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Archive for Friday, August 29, 2008

Injury-prone senior has high hopes for final KU volleyball season

The Kansas volleyball team opens the 2008 season on Friday at the Virginia Commonwealth Invitational in Richmond, Virginia.

August 29, 2008

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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."

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