In the second to last volleyball match of her freshman season in 2007, Allie Boaz jumped to hit the ball and landed awkwardly on her right knee. She immediately knew something was wrong.
Then the news broke: she had a torn ACL, MCL, PCL and meniscus.
The right outside hitter said the first thing that came to her mind was her teammates and how much fun she had with them on and off the court during her first season.
Reconstructive surgery and an intense rehabilitation regimen followed the injury as Boaz was determined to return for her sophomore season.
“I rehabbed twice a day for six days a week in the months following the injury,” Boaz said. “I basically lived in the USF Athletics facility. They joked about getting me a pillow and blanket so I could sleep there.”
Boaz said her teammates were the reason she was able to come back the following year.
“I was on crutches for four months and couldn’t do anything,” she said. “My roommate (teammate Mariana Thon) had to drive me everywhere, and I felt so bad.
“I was very dedicated to recover because I wanted to get back on the court with my team more than anything. Rehab was a very difficult process, but it was worth it because I was able to return so quickly. It also made me mentally tougher and has helped me push through difficult situations on the court during the past couple years.”
Despite playing in 24 matches during her sophomore season and finishing with 136 kills – fourth best on the team – Boaz said the 2008 season was the hardest of her career.
“I didn’t realize how painful it would be in my first year back from a serious injury,” she said. “I had to use ice after every match and every practice and definitely wasn’t playing at 100 percent.”
Boaz said she learned a lot about playing through an injury for a whole season and was better prepared for her junior year.
She played in all 28 matches for the Bulls (18-10, 9-5) in 2009, accumulating 262 kills and 79 blocks, which earned her all-Big East second-team honors.
“I felt much better during my junior year,” Boaz said. “I would ice my knee before and after each game and practice, which significantly reduced the pain and allowed me to play at a higher level.”
Boaz has been day-to-day ever since she shattered her knee, which also has restricted her from a number of team activities.
“We have to be very careful with Allie because the rigors of our sport call for so much running and jumping, and we don’t want her to experience setbacks,” USF coach Claire Lessinger said. “We need her for the games because her skill level is vital to our success on the floor. It has been a difficult few years, but Allie’s heart is in the right place, and I have the utmost respect for her. She is truly a great role model for any athlete learning to cope with an injury.”
Because the injury still lingers, Boaz said it may jeopardize her chances at a professional volleyball career.Boaz said graduate school and a possible career in coaching are alternatives if her playing days end at the collegiate level.
“I have thought about playing volleyball professionally, but I don’t know how far I can go because of the injury,” she said. “That is why I am making the most of my experience here. I have had a blast playing at USF so far, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Besides coping with injury, Boaz has been introduced to a wide variety of cultures on the volleyball team. The team boasts players from four different continents and six U.S. states.
Boaz, a native of Belleville, Ill., came to USF after growing up in a small town where she was not exposed to much diversity, but said her teammates have opened her eyes to various cultures.
“I have learned so much about diversity from my teammates because of all the different backgrounds and cultures many of them come from,” Boaz said. “I have learned to accept people’s differences and have really matured in that regard. I love each and every girl on the team for who they are.”
In addition to wanting to live in a warmer climate, Boaz said she chose to attend USF to be part of a young school in the midst of establishing tradition.
“I knew USF had a maturing athletics program without much history or tradition,” she said. “I wanted to go to a school where history was in the making rather than already made. I love walking through airports in northern states when people recognize the Bulls’ logo. Being part of this growing tradition is very special.”
Boaz, a senior majoring in health communications, is greatly anticipating her final season at USF.
USF graduated four starters from last season’s squad, but Lessinger added six newcomers to the team this offseason.
The Bulls’ first match is Aug. 28 at Florida State.
“Our goal is always to reach the postseason and play in the NCAA tournament,” Boaz said. “We have a lot of new girls coming in, so we want to work on our cohesion. If we establish good team chemistry, we will have a very successful season.”