HIBBING — During her senior season at Chisholm High School, Kate Townley wasn’t exactly 100-percent healthy.
The Bluestreak volleyball player tore the labrum in her right shoulder and separated the biceps tendon.
Townley didn’t want to sit out, so she played hurt all season long.
Just about one year later, Townley isn’t quite at 100-percent healthy, but she’s healthy enough and has been a contributor to the Hibbing Community College volleyball team.
Townley, who was recruited by former Cardinal coach Nina Kangas, has impressed this year’s coach Kasey Palmer with her mental toughness after fighting her way through that injury.
It’s not an easy injury to play with in volleyball.
“That’s detrimental,” Palmer said. “Kate wasn’t able to do anything over her head for about the first week of practice. In volleyball, just about everything is done over the head, serving, hitting, setting.
“All she was able to do was passing and playing back row a little bit, here and there. She couldn’t participate in some practices. I worked with Kate a little bit in the spring when she came to a couple of open gyms. Even though she went through a shoulder injury, she still came out and played for us this year.”
That Townley stuck out her entire senior season as a Bluestreak was remarkable.
“I tried to play the rest of the season, and after that, around November, I had to get shoulder surgery,” Townley said. “That set me back quite a bit. I worked hard, and tried to get back to where I could be.
“I didn’t think it would set me back that much, but it ended up being a big process. I had to work really hard through the rest of the school year and the rest of the summer. I had to work out.”
Was it going to be enough to get Townley back in time for August practice?
“I had to go to the PT, and he had me do a bunch of exercises,” Townley said. “There were plenty of doctor visits to see if it was healing right. There was a lot of PT time. I went to the gym and worked a lot on my shoulders. I did what my PT told me to do.”
Even so, Townley knew it was going to be hard to get back into a groove.
“I practiced hitting again, and that was a lot for my shoulder at that time,” Townley said. “That’s when I knew that I needed to work much harder if I wanted to start playing again in the fall.”
When Townley entered fall camp, she said she was about 80-percent healthy.
“It hurt, but I go through it because I want to keep playing,” Townley said. “I’m not going to stop playing because of this injury. I do what I can and push through it,”
Townley still has a lot of rehabilitation to do, but every day she’s getting healthier.
“After classes, I will see the athletic trainer here, and she’ll work with me on strengthening it and stretching it,” Townley said. “I heat it with the pad, then I stretch it. I do the workouts.”
Injury or not, Townley has had a big impact for the Cardinals this season.
“Kate is a versatile player for me,” Palmer said. “She’s played both right and left side for me, whenever I’ve needed her to play. She understands that she’s not necessarily going to start every game, but she comes off of the bench, willing to work hard.
“She probably has the most energy on the team. She lifts everybody up, keeps them upbeat, which in volleyball, is one of the biggest keys you can have.”
Townley may not be the starting lineup, but she’s taking her new role in stride.
“That was a big change for me,” Townley said. “It was hard, but I understand it because I can’t just jump in right away. I like supporting the team. It’s always nice being the rowdy one on the bench getting them pumped up.
“I love it. I love the coach. She cares about the team and the sport. The girls are super nice and super fun.”