Senior defensive specialist Lisa Ashton had big plans for this season. Her relentless hustle on defense, her work ethic and her leadership were going to be inspirational for her teammates.
What the Spartan volleyball co-captain didnt plan on giving her teammates was a lesson in vulnerability and optimism.
Maybe taking a look at me on the sidelines will remind them they arent guaranteed four years of play, Ashton said. These things happen, so if that helps out, Im just thinking in every way possible how I can best benefit the team the last three months Im a part of it.
Ashton has appeared in only 11 out of 33 games this season due to what she thought was a pair of bulging disks.
But a trip to an orthopedic surgeon Thursday revealed she actually had two herniated discs, a condition with a slower recovery, volleyball athletic trainer Liana Lee said.
The condition will be treated with rest and therapy for now, Lee said.
Were just kind of waiting to see how she responds to everything, she said. If she can get through daily activity, were not looking at surgery or anything.
And the team has nothing to do but wait, head coach Chuck Erbe said.
We have to wait - she has a whole life outside of volleyball, he said. You just dont rush into anything with a back injury
Volleyball has become less of a focus for Ashton and the people treating her, Lee said.
Our biggest focus is for her to get through her daily activities, like going to class and walking around, she said. She needs to go to a movie and be able to be comfortable and right now she is not.
Ashton said shes now looking to help the Spartans win in ways that dont include digs or aces.
Being on the sidelines, I view my role as a leader being more important because now I can see more things, I can see whats going on and I think of how I can help out, she said. I cant be a physical contributor to the team, but I certainly can be emotionally and mentally involved with the team.
Ashtons roommate and teammate, junior middle blocker Angela Morley said Ashtons attitude will continue to impact the squad.
I think shes had a great attitude about it, and I think shes trying to find other ways to lead the team, not necessarily on the court, but through encouragement on the sidelines, she said. Shes just trying to find ways that she can help the team, and I think she understands her role on the team.
Lee echoes the sentiment about Ashtons attitude and personality.
Shes a great kid and shes got a great attitude, Lee said. No matter whether shes on the court or not, shes a huge factor for our team.
So for now, Ashton has put her athletic goals behind her.
The last thing Im thinking about is being some awesome player - its deeper than that now, she said. Its about being a leader for them, a person for them and an example.
Many people wouldnt deal with the injury as well as Ashton has, Lee said. Ashton credits her Christian faith.
Gods grace is sufficient for me, she said. His strength is made perfect in my weakness. My relationship with God is what has gotten me through this difficulty in my life.
The main thing I am dwelling on is that I have someone who is going to give me enough strength to get through this. He gives meaning and has a plan for everything that happens to me.
And although a part of her wishes for the romantic ending - a quick recovery and return to the court - for the most part, Ashton seems adjusted to leading from the bench.
You think of wanting to have this heroic story of coming back from an injury and being this awesome person who can fight through this, she said. But realistically, I dont think its possible, and I dont think its smart.