Natalie Uhart figures she must have been cursed.
How else to explain her string of injuries as a collegiate volleyball player?
Ruptured patellar tendon. Torn anterior cruciate ligament. Congenital heart defect.
Put the misfortunes of Kansas University's sixth-year senior another way: If anyone on the team were to catch a cold or come down with the flu before a key match, it likely would be Uhart.
"We crack jokes all the time," said teammate Savannah Noyes, who also is a senior but nearly three years younger than Uhart. "Her nickname is Grandma on our team."
It has been five years since Uhart played a full season of Div. I volleyball. Back then, she was a freshman at Long Beach State University, named to the conference's all-freshman team. Then came the ruptured patellar tendon and a rash of nagging injuries with the 49ers before the Lansing native decided to return home.
But the injuries followed her to the Midwest. Before Uhart even played a game with the Jayhawks in 2006, she tore her ACL in an alumni volleyball match. Last year, following a rehab season, doctors discovered a heart defect that kept her out for a month before she was allowed to return.
Uhart said a goal was to make it through an entire season injury-free.
She begins that quest today when the Jayhawks travel to Richmond, Va., to face Virginia Commonwealth University at 5 p.m in the season opener.
"It seems like forever," Uhart said of last playing a full season. "But it's about time."