CEDAR LAKE | Alex Plavsa fell off of her bike and tore her anterior cruciate ligament when she was in the fifth grade.
By her freshman year at Hanover Central, she was playing year-round volleyball, had played multiple sports in middle school, was a two-sport athlete in high school — and still hadn't fixed the ACL.
She'd return home from practices some nights and take ibuprofen to dull the pain of her knee that had puffed up like a balloon.
She relented to surgery after doctors explained the long-term effects of playing through the pain, and in December 2011, just before Hanover Central's winter break, Plavsa went under the knife.
She attended a basketball game the next day and in four months was playing tennis again. Plavsa, along with her No. 1 doubles partner, set records at Hanover Central last spring, the first sign the ACL surgery had worked.
When she started the second half of her club volleyball season, she noticed something was different when she moved, or slid, or jumped.
"There's an anticipation that it should feel differently, that there's not something there that should be, like a person without an ACL," the middle hitter said. "I feel reinforced. I feel like a real person."
Without the pain to hold her back, Plavsa has helped lead the Wildcats to a 20-4 record through Saturday and an undefeated record in the Porter County Conference.
"I knew that this was going to be our big season; we have four seniors," coach Shelley Evers said. "I was a little concerned with the surgery situation, but her whole family has really embraced the rehab and I fully expect her to be the biggest hitter in our conference, without a doubt. She's absolutely done it. She's taken the lead and followed through on her goals in the PCC and what she wants to do as a player."
Gritting through any discomfort to be the best she can is standard operating procedure for the 6-foot tall Plavsa. Ask her why she picked December for the surgery, and she explains that it impacted the fewest number of her activities.
"A week before I was supposed to be released, I started going back," said Plavsa, who spent only about 10 days on crutches, discarding them as soon as she could. "I got right back on it and started school (volleyball) right after club was over. ... I can't really be kept in one place very long."
Even before the surgery, Plavsa's post-high school plans included premed, then medical degrees, letting volleyball fall where it may after high school.
"When we started looking at her stats this year and how we wanted to approach everything this season, I said, 'Give me a list of your schools,'" Evers said. "She gave me five schools and said 'I want to go premed, these are the top premed schools.' She's very 'this is what I want to do and if volleyball fits into it, that's great.'"