Janaina Correa knew something wasn't right when pain shot through her knee during warm-ups at Oklahoma last fall.
Correa, then a freshman on Kansas University's volleyball team, tore her anterior cruciate ligament prior to the match, and her first season at KU abruptly ended after 17 matches.
Correa was forced to watch from the sideline as the Jayhawks went on to earn their first NCAA Tournament berth in team history.
"It was one of the hardest things I've had to do in my life -- just watching," said Correa, now a sophomore.
Tonight Correa, after eight months of rehabilitation and one bulky leg brace later, will be back on the court when the Jayhawks open their season in Fayetteville, Ark., against defending Southeastern Conference Western Division champion Arkansas.
"I'm just happy to be playing again," said Correa, who will wear the brace until November. "The time off kind of makes me appreciate it even more. Before it was fun, but now it's magnified. It's like 10 times more fun just the feeling to play again."
The Jayhawks definitely should be tested in their debut.
The Razorbacks, a perfect 10-0 in home openers, return three all-SEC players from a team that went 27-7 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season.
"Who did the scheduling?" KU coach Ray Bechard quipped of starting against a powerful Arkansas squad.
"But I wouldn't have scheduled the match at Arkansas if I didn't think these kids could handle it," Bechard said of his squad, which returns all but one starter from a team that posted a program-best 13-7 Big 12 Conference record (tied for third) a year ago.
Correa has been back on the volleyball court for a little over a month and said her health was "about 95 percent" back.
That bodes well for the Jayhawks, who will need a strong showing from the hard-hitting Brazilian after losing kills leader Sarah Rome to graduation.
While waiting has been hard for Correa, she said it has helped her raise her own expectations, and that of the Jayhawks.
"This team can go very far this year," she said. "We expect to go to the Sweet 16 this year. We went to the second round last year so we're going to work hard this year to go to the Sweet 16, and see how far we can go in the NCAA Tournament."