Always being injured would deter anyone from doing what they love, right? Having injuries to the point where one wouldn’t be able to remember a time when they weren’t hurt would make them quit their sport, right?
If you’re Maryann Mooney, the senior outside hitter and libero of the South Florida volleyball team, you play through the pain.
Mooney is currently playing with a collar bone injury as well as a head injury she recently suffered after diving to the floor during practice, not to mention an ankle injury, the cause of which no doctor has been able to find.
“I have an injury every year, so it’s never really a big deal,” Mooney said. “It’s just one of those things. Everyone acquires something usually.”
Mooney is far from being like everyone though. She plays, no matter what the pain, sometimes requiring her coach to make her sit out.
“There are times when I have to ask her to sit out because of injuries,” USF coach Nancy Mueller said. “Unfortunately, she can’t practice every day, and that’s the sacrifice she has to make to be there on match days, and when she is there, she gives 100 percent.”
Even without her practicing every day, she remains one of the leaders on the team and is pushing her teammates during practices and games.
“She’s in some way kind of like the life and soul of the team,” her father Michael Mooney said. “We as parents like to think that, at least it seems like that.”
Her father Michael and mother Victoria Mooney, along with the rest of the star volleyballer’s family, are the basis of why she has such competitive fire. Growing up the second youngest child with four sisters and three brothers kept her fighting for attention.
“I’m the second youngest, so of course, I’m going to strive to be as good (as) and better (than) my older siblings,” Maryann Mooney said. “I’m going to compete for attention.”
The second way her family helped to pave the way for her career was her older sister Molly speaking with Mueller about her sister’s volleyball potential.
Molly and Mueller were teammates during Mueller’s senior season at Tennessee.
With her family playing a vital part in her character upbringing, Maryann still is close, especially with Molly.
Their closeness grew in the summer of 2000 when Maryann went to visit her sister in Chicago after Molly’s daughter was born and decided to stay the summer to help out taking care of the newborn.
“We were trying to find a nanny, two people fell through and she was visiting, she mentioned about staying. I said, ‘If you’re serious, we’ll let you stay out here,'” Molly said. “It really brought us closer.”
The amount of time she spends injured also affects the entire family.
“Every time I pick her up from the airport she’s on crutches,” Molly said. “We have a spare pair.”
Her family is confident in her choices, while still remaining worried.
“She played through more pain than I think she should,” Michael said. “We don’t hear about (all her injuries).”
Despite all the injuries, it’s her love of the sport that keeps pushing her through the pain.
“It’s just something I love to do, injury or no injury,” Maryann said. “It’s hard not to do something that you’ve done for so long, and I’ve been doing this for some 15 years. It’s mind over matter.”
Her energy and contagious attitude keep her teammates supporting her throughout the pain.
“She’s a good leader for us, and the team respects her for what she has been able to do through her injuries,” Mueller said. “What she has been able to overcome has been a great example for our players.”
Maryann’s ability to be on the court with her teammates is a stroke of fate.
The libero position, mostly being a defensive position, allowed her to play without doing much jumping, saving her injured ankle more stress.
“It’s hard to move to a defensive position, because you don’t get that glory,” Maryann said. “Fortunately, this position came about. It was perfect timing. I’m willing to do it as a team because what I do brings the other girls glory.
“With the last ankle injury, it was really hard to decide if I should play this year because a lot of the doctors thought I shouldn’t, but my parents supported me,” Mooney said. “I thought it was just four months, and I didn’t think it was going to affect me in the long run worse than anything else. I’ll probably have arthritis in the knee anyway.”
Before doctors performed exploratory surgery, they could not diagnose the injury.
“The first doctor I saw said it was a bug bite,” Maryann said. “So that was incorrect. Over a course of the year no one knew what was wrong with it.”
Maryann being on the court means more to the team than just her physical abilities.
After almost every point the Bulls score you will see her jumping around and leading the cheers during “celebration station.”
“I’m just a very hyperactive person. What you see is what you get,” Maryann said. “I’m a pretty happy person, and I like to be around people and get people excited to do what we love to do.”Her energy doesn’t stop when the final point hits the floor. She is constantly the source of energy for those around her.
“Maryann has always been great to have around,” Victoria said. “She’s fun. We always miss her when she’s gone.”
Her injuries do not stop her from playing, and they do not stop her from providing motivation for her team.
“After you do it for a while the team expects that out of you, so if I’m having a bad day, whether or not my ankle is bothering me, I’m more quiet on that day,” Maryann said. “I’m usually a pretty loud person. I lose my voice every weekend.”
Mooney just thinks with her heart now, knowing that volleyball is the most important thing in her life, and is not worried about the consequences she is forcing on her body later on in life.
“At this point, you just have to keep in your mind that this is your body forever and you have to keep along that it’s not worth it in the long run,” Molly said. “Some are going to heal in time and some are always going to be there. You’ll always feel those things and you just have to think about it now whether it’s worth it or not.”
Before she worries about any injuries, she will remain true to her team and be her usual self, diving after balls and cheering on her teammates during Friday’s match against Memphis and Saturday’s match against Saint Louis at the Corral.
“I think it’s just her attitude and work ethic, she has a never-say-die work ethic,” Mueller said. “She knows she’s not going to be pain free and accepts it and gives us everything she has.”