MUNSTER | Morgan Switalla had an assignment on her first day of Senior Composition. She had to produce a paper on the topic: this I believe.
The Munster setter knew exactly what to write.
Switalla began to tell the tale of the last year of her life.
It starts with a tubing adventure the week before the start of her junior volleyball season.
Actually, it starts long before that, when Switalla began to dedicate herself to improving before her junior volleyball season. At that point, she'd added leg strength in order to jump higher and hit the ball harder.
As a setter running a 5-1 offense, almost every offensive maneuver runs through her. She wanted to be the best.
When the moratorium week before her junior season hit, Switalla took some time off. She wrenched her back muscles while tubing and on jet skis.
No problem, she'd go back to workouts to strengthen her muscles.
That's when she learned that while she was strengthening her legs, she hadn't been working on her core in order to support her newfound power.
The pain didn't stop.
"I did everything with an arch and I was too dominant on my hips and quads. I was so strong, but it was too strong for my back," Switalla said. "I knew last year was a big season for me. My junior year is huge, and I wanted it to be big. We were coming off the sophomore (semistate) season and I thought it could only be better."
She played the first three matches for Munster, all losses. She blamed herself, and then the pain.
In every match, she played through the pain. She'd start to feel it about the second game, or especially if a match went more than three games.
By the marathon finish in the sectional final, a five-game loss in which the fifth game ended with an extended 21-19 score, the back pain was so normal, she almost didn't even notice it.
"I was really proud of her for the strides she'd made," coach Tracy Summers said. "She was stronger and faster, and jumping a lot higher. Then she hurt her back and it was devastating to her. She'd worked so hard and that happened. Back problems can be just as serious as anything else, because they can hurt so badly that it can keep you from doing the simplest things."
Switalla took time off from volleyball, between the end of the prep season and the start of the club season. She visited the fourth and fifth doctors about her injury.
Club season was great; she had been completely pain free.
The moratorium week before the start of Switalla's senior volleyball season hit, and she was completely ready for her final year at Munster. Until she couldn't sleep one night. The pain was too much, she was even vomiting.
When she arrived at the E.R. the next morning, she went through an MRI, a CT scan and finally into emergency surgery to remove a cyst that had wound itself around her ovary.
"I'd played the whole club season without any pain, then that happened," Switalla said.
She had surgery on a Friday morning. Tryouts started three days later on Monday.
"It was so hard for me to sit out," Switalla said. "I found out the latest day I could go back and still play in the first game. We started 0-3 last year, and I kind of blamed myself for that. I didn't want that to happen my senior year."
She was released to touch the volleyball on Wednesday and she worked every day to put in her 10 practices before the Mustangs' first game of the season against Crown Point. Munster won. Then again against Valparaiso and again against Lake Central. The 0-3 record turned into 3-0 this year.
With her junior season mostly a wash because of the injury, she's playing catch-up to earn a college scholarship. She wants to work in sports rehab.
"She's close to what she was as a sophomore, as close as she can be," Summers said. "Imagine being in pain every time you jump. That's what it's like. She doesn't use her back as an excuse. She works hard, this is her senior year, she wants to go back to semistate."