Samantha North, a 2011 Gig Harbor High School graduate, is now a junior at Pacific Lutheran University in Parkland, and she earned second team All-America volleyball honors as a setter this season.
PLU won the Northwest Conference title and was ranked 16th in the nation. The team has made the NCAA tournament for the past two years.
North’s career hasn’t been without its bumps, however. In 2012, while she warmed up for a home match against Linfield, she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee.
“I was setting, and I jumped, and it just collapsed,” North said. “It was a really fluke incident.”
North immediately began to rehabilitate her knee, but she had to miss out on the NCAA tournament.
“My team played really well, and I’m really happy for them, but it was hard just sitting there,” she said. “There was that realization that volleyball only lasts so long, so I better make it worth it.”
North stayed optimistic in her rehab, and she often would stack her progress up against other PLU athletes who had similar injuries.
“I looked at it as competition,” she said. “I’m going to get better. Kellen Westering (a football player) was also injured. I’d always think, ‘I have to be running before him.’ ”
North’s journey back was long, and, at times, tedious.
“Working with the doctors and the training staff people, it was a really slow progression,” she said. “It was just getting comfortable with basic steps and moving up.”
North eventually bounced back and posted her best season yet, but she adamantly deflects credit to her teammates.
“It’s a great team honor,” North said. “Although I was named it, I couldn’t do anything without the team. As a setter, I touch it every second ball. I wouldn’t be able to do anything without them. It’s a great team sport.
“I’m really happy it happened this year,” she said. “It helped me, kind of going back to the mental injury, just keep pushing and fighting back.”
North, a kinesiology major, is cherishing the time she has with her team and enjoying the ride.
“I don’t know if I would’ve done it without volleyball,” she said. “It’s a family. I love the girls. We hang out outside of volleyball season. I have a lot of classes with different players. You always have that backbone of people you can rely on.”Sports reporter Jon Manley can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_jon.