Despite injuries, Shipper keeping positive attitude
By LANCE CATCHINGS
Ella Shipper is a four-year volleyball varsity letterman and was the only junior to start at the state semifinal game for Liberty Hill last season. She was a TCGA All-Star selection and, like most highly-touted seniors, was set to lead her team to another state playoff berth.
“After four years of being on varsity, I really thought this was my year and I would get to take over on the court,” Shipper said. “I thought I would be the head of the team, because I was the one with the most varsity experience, and it would be an amazing year to lead and have fun with my teammates. I just wanted to experience the things that most seniors do in leading their team.”
All her plans changed in the second game of the season. Shipper went up for a block against Canyon Lake, and when she came down, she injured her ankle.
“I landed on a girl from Canyon Lake and tore up my ankle pretty good,” she said. “I had a high and low ankle sprain and a torn ligament in my ankle. That took roughly five weeks to heal, and then I tried to come back, but it was a bit too early. When I came back, it hurt bad, so we took another week to heal after that.”
After almost six weeks of nursing and rehabilitation, Shipper finally started to work her way back into the practice rotation. District play was about to begin, and she felt that maybe things were beginning to go her way when tragedy struck. Wednesday, Sept. 19 at practice, Shipper went up for a block and broke her finger.
“Last week was my first real week to go through practice, and I wasn’t even supposed to practice the day I hurt my hand,” she said. “I thought my ankle felt fine, so I went ahead and practiced and ended up breaking my finger. I broke my pinky finger in a way that required surgery. Wednesday, Sept. 26, I went to have surgery on it to help fix it. The theory is it will heal faster, because the pins will hold it together better. I will miss four weeks with the pins in and then two or three weeks after that, so it looks like I will miss all of district play.”
Shipper has cheered for her team from the sideline almost all season, knowing they could use her help. She was excited to rejoin her teammates before she found out the depth of the injury to her hand.
“Getting close to healing from that first injury, I was getting excited about rejoining my teammates on the court,” she said. “I thought I would come back in to rotation and everything would be okay. It was tough to not be on the court for some of the games where we struggled and were not coming together as a team. Everyone has their days, and sitting on the sidelines knowing you could possibly make a difference on the court if I was not hurt just sucked. There were good things and bad things happening on the court that I really wish I could have been a part of. Every team goes through ups and downs, but it was a sad time for me.”
Shipper admits that staying positive has not always been easy, but she refuses to let her circumstances keep her down.
“When I found out I would miss more time, I tried to focus on how I could be a good teammate and help them improve,” she said. “I want to help everyone else be the best that we can be and try to move on. I just want to help my teammates just become better players and people. Since I have been injured this season, all my teammates have been extremely supportive. We are all good friends on and off the court. They know it is not an easy thing to come into your senior year and play only five games out of 30. They have been there for me throughout this entire struggle.”
Shipper’s faith and her friends are the biggest contributors to helping her push through this difficult time in her life.
“It has been hard, but I am trusting that God has another plan out there for me that is not mine,” she said. “Sometimes that is hard, but this experience has been a journey. This has given me such a different perspective. It really is a gift to step on the court every single time and it is not something to be taken for granted. My teammates, coaches and trainers have been really supportive of me and want me to be as comfortable as possible.”
Shipper has been a member of Head Coach Gretchen Peterson’s program for six years, and she said that Shipper has handled her situation gracefully.
“Ella is one of those girls that the team understands this shouldn’t happen to anybody, but especially not her,” Peterson said. “They also understand that if there is anyone who can turn it around, shine through and make it a positive, then that’s Ella. No matter what role she has had in this program from a freshman to now, as a senior leader, she has always been a great example for our kids. That includes being an example to her peers and the younger girls we have coming up through the program. They all respect her and love her. She wants so bad to help and be a part of her team, and if there is any chance she can come back, her teammates know she is doing everything within her power to make that happen.”
Shipper had surgery to repair her finger last week and has already started therapy to work her way back. Her team is currently 4-0 in district play and she is doing everything she can to work her way back on to the court by playoff time.