A torn abdominal muscle during her sophomore year didn’t keep Cal Poly volleyball senior middle blocker Jennifer Keddy off the court, but a shoulder injury will bench her for the upcoming season.
Keddy will sit out this year after she underwent outpatient surgery earlier this week that sought to fix a tear in her bicep tendon and a bone spur that was digging into her rotator cuff.
“I am going to have to focus on staying positive,” Keddy said. “As much as I want to play, I obviously can’t and may as well not dwell on that fact and lift up my teammates and help make them play better.”
Setter Shannon Garrett still thinks the Mustangs have the potential to finish atop the Big West Conference, but knows the team will need to change its overall game plan without Keddy on the team.
“She will still be there cheering us on for everything we are doing,” Garrett said. ”Physically not having her on court will be tough because she is an important part of the team, but it will force us to come together and compete and do the best we can do as a team.”
Keddy, who has been playing volleyball since she was 14 years old, was named Big West Conference Player of the Year last season. She is also a two-time AVCA All American and made the USA A2 summer program, but couldn’t participate due to her shoulder injury. In addition, she’s been an all-conference performer during both her sophomore and junior years.
“She is highly skilled, highly athletic and she wants to be great,” head coach Sam Crosson said. “She works hard at mastering her craft both physically and from a skill perspective. She is very upbeat and likes being around her teammates.”
Crosson knows he will have to change his lineup and strategy without Keddy, but won’t let losing a player affect the team’s overall season.
“We might look a little different because Jenn may or may not be on the court, but our expectations aren’t going to change based on one player,” Crosson said.
Keddy’s absence will force other teammates to fill her void, Crosson said.
“It is going to be a bigger challenge and they are looking forward to the challenge, ” Crosson said. “The difference for us without having her on the court will be that other people in different positions will have to rise to the challenges in front of them.”
Keddy will spend the season focusing on cheering on teammates and getting better for the next season.
“She is very energetic, encouraging and very much a leader. It is nice to look up to her,” Garrett said.
Keddy will work toward recovery over the next six months. During that time she will be able to do shoulder exercises and other strength training workouts aside from running or jumping to stay in shape.
Although sitting out is disappointing now, she knows the surgery will be beneficial in the long run, Keddy said.
“I hope to play professionally whether that takes me to the Olympics or overseas,” Keddy said. “I just want to play until I can’t anymore.”
Cal Poly also lost its second-leading hitter from a year ago in Kristina Graven, who transferred to St. Mary’s in the offseason, and outside hitter Catie Smith to graduation.
The turmoil for the Mustangs isn’t new. It started four games into last season when former head coach Jon Stevenson was dismissed by the athletic department amid a 2010 report detailing sexual harassment allegations by former players.
Stevenson helped build Cal Poly into a perennial contender in the Big West since his arrival in 2005 and rendered the program synonymous with success. Nearly a year after his departure from the university in September 2011, Stevenson was found dead in a Van Nuys home, shocking those close to him throughout the volleyball world.
Assistant coach Caroline Walters was tabbed as interim head coach following Stevenson’s exit last fall and Sam Crosson was hired in January to take over full-time coaching duties for Cal Poly. He will have his hands full in his first year at the helm.
Based on the program’s success in years past, the Mustangs finished last season with a below-par record of 12-17. They will have to rely on youth and key veterans to reinstate their winning formula this season.
Stephan Teodosescu contributed to this article.