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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Vanden Berg returns to Golden Eagles after ACL Injury ahead of postseason

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Photo by Forster Goodrich
Hannah Vanden Berg (2) goes for a kill in Marquette volleyball’s 3-0 win over Georgetown Nov. 4.

Hannah Vanden Berg could’ve quit the sport she’d played since she was in middle school.

During a practice in November of last year, the senior outside hitter went up for a block, something she’d done more times than she can count. When she came down she was in pain. She’d torn her ACL and meniscus in her right knee.

“I didn’t know that she’d be back,” head coach Ryan Theis said. “She could have given up, she could have said ‘okay well I’ll graduate and work out a fifth year here, (or) somewhere else, this year is not possible.’ She didn’t do that at all.”

She didn’t quit, but the thought crossed her mind.

“In the beginning, it definitely crossed my mind to just be done. It was kind of at the point where I was like nothing is really going well, I don’t know if I’m going to play again,” Vanden Berg said.

Vanden Berg’s last game was Nov. 6, 2021, at St. John’s, 20 days before the Golden Eagles took the floor of the Al McGuire Center for the Big East Tournament.

The following week, on Dec. 1, 2021, the team traveled over 200 miles by bus to Purdue University for the NCAA Tournament. Not on the bus was Vanden Berg as she stayed back due to surgery.

While not with the team in West Lafayette, Indiana, Vanden Berg was still included in what the team was doing, FaceTiming them from Milwaukee and being in the team photo inside Holloway Gymnasium via FaceTime.

“It’s such a cool experience to be in the NCAA Tournament and when the whole team’s not there, it doesn’t feel right,” sophomore outside hitter Jenna Reitsma said. “Being able to reach out to her knowing that she’s going through a hard time and just being able to include her in that and make sure we’re looking out for her and have her there with us makes it feel a little more special.”

Vanden Berg said it was special to be involved even though she wasn’t there.

Her recovery started slow, and Theis said she initially started out “way behind”.

“(It was) definitely frustrating, because you obviously want to move as fast as you can, but you kind of start to understand your body and kind of what it needs to make those recoveries,” Vanden Berg said.

Eventually, Vanden Berg started making strides in her recovery and points to a moment in the summer when she had a change in her mindset about coming back.

“There was a point in the summer where really out of nowhere I was like ‘No, I’m not done, I can’t end like this’ and I guess stopping would be the easier way out,” Vanden Berg said. “When I was actually able to start practicing, like doing more stuff I realized, I was like ‘No, I have one more year and I can do this and kind of went for it.'”

While not able to have a presence on the court, she maintained a presence from the bench before being cleared to play.

Vanden Berg could be seen in her knee brace cheering on her teammates with creative antics alongside her teammates. Following aces, those on the Marquette bench have a bow and arrow celebration and following big kills they do a home run swing.

“Hannah absolutely did (have fun), no pressure to get in and play,” Theis said. “Hannah wanting to be a great teammate, just the energy she would bring on the bench and have fun with it because she’s just a fun-loving person. … She has been a joy and a treat to have on the sidelines.”

With Marquette having seven newcomers, including five first-years Theis said with Vanden Berg’s absence from the court she was helpful in teaching those players important things on and off the court.

“I think you follow lead. So if your 21-year-old senior is on the sideline cheering like crazy for others and celebrating kills, you have new players that have maybe never sat before. How do they interact on the bench and on the sideline. They have to learn that too,” Theis said. “I think Hannah did a terrific job of being spirited and that radiates amongst all of them.”

Throughout her recovery and when she wasn’t cheering from the bench, Vanden Berg worked on her passing as she wasn’t able to hit with the injury.

“She’s a better passer than she’s ever been. She has been outstanding with ball handling at practice,” Theis said. “It’s all she could do in August, September until she started jumping and hitting. She honed in on passing for six to eight straight weeks. … Now she is one of the top three passers on our team.”

When Vanden Berg was fully cleared she said she kept it a secret from her parents.

“I didn’t keep it on purpose, more just like forgot to mention that I was cleared, cause I was cleared to practice, like fully practice,” Vanden Berg said.

Vanden Berg called her parents before going into an away weekend series, letting them know she might play. It was much to the surprise of her parents.

“(I) called my mom and was like ‘I might be serving this weekend in the game’ and she was like ‘What you’re cleared’ and I was like ‘Oh yeah I’ve been practicing for weeks,” Vanden Berg said. “It was probably best they didn’t know then they wouldn’t have freaked out as much.”

Vanden Berg’s season debut came on the road in a game against then-No. 21 Creighton Oct. 14. It had been 342 days since she’d last played in the blue and gold.

Before ever stepping on the floor that night, Vanden Berg knew she might play, but was anxious about it.

“I was nervous before the game of just the idea going in,” Vanden Berg said. “But right when Ryan (Theis) pointed at me to go in it’s like it all came back. It was like I never kind of took time off.”

Even though Vanden Berg is fully cleared she said there are still things she’s working through.

“Mental block is I think always going to be there, I’m still kind of working through that,” Vanden Berg said. “Some days are better than others, some days I don’t even think I’m injured, I kind of forget about it and some days I’m like ‘I don’t know if I want to jump today.’ That obviously gets better the more I play.”

Senior defensive specialist Carly Skrabak who’s been teammates with Vanden Berg since the 2020-21 season said she is happy to see Vanden Berg back on the court.

“It was so exciting seeing her on the court again just playing,” Skrabak said. “Being with her throughout her injury and seeing her and everything she’s gone through, it’s been so exciting. I’m just so proud of her for how she’s persevered.”

Vanden Berg said she’s happy with any role she’s asked to play for the rest of the season.

“Wherever I can be helpful I’m going to take on that role, to the best of my availability,” Vanden Berg. “If that’s just going into server rotation like I will do that. If it’s not going in a game, that’s fine. If I have to go in and play in the front row like I’m ready to accept any role that may be thrown my way.”

This story was written by Ben Schultz. He can be reached at b[email protected] or on Twitter @benschultz52.

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Forster Goodrich, Staff Photographer
Forster Goodrich is a sophomore from Lyme, New Hampshire studying digital media. Forster works on the photography desk as a Staff Photographer. Outside of the Wire, he is on the club waterski team, and enjoys everything outdoors. He is looking forward to the upcoming basketball season and getting to photograph games at Fiserv Forum.

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