Adjectives flood your mind when you first hear the story of Emma Fisher. Mad? Unbelievable? Foolish? Courageous?
Senior varsity volleyball star Mark Morris, who joined the Monarchs volleyball and basketball teams as a rookie, is playing his senior season for the volleyball team with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
Adjectives started flying around in your head, didn’t they? Perhaps the question ‘Why?’ appeared first, however.
That’s the question most people think about when they hear about Fisher’s decision, and the subsequent decisions made by his doctor, his coach, and the team’s athletic trainer that allowed him to do so. . (Editor’s note: MM athletic trainer Chris Reeves declined to be interviewed for this story.)
For Fisher, the simple answer comes down to a desire to experience what could end up being a very special 2022 Monarchs volleyball season in his senior year. And she doesn’t want to watch from the sidelines or in the stands. She wants to be on the pitch, where she has proven that she can consistently help her teammates achieve their highest goals, while creating highlights that their minds will never forget.
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“I already have to have surgery. I will be away for at least a year. So why not do my last year, have these experiences and these memories that I won’t have in the future? Fisher asked. “I would rather have playing memories than sitting.”
But are those memories worth potential future damage to his uninjured right leg or the other major muscles and ligaments in his left leg? The first member of the TDN All-Area Volleyball Team says yes.
Fisher wears a knee brace and her time on the court isn’t as significant as it was last year when she played all six rotations for the Monarchs and averaged eight kills and eight digs per game over the course of the full season. She finished the year with a total of 128 kills, 129 recoveries and 115 service points. That production peaked just in time with 53 eliminations in the state tournament.
“When you watch her play, you would never know. I can’t even explain it,” said Mark Morris volleyball coach Carmen Hewitt. let play with a torn ACL?’ And literally, you have to watch it. You would never know.
However, as athletic as Fisher remains, the awkward gait and impaired mobility caused by his hulking hinged brace would at least provide a clue that his knee isn’t straight.
After qualifying for state in track and field and running the 100 and 200 meters, 300 meters hurdles and 4×400 meters relay events, Fisher entered the summer looking forward to a memorable senior year. Unfortunately, an awkward move on the basketball court in June put those plans in doubt.
Fisher was playing basketball at a summer tournament in Centralia, when she heard a pop in her knee after jumping. She went to the bench not fully understanding the severity of her injury, then returned to action not knowing how her leg would behave. It was unstable as she cautiously returned to the field.
“I went back there and I could feel how unstable my kneecap was when (coach) took me out, so I said, ‘I guess we’ll see how it goes and not even two minutes later I jumped again and my knee gave out. I jumped, I planted him and he went to the left side… So, I (thought), I guess I got out.
Out for how long? The question was how badly the knee was hurt and what the recovery timeline looked like. Fisher was unable to have an MRI for two full months and while waiting to find out the severity of her knee injury, she continued to compete.
“Over time I realized that I could play volleyball…because in my spare time I was playing basketball still on my torn ACL without a brace, which probably wasn’t a good idea but I still wanted to stay active,” Fisher said. . “And I realized that I could still…do whatever I could do in the first place.”
Coach Hewitt initially thought his team had lost Fisher for the season when they heard the injury news. But the tenacious Fisher wanted to attend the team’s July 24-28 volleyball camp to show Hewitt she could play. Although she received permission from her doctor, her parents, and finally her coach to attend camp, Fisher still wasn’t sure if it was the best decision.
And as she considered her options, Fisher heard opinions from both sides.
“There were definitely a lot of people for and against,” Fisher said. “Before going to the camp, I had to be cleared by my surgeon. I tried it at camp and it worked well.“
When Hewitt witnessed Fisher’s movements at camp and saw that her ability to jump and land did not appear to be severely hampered, she was sold.
“I’ll never forget her telling me, ‘Coach, the adults around me tell me what I can’t do, but my body tells me I can,'” Hewitt said. incredibly. You would never have known she was hurt. She didn’t miss anything. »
After camp, Fisher returned home determined to delay surgery in order to play another season of college volleyball for the Monarchs. His coach was sold, his parents and doctor were on board, so Fisher and Hewitt hatched a plan for the season. Although she looked good on the floor, Fisher was and still is an athlete struggling with a serious knee injury. She was going to need regular rest, daily treatment, and a modified approach to both her use and time in the field.
