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CHADRON — If the disappointment of not being able to finish her junior year on the basketball court healthy wasn't enough, the additional bad news Ashlea Kerr received after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee last winter was she wouldn't be ready for the start of her senior season of volleyball this fall.

Kerr proved that prognosis wrong with a remarkable recovery that had her cleared to begin practicing with the Chadron volleyball team just five months after undergoing surgery in Lincoln on March 13.

“It's pretty awesome actually,” Kerr said. “It was a long summer not getting to do anything besides physical therapy. I just worked as hard as I could so I could get back as soon as possible.”

During a June doctor's appointment, Kerr learned her rehab was progressing well ahead of schedule. It was then when she was told her chances of returning to full-time action for the start of the season was very realistic.

“At my doctor's appointment in June, he told me it was looking really good,” she said. “When we scheduled my next appointment for August, he said he'd probably clear me then. I was so excited.”

Kerr's decision to even play volleyball this year was a difficult one she struggled with daily. Because of her love for basketball, she weighed the pros and cons of returning or waiting. But in the end, her doctor's decisive clearance ultimately helped her decide.

“It crossed my mind to sit out of volleyball,” she said. “I knew if my knee didn't feel great or I didn't feel like I was ready, I was going to lay off and just be ready for basketball. But it felt good, so I decided to play.”

At her middle hitter position for a Chadron team that is off to a fast 5-0 start, Kerr has certainly made her presence known. She leads the Cardinals in kills already with three double-digit kill totals. She put down a career-high 19 kills in a five-set win over Gering last week. Kerr also tallied 16 kills in a win over Sidney on Tuesday and finished with 12 kills in a season-opening win over Gordon-Rushville.

“I don't jump as high right now, but I'm slowly starting to get my vertical back,” she said. “I already feel like I'm getting back to normal.”

Kerr is one of three starters back from last season's team that went 27-4 and qualified for the Class C-1 state tournament. Also returning as starters for the Cardinals are senior outside hitters Maaryn Davis and Peyton Hinn. That trio has been joined by a talented group of youngsters that has allowed Chadron to pick up right where it left off last year.

“Some of the younger girls have really stepped in and are playing great,” Kerr said. “We're just working well as a team. We all get along really well.”

Kerr originally hurt her knee during a basketball practice in late January. She sat out the remainder of the regular season and didn't play during Chadron's winning run through the sub-district tournament.

Kerr suited up and saw limited action in the Cardinals' district-final victory over Gothenburg. She played a number of minutes in Chadron's win over Lincoln Christian in the first round of the state tournament. However, her season was ended for good during the first couple minutes of a semifinal game against Pierce when the rest of her ACL was torn. The Cardinals ended up finishing fourth for a second straight year.

Following her surgery, Kerr began her rehab just two days later.

“It seemed like a long time with all of the rehab and different exercising I had to do,” she said. “I definitely couldn't have done it without my physical therapist, my teammates, and my family.”

Kerr and the Cardinals return to action today when they travel to Gordon to face Gordon-Rushville and Gering in a triangular.

Omaha World-Herald: Nebraska Prep Zone

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