Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Enduring the type of adversity Kylie Schubert has had to go through would be too much for most athletes.
Over the past three years, she's had two-and-a-half ACL tears to her right knee and no shortage of folks encouraging her to think about life after volleyball.
"It was definitely tough, but one thing I was never doubtful of was my need to come back and play," said the MacEwan Griffins setter. "That was always a motivation."
Schubert initially hurt her knee playing soccer in 2014. Four months after a reconstruction, she attempted to play volleyball and blew it out again.
Just as she was cleared to play after that one, Schubert suffered a partial tear in her first game with the Griffins in October 2016 and sat on the bench all last season.
"Luckily, that was just a partial tear, so I didn't have to have surgery," she said. "I've now made another full recovery and I'm good to go. I feel stronger than ever."
And she looked that way, too, when head coach Ken Briggs first put her back on the court against Manitoba on Nov. 17. She got her feet wet that night before leading the Griffins with 44 assists in a 3-2 defeat on Nov. 18.
"I was so nervous. It was kind of funny," said Schubert. "I look back on it now and it kind of seems like a dream. It seems not real. I went in and things started happening. It felt just natural, just like old times.
"I'll never forget it."
After also playing at UBC last weekend, the product of Edmonton's Harry Ainlay high school, will lead the Griffins into their final action of the first half as they host Trinity Western on Friday (6 p.m.) and Saturday (5 p.m., both games Atkinson Gym).
Briggs likes her cerebral approach to the game of volleyball.
"What's the first thing she did after she played? Re-watch the match and critique herself and what she could have done differently – not technically but tactically," he said. "For her to come and set for the first time in two-and-a-half, three years where she's actually competing and that's her first thought is 'what did I do right or wrong?' that's pretty good."
Of course, Schubert has been that type of analytical player ever since she entered the program in 2016.
"One of her teammates described her last year – 'You want the picture of a great teammate, look at that girl sitting in the front table.' This is even before she got to play," said Briggs. "She was just coming back and doing some drills last year, but she's a perfect teammate. She just gets it – how to get the best out of each other and what that means. She adds that and they want her to succeed so much."
Volleyball has been in Schubert's blood from a young age. Her parents (Bernice and Jim) met while playing the sport for the University of Alberta. Older sister Aimee played in the NCAA with Towson University and older brother Jared previously played for the Griffins (2013-16) before transferring to Alberta this season. All but Jared, who's a libero, have played the setter position.
"I loved to come watch his games," said Kylie Schubert. "I started off at the U of R for a semester, but in the back of my mind I always saw myself coming to MacEwan. I like to say I followed in his footsteps a little bit.
"It's exciting to see when we were just young playing pepper in the backyard and now we're in USPORTS."
"What I do is when Claire (McLoughlin) comes to the front row, I'll (put) in a right side for Claire, so now we have a bigger block and three players in the front row hitting. Now Kylie takes the right side's place when they're in the back row. It gives me an opportunity to have three hitters again in the front row.
"It allows us that flexibility, which is huge tactically."
The Griffins (0-10) will be looking to net their first win of the season this weekend after pushing defending national champion UBC to a fifth set last Saturday. Trinity Western (7-3) is another USPORTS top-10 team, so the task certainly won't be an easy one.
"They play a totally different system than almost anyone else in the league," said Briggs. "There are strengths to it because of their size, but there are also weaknesses to it. Our girls have learned to tactically prepare very, very well. They're executing and making adjustments at the highest level."
Schubert knows they need to trust the process and not look at their record.
"It's tough," she said. "We've had lots of people come and tell us 'they're not their record.' For us, we just kind of need to put that aside and focus on what we're doing. Because what we're doing is so great. We need to build off that.
"As everyone else says 'we are not our record.' We do have the potential to win and I think we can."