Lady Crusaders.
Avery and Reyes are already friends.
"We’ve always been competitors. Now, we’ll love being teammates," Avery said. "We have worked together in the past outside of school."
Avery was able to celebrate her signing with well-wishers, while everyone maintained social-distancing standards.
"My Mom had a ceremony for me in a church parking lot. We had about 75-100 people show up, with our chairs six feet apart," she said. "Honestly, it was shocking. I wasn’t expecting that big of a number of people. I felt so grateful for all the support I got from friends at school to family to teachers. I even had my kindergarten teacher show up."
Avery began playing volleyball when she was in kindergarten.
"I started playing volleyball when I was 6 years old. I played that early because of my older sister, Savannah (a 2015 Ozark graduate)," she said. "When her club team would practice, the coach would have me hop in during drills. They taught me the fundamentals."
In addition to the turnout at her signing ceremony, Avery's popularity was evidenced by her selection as Ozark's Homecoming queen last fall.
"I was blown away when they announced my name," she said. "I was talking to myself and thinking, ‘It will be great for whoever gets this and I should cheer and congratulate them.’ When they called my name, it was a jaw-dropper on sight. I feel so blessed my classmates did that for me."