An injury to the sacroiliac joint in her pelvis left Kelly Kennedy wondering if she would even make it to the prep tennis court this spring.
"For a couple of weeks in January, it was really bad," said Kennedy, who helped Valparaiso win the Portage Sectional on Saturday.
"It's great that I was able to play. For a while, I was concerned if I would be able to do that."
Kennedy is 6-1 combined at No. 1 and No. 2 singles this season, but she missed 11 matche, all due to her injury.
"The first time I felt it was back in August, but it didn't really get bad with the lower back pain until December," said Kennedy, who was playing a United States Tennis Association Tournament at the time. "By the end of the tourney, I wasn't doing too well."
For the past few months, Kennedy has been making almost weekly trips to Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, working with physical therapist Donna Williams. Kennedy said that Williams has helped correct some of the issues by putting the pelvis back in alignment and making the junior work on core strengthening exercises.
Rest is also a key part of treatment, but that's not something Kennedy will put to full use until after the season is over.
"Once we're done, I'll definitely stop for a month or so," she said. "I want to be as good as I can."
Now, she's just trying to amass enough strength to persevere through matches.
"It does affect you," she said. "Consciously, you cannot run or play as hard, because you don't want make it hurt. I definitely have a lot less endurance and less time to work on the precision shots."
She's still found a way to return to the lineup and make her presence felt. She won a crucial 6-2. 6-3 No. 2 singles match against Chesterton's Margaret Shinn in Wednesday's opening round of the sectional.
"One of my goals was just to hit it deep and as hard as I could," said Kennedy, who lost 6-0, 6-2 to Shinn in the regular season. "I wanted to make her run, so I would hopefully be running less. I knew I could make a difference if I won -- and won quickly."
Kennedy's dad, Steve, scheduled a therapist's appointment Friday, giving his a daughter a chance to be more effective for the next day's finals. She was the first one finished, winning 6-0, 6-1.
"It's great to have her back out there," Valpo coach Tim Shideler said. "She feels stronger."
Kennedy is 20-15 in her career at No. 1 singles, playing most of the time there that last two seasons. She's 3-1 this year at No. 2.
"Obviously, I would like to be at the top spot," she said. "This year, I'm just happy to be playing at all."