This article originally appeared in the Oct. 9, 2010 issue of Cal Kickoff Game Day Magazine
By Jeremy Wu
California middle hitter Shannon Hawari has seen her share of difficulties as a highly-gifted volleyball player, but nothing could have prepared her for the hardship that came with a devastating injury she suffered in a match against Hawaii on Sept. 6, 2009.
Fresh off a first-year campaign in which she set Cal's all-time single-season hitting percentage record (.387, with 113 kills on 230 attempts) and earned Pac-10 All-Freshman accolades, Hawari was on track to help the Golden Bears prove they were worthy of their No. 6 preseason ranking.
With Cal up 13-10 in the first set of a match against the Rainbow Wahine, Hawari took her usual approach to the net for an attack. A split second later, what she can only describe as a "pop" while she was landing set her off on a journey that has reminded her of how much she loves the sport of volleyball.
"I just remember lying there on the floor," Hawari said. "I was in shock, not knowing what had happened. I walked off the court and tried to jump around, thinking that it wasn't that serious. The realization that I had really hurt myself was very hard to accept."
Upon her return to Berkeley, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revealed a complete tear to Hawari's anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Reconstructive knee surgery was the required prescription for an athlete who had previously never been injured save a scratch or two here and there. The procedure would last just one hour, but the challenge of six months of rehabilitation waited in the wings. For Hawari, that process began almost immediately.
"I've never been in a situation in which I wasn't physically capable of doing the things I wanted to do," Hawari recalled. "There was a lot of frustration involved with the whole recovery process."
When the team was on the road, Hawari remained in Berkeley to continue her rehabilitation workouts. Though she maintained a positive attitude, the incessant repetition of her rehab menu and her own self-proclaimed impatience is what drove Hawari to do all that she needed in order to return to the court as soon as possible.
While the road to recovery was lined with hardships, it wasn't without its share of positive moments. Hawari lights up when she talks about all the people that stayed by her side and lifted her up with support and encouragement throughout her rehab. One person in particular--team trainer Linda Smith--was especially instrumental in the whole process.
"I was so blessed to have Smitty throughout every step of my rehab," said Hawari. "She let me push myself, set my own pace and was always encouraging and understanding. I don't know what I would have done without her."
Hawari credits her parents, coaches and teammates for their undying support and patience while she was away from volleyball. Though the process was slow and arduous, even when she was able to return to the court, she relied on the people around her to make sure she never pushed too hard and remained patient. Still, Hawari never had a doubt that she would make a full recovery.
"I'm so in love with this sport. I was determined to do whatever I had to in order to get back on the court," said Hawari. "Sometimes it is hard to get up early every morning for rehab or for three-hour practices, but the injury helped me learn to appreciate the fact that I'm able to do what I do."
Now 12 matches into her delayed sophomore season, Hawari has made the most of every point. In her first action in nearly a year, she recorded nine kills and seven blocks against UC Santa Barbara. Her consistent play netted her selections to all-tournament teams at both the Cal Molten Classic and the Hilton Garden Inn Classic. While she says the bulky knee brace she now dons for matches took some time to get used to, every play has helped her get another step closer to 100 percent.
A year older, the same support group that surrounded Hawari through her recovery is still very much intact. She praises her teammates for positive strides during the offseason that have made Cal the top attacking team in the country, led by none other than Hawari herself. Her hitting percentage has led the nation for several weeks, but it is the leadership through her example of hard work and perseverance that has made the No. 8-ranked Bears a feared team.
"It's amazing to be back on the court and to be competing again," Hawari said. "All of the tens of thousands of rehab repetitions were totally worth it. Now, it's time to buckle down and work that much harder. We've got our sights set on championships."