Getting ready for practice on that spring day back in March 2007, now-senior Caitlin Boland assumed it would be just another day of volleyball. Some warm-up, conditioning, drills and hopefully not too much more conditioning. But a strange thing happened along the way. During a warm-up game, as Boland cut to the right, her left knee stayed right where it was. Suddenly, a torn ACL turned a junior season once so full of promise into a struggle simply to make it back onto the court.

A bone bruise meant surgery would have to wait until May. Boland flew home for the summer, heading to a rehab clinic several days a week following work. Summer turned to fall, and volleyball season began, with or without the Hoyas’ starting setter. The first five matches, all Georgetown losses, came and went before Boland made her first appearance, a 3-1 defeat against Austin Peay. Even so, much recovery lay ahead. Head Coach Arlisa Williams estimates that Boland began the season at “maybe 50 percent.”

Even Boland, so desperate to return to the court, knew she was far from healthy.

“It was probably a quicker comeback than it should have been,” Boland says. “I was slower than I should have been, and I didn’t feel in the best shape.”

That 0-6 start ended in a forgettable 5-27 season, including a 1-13 Big East record. Boland continued to struggle as well. Although she led the team with 922 assists, Boland was still not yet back to her usual form.

“[Boland] was definitely not completely ready to go,” Williams says. “She was not even at 70 percent by the end of the year.”

Despite not being completely in form, Boland still guided the Hoyas as a captain. Then-freshman Paola Annoni spent much of the season as Boland’s understudy at setter, and Boland took an active role in improving the rookie’s game.

“She’s been a good role model. She is one of the most stable-minded people I have ever met,” Annoni says. “I learned a lot from her last year playing side-by-side with her.”

Spring brought with it more rehab, and Boland finally began to reach full mobility. The conditioning and strength work was helping – her quickness and speed finally returned a full year later – and Boland knew it was only a matter of time before she was at 100 percent. Then, one day after a particularly strong practice, she called her father and told him, “Dad, I was fast today.” Caitlin Boland was back.

Boland’s full recovery for the start of the 2008 season was accompanied by the return of sophomore middle blocker Vanessa Dorismond, who missed eight weeks last year with a broken finger. An influx of new talent, led by sophomore transfer Samantha Trauth and freshmen Sara Manley, Ashley Malone and Tory Rezin, added competition for playing time. The entire attitude of the team changed.

“They came in and worked hard, bought in and focused on how to get better and get some wins,” Williams says.

A 3-0 victory at George Mason set the tone for the season, with Boland leading the way.

“Her experience really helps us right now,” Williams said after the match. “She’s just really excited to be back on the court healthy and she’s taking control out there.

Sure enough, by mid-September, less than a month into the season, the Hoyas had already eclipsed last season’s win total with a 6-3 start. When the Hoyas stumbled at the Northwestern Invitational, dropping all three matches to fall back to .500, they looked to their steady-handed senior captain. Boland responded with 47 assists, while also leading the team with 14 digs, as Georgetown defeated cross-town rival Howard 3-0 to enter conference play with a winning record.

The Hoyas and Boland have carried their winning ways into the Big East, where a 4-2 start has them only a game out of first place. Boland, a Naperville, Ill., native, has developed into one of the top setters in the conference, and she is currently fourth in the Big East with 10.55 assists per game. Not one to take the credit, the second-year captain instead deflects praise to her teammates.

“It’s a great group, and we’re getting along well,” Boland says. “The team has great chemistry.”

But Annoni, Boland’s co-captain, insists that Boland has been the difference.

“[Boland’s health] has definitely been a determining factor in our success,” Annoni says. “Last year, there was a little bit of hesitation. It’s great to have her back at full force this season.”

A Saturday trip to Tampa, Fla., to play South Florida marks the midway point of the conference season, and having already doubled last season’s win total, it is likely that the Hoyas will be one of the eight teams to make it to the Big East tournament. A worst-to-first turnaround may even be possible, as the team seems to only be getting better.

“The Big East title is wide open,” Williams says. “Hopefully we can take advantage.”

Set to graduate in the spring, Boland already has an accounting job lined up with Jones Lang LaSalle in Chicago. But right now, she’s more than happy to live in the present and focus on her senior season.

“All my time besides school is spent on volleyball,” Boland says. And no time is spent in rehab.

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