Shudlick tries to erase image of ACL injury

Like any athlete who has been sidelined for an entire season with an injury, reliving the incident can be as painful as sustaining it.
That was the case for Minnesota volleyball captain Linda Shudlick, who missed all of the 1998-99 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee.
Shudlick says that she has tried to block the injury out of her mind. But it’s hard to forget that day in April of 1998. The Gophers were running their spring practice when it happened.
“It was a regular drill, in a regular practice, on a regular Tuesday,” Shudlick recalled. “I went up for the block, came down, turned and heard a pop.”
It was Shudlick’s first major injury of her career and it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
On the eve of her senior season, Shudlick felt the team was on the rise.
“To go down when I felt our team was really playing well, and then coming back, sitting on the sideline, and not being able to be out there was really difficult for me,” she said.
As any athlete might, Shudlick used the time off from volleyball to contemplate other aspects of her life.
“It was a good time for me to reflect on who I was and what I wanted to be as a player and as a person,” she said.
When Shudlick finally returned to the Gophers this summer for a volleyball camp in Chicago, she realized how much she missed the sport. She hadn’t played with the team since that April practice.
“You forget how great it is to be part of a team and to know what it is like on the court connecting with (teammates),” she said.
Shudlick has quickly regained her skill and leadership on the floor. She was also named captain of this year’s team.
Coach Mike Hebert is glad to have the solid veteran back in the lineup.
“She provides maturity and leadership to our team,” Hebert said. “What I have seen in the last year is some significant leadership skills develop on and off the court.”
Hebert credited Shudlick with leading a relatively young team in offseason workouts, as well as in matches and practices this season.
“She held our team together this summer when they were working out on their own,” he said. “Now on the court she is doing the same thing.”
But beyond her leadership, Shudlick is a key to a much-improved Minnesota blocking game.
“Linda always had tremendous blocking skills,” Hebert said. “Getting her back in the lineup has really improved us in that area.”
In a year and a half, Shudlick has gone from being injured in a blocking drill to anchoring Minnesota’s blockers.
And with the team off to their best Big Ten start in 10 years — thanks in some part to Shudlick’s return — Shudlick says the team’s success makes her return even sweeter. Even if it’s a year late.
“Winning is always a key element to keeping the energy and the great feeling on the court,” she said. “A lot of us are motivated by different things. I haven’t played in a year, so I need to be out there and play strong.”

John R. Carter covers volleyball and welcomes comments at [email protected].