CHESTERTON | What started as a normal practice during the beginning of sectional week last year ended in a pain that Chesterton’s Sara Tarnowski is still recovering from nearly 11 months later.
Tarnowski began the Monday practice by playing in a 3-on-3 game with some of her teammates as the Trojans prepared for their sectional opener against Crown Point. The then-junior libero was approaching for a hit when she heard a pop in her knee that sent her to the trainer.
It wasn’t until several days later that Tarnowski learned that she had cracked her kneecap in half.
“It was the first time that I’d ever heard of anything like that in my life,” Chesterton coach TR Harlan said.
Instead of getting ready to play the Bulldogs, Tarnowski was suddenly prepping for a surgery that would involve two screws being placed into her knee. Six months later, Tarnowski returned to the court in what has been a slow-moving process.
“Everything was more difficult when I came back,” Tarnowski said. “It was such a rare knee injury and I was used to playing at such a high level and being at the top of my game. Suddenly, I was being pushed to where a single jump was taking a toll on me.”
The physical pain was one thing for Tarnowski to deal with, but the mental anguish was the hardest part. As Tarnowski struggled to come to grips with her new limitations, Harlan struggled to watch a player that joined the program 10 years ago, the same year Harlan took over the Trojans.
“Sara started as a third grader with me and we have a very close relationship,” Harlan said. “She’s the type of kid that I want in the program. It’s hard for me to watch her suffer. I really want her to be successful and want to see her enjoy her last year.”
While Tarnowski’s injury hampered last season’s team in their sectional match against Crown Point, it may have served as a silver lining for the 2013 Trojans. Jordyn Moleski filled in for Tarnowski last season and her performance against the Bulldogs led Harlan to make a switch this year and move Tarnowski to the left side while Moleski stayed as libero.
“It’s a cliché, but it’s next man up,” Harlan said. “It’s what you coach the other kids for. Kids might not be happy with their roles, but there is a reason they are on the team. I wouldn’t put them there if I didn’t think they could go win a match for me at some point.”
Tarnowski has no problems with moving away from the libero position and she is embracing her role as a senior leader. The Trojans have already suffered another blow this season as senior Ali Ostrom was lost for the season against Mishawaka last month.
“My role is to keep (my teammates) up and keep them focused,” Tarnowski said. “We don’t have one MVP on this team, but together can all be MVP’s. It’s my job to remind them of that.”