LAPORTE — Aniya Kennedy felt trapped.
The LaPorte outside hitter was hitting her stride last season when she started to feel under the weather late in the year. A trip to the doctor revealed the news she was dreading the most: a positive COVID-19 test.
Kennedy would have moments where she felt fatigued and moments where she felt fine. In the end, the symptoms amounted to that of an intense fever. While the physical pain may have subsided in time, the mental anguish of missing LaPorte’s postseason was crippling.
As the Slicers rattled off sectional wins over Mishawaka and Penn, Kennedy was trapped inside her house, making sure not to get her teammates sick, while being relegated to watching the matches on Facebook Live.
“It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through,” Kennedy said. “It was the end of the season and it’s hard not being out there for your teammates. It was all that I had worked for and suddenly it was gone.”
Kennedy was feeling healthy by the time the Slicers got to a regional match with Munster, but the risk of infecting her teammates was still too high. That the regional was held at LaPorte was just salt in the wound.
“I just wanted to be there,” Kennedy said. “I didn’t want to see them lose and I wanted to be there with them when we won.”
The Slicers ultimately fell to Munster in the regional semifinals and it would be a long offseason until Kennedy got back on the court in a LaPorte uniform. By the time this season started, the Ball State commit had a new focus when it came to volleyball.
“I really do just try to play every game like it’s my last,” Kennedy said. “I never want to play and then find out that I can’t play again and have regrets because I didn’t give it my all.”
Kennedy has shined this season, leading the Slicers with 430 kills and 57 blocks while being second on the team with 40 aces and 255 digs. As excited as the senior is to play in the postseason, second-year coach Jessica Ramirez is just as ecstatic.
“I can’t wait to be her head coach in the postseason,” Ramirez said. “I’ve never had the opportunity to coach her in the postseason. Aniya is such an amazing player and to have that kind of player, a senior leader, on your team in the postseason, I’m excited for it.”
Kennedy already knows the feeling of hearing her season has ended abruptly and now she’s going to do everything in her power to make sure LaPorte’s season can last as long as possible. The Slicers open up Class 4A sectional play at Plymouth on Thursday night. LaPorte fell to the Rockies 3-2 in the third match of the season.
Ramirez has spent much of the season preparing her players for the postseason. They’ve done a lot of mental exercises to limit the weight of the moment and they’ve read several books to provide focus and clarity on the task at hand. For Kennedy, everything she’s been working toward for the better part of her high school career will be encapsulated in every match going forward.
“I really just try to live in the moment,” Kennedy said. “When I think about the future, I start to get worked up a little bit. I want to focus on being consistent and just stay in the moment.”