Caroline Krueger reached the finish line of nearly a yearlong journey last week.

The Lake Central sophomore is just getting started.

Krueger returned to competition on Sept. 16, just over 11 months after her freshman season ended when she tore her right ACL in sectionals against Crown Point. Krueger went up for a block and when she landed, her entire future flashed before her eyes.

Visions of not being able to play volleyball with the Indians, with her travel team, Epic United, and ultimately in college all flashed through Krueger’s mind. Getting back on the court became her singular focus.

“The whole process was really hard,” Krueger said. “I didn’t know if I would play, or how I would play if I got back. I was really scared. My mom found the best people for me to work with. I just kept training and I kept working.”

Krueger didn’t originally think her knee injury was that big of a deal. Sure, it hurt in the moment, but Krueger didn’t expect anything life altering when she met with her doctor.

“I’d never hurt my knee before so I didn’t think it was anything,” Krueger said. “I thought I was going to be just fine. Then when I heard, I thought I was letting everyone down. I had a lot of colleges interested and I had my travel team. Everyone was super understanding, but I was nervous.”

Krueger started rehabbing at the St. Anthony Health Sports Medicine Institute in Crown Point. Multiple times a week the outside hitter would meet with her athletic trainers and rebuild her strength as part of the Return to Play program that Krueger called a “game changer.”

Lake Central coach Matt Clark watched from afar with caution. He knew that Krueger, who had 138 kills as a freshman, would be a big addition for the Indians this season, but he was more concerned about her long-term career than rushing Krueger back to action.

“I’m more about making sure my kids are healthy,” Clark said. “Once she got cleared for competition, we came up with a plan to ease her back in. We weren’t about to put her in for more than what she could handle.”

Krueger returned for one set against Munster and then for two sets against LaPorte on Sept. 17. When she reported no ill effects from those first two matches, the training wheels came off for Thursday’s Duneland Athletic Conference meeting with Valparaiso. Krueger answered with a career-high 11 kills as the Indians pulled off a five-set victory to improve to 6-2 in conference play.

“I was so happy,” Krueger said. “I ran up to my mom and I was smiling so much. I’m super excited to be playing again. I didn’t realize how much I missed it. The goal now is to place as high in the DAC as we can and then put together a long postseason run. Last year I feel like we got cheated out. I’m ready to get back at it again.”

Vikings make do with schedule

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Illiana Christian increased its winning streak to 13 matches on Saturday when it won the Victory Christian Invitational.

The Vikings (17-4) defeated Kouts, Marquette and Victory Christian to cap a week that featured a five-game win over Bishop Noll.

Illiana Christian's last loss was Aug. 30 to Aurora Christian. But even if the Vikings continue their winning ways, their season won’t end with a state title.

The school is currently in the second year of a four-year transition to the IHSAA after moving from Lansing to Dyer last year and are ineligible for postseason play.

“Not being part of a conference or being able to play in the postseason is tough, but we understand it," Illiana Christian coach Richelle VanderZee said. “We have an end-of-season tournament (at Lincoln Way Central) that we really look at as our postseason tournament. We go out there treating every match like it’s a big deal.”

Blackhawk reaches milestone

Westville senior Sarah Henrich was honored during last Wednesday's Porter County Conference match against Boone Grove when the setter recorded her 1,000th career assist.

Play was stopped and Henrich gave her family the game ball before returning to action.

"I never thought it would be possible to reach this number," Henrich said. "It meant so much to me to have my friends at the match. The atmosphere was amazing."

She deflected credit for the achievement.

"This is truly a team honor," Henrich said. "I've played with some great hitters over the years. I couldn't just do this myself."

Henrich, who wants to get into coaching after she's done playing, has been looking into whether she is Westville's program leader in assists.

"There aren't a lot of records that go back that far, but either way, it's a great accomplishment that we did together," she said.

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