Given the importance of his fourth senior year for the Monarchs in achieving the team’s lofty goal of winning a 2A state championship this year, Hewitt is strategically managing Fisher’s playing time so the Monarchs pull the best of Fisher in the most critical matches.
“As a coach, I told her that I will have to make tough decisions for her. We need her to be healthy and feel good for the big games,” Hewitt said. I focus on managing exposures to polish his leg, while allowing him time to feel mentally comfortable.”
Fisher missed the team’s first game against RA Long and the vast majority of the Yakima Sundome Festival tournament in mid-September. Going into Tuesday night’s competitions at Hockinson, she had played in six of Mark Morris’ seven regular season games where she averaged about six kills and four digs.
Last Thursday, in Mark Morris’ sweep of Washougal, Fisher managed nine decisive wins. Then on Saturday in the one-day Monarch Challenge, Fisher played hard as the Monarchs qualified for the championship against Kelso, losing to the 3A Hilanders in the third-set tiebreaker.
So far, she’s been limited to half a rotation on the court, playing the frontline positions and serving. And it worked well all around.
It helps that Mark Morris is loaded with solid defensive players like seniors Madi Noel and Hallie Watson. This depth has helped limit the amount of bending and diving Fisher has to do.
According to Hewitt, having Fisher play exclusively at net just makes the most sense.
“We need her to hit,” the Monarchs coach said. “She accepts this role and does her best to overcome the mental game on the pitch.”
The psychological element is the most difficult because there is no practiced skill that the athlete can rely on to overcome the invisible obstacle. Instead, the athlete must go it alone, sometimes without the necessary preparation that a real sports psychologist can provide, with the goal of building confidence, overcoming doubts, and performing when called upon without seeing his body will break down further.
And though she hates to admit it, that’s the real danger for Fisher now. Rather than hurting her left knee more than she already has, it’s the very real possibility that she could damage her right leg or left calf, left hamstrings, left quadriceps or achilles. left due to the added stress caused by a compromised left. knee.
Fisher’s surgeon tested her current lower body strength to determine if she was at risk of further injury. To date, the doctor is satisfied with Fisher’s performance. The strength of the surrounding muscles around her left knee was key in allowing her to play the amount she already has with the significant ACL injury.
It becomes a real test of confidence and Fisher admits she has lost some of the confidence she had built up over the years.
“I can still do my normal movements. It’s just the feeling of lack of confidence,” Fisher said. “I’ve lost confidence (in my knee). Am I going to go up and it’s going to be that? I’m very careful how I land and certain things I do.
Mark Morris’ coaching staff helps Fisher take care of his knee with regimented daily care between every practice and game. She takes daily baths in an ice bath. She does quadruple stability work with exercise bands, ice creams and knee bands.
So far, Fisher’s body has held up. The plan is for her to continue competing for the Monarchs through what the team hopes will be a long and prosperous playoff series before going under the knife to repair her left ACL in late November.
“Emma knows it only works if she’s honest,” Hewitt said. “So far she has been.”
And so far, the monarchs are winning. The team is 5-2 in League 2A play from Greater St. Helens, behind Columbia River and Ridgefield who started the season ranked first and second in a state poll.
Fisher likes her team’s chances against the Rapids and Spudders, or any other team she might encounter in a state title chase. The Monarchs took a kick out of the rapids in their previous encounter. They also took a set from a terrific Kelso team that is likely to do some damage in the 3A State Tournament as long as they stay fully healthy.
The same caveat goes for the Monarchs, but there is a level of trust around Mark Morris and his seven seniors. Everyone in blue and red thinks this year is destined to be the team’s big year.
With or without the 2A State title, Fisher has made her decision — insane or inspiring, however you choose to describe it — and is determined to see it through to the end.
“It’s the journey that’s better than the end result,” Fisher said.