Outside hitter Kara Hildebrand will not be playing this season for the women’s volleyball team. In July, the two-time All-American suffered a broken foot from a four-wheeling accident.
The injury placed Hildebrand in a walking cast for five weeks and a medical boot for another seven. Missing up to three months of the season, she made the decision to medical red-shirt for the season, giving the junior an extra year of eligibility.
Mark Birtwistle, head coach of the women’s volleyball team, suggested that Hildebrand red-shirt in order to save her from losing a complete season of play. The schedule for recovery would have cleared Hildebrand to play at the very end of the season. However, after weighing the options, Hildebrand opted to sit out for the season.
Standing in her medical boot while the rest of the team practiced in the background, Hildebrand talked about the team. “I absolutely love my team,” she said. “I want to be here for them. They’re like my family.”
Despite not being able to play, Hildebrand has put on a positive face and resolved to work her way back while supporting the team in whatever ways she can. When the rest of the team showed up early for pre-season workouts, Hildebrand was right there with them, giving advice and encouragement.
Without their offensive leader, the women’s volleyball team will start their search for an 11th straight PAC Championship with some familiar faces in new positions. Senior and three-time All-PAC first team selection Emma Klein will move from her middle blocker position to the outside to fill Hildebrand’s spot.
Last season, Hildebrand had 581 kills and was ranked nationally in kills per game. She was a major reason for the success of Eastern’s volleyball team and earned 2006 PAC Player of the Year status.
“When you lose your best offensive player it doesn’t make things easier,” Birtwistle said. “Kara is one of the top hitters in the country, not just the conference or region.”
Hildebrand plans on being back in uniform next season. After that she plans to take one course in the fall of 2009 in order to play for a fourth year.