Matches like the one today against Thomas Worthington are the reason Chelsea McClain of the Worthington Kilbourne High School girls volleyball team chose to keep playing instead of undergoing surgery for a torn ACL.

Matches like the one today against Thomas Worthington are the reason Chelsea McClain of the Worthington Kilbourne High School girls volleyball team chose to keep playing instead of undergoing surgery for a torn ACL.

"I've been playing volleyball for six years and my senior year I wanted to play," said McClain, who suffered the injury to her left knee last June. "I was worried about (not being able to play after undergoing surgery)."

The injury occurred on a common volleyball play during an open gym. McClain simply landed awkwardly after going for a ball and her knee buckled.

A doctor diagnosed her with a sprained knee, but when she was in her pool nearly a month later, she felt the same twinge after landing from a jump. It then became clear that the knee was more than strained and McClain's parents asked for an MRI, which revealed a torn ACL.

McClain could have opted for surgery before the season, but with the recovery expected to take at least five months she would have missed her senior year.

"My doctor has worked with the (NHL's Columbus) Blue Jackets," McClain said. "He's really big into sports. He knew that I'd want to play my senior year, and he was fine with it. So I started the physical therapy to strengthen the muscles in my knee."

McClain also was fitted for a brace. For the most part, though, she was able to proceed with life as normal. Despite the torn ACL, she walks fine and even runs. The biggest issue is making quick changes in direction.

McClain was expected to be one of Kilbourne's top players. Returning for another season at setter, she gave the Wolves experience at the most important position. But on Aug. 7, the first day of tryouts, her brace hadn't arrived. As a result, she felt as though her season was in jeopardy.

"I was panicking watching my team out there during tryouts," McClain said.

"We did two-a-days. I was worried about it."

"We talked a little bit about it," coach Meladee Hopkins said. "I said, 'If you can play, you will play, as long as your knee will allow you to.' She's not the most boisterous leader, but it gives the kids more confidence when she's out there."

Fortunately for Kilbourne, it had another setter coming into the program in freshman Haley Defibaugh, thus lessening McClain's workload. The Wolves went to a two-setter alignment, allowing McClain to come out of the lineup when her spot rotated to the front line.

As the season has progressed, McClain's playing time has increased. Kilbourne used a 5-1 alignment with McClain as the lone setter during a 13-25, 25-20, 25-21, 20-25, 15-12 win over Central Crossing on Oct. 7.

"She has never complained once about her knee hurting," said Hopkins, who specialized in the prevention of ACL injuries while pursuing a master's degree from Ashland University. "Sometimes she's a little slower than normal, and she used to jump serve and now she doesn't because of the landing. She handled the front row (against Central Crossing). It is pretty impressive what she's been able to do."

McClain said the injury may have made her better defensively.

"My defense is better now because I don't go to my knees right away," she said. "I try to run through it."

ACL injuries have been a common occurrence for Kilbourne's program. As a sophomore, McClain watched teammate Amy Kiminas fight through the same injury. Kiminas, also a setter, missed her junior year because of the injury.

A week after McClain was injured, her friend and former teammate, Kelsey Howard, a 2010 graduate, went down with an ACL injury.

In addition, freshman coach Megan Riffee had the same injury twice when she played for Hopkins before graduating in 2005, and she tore her ACL again during the summer and this month underwent surgery for the injury for the third time.

McClain is set to undergo surgery on her knee the day before Thanksgiving.

"I'm excited to get it (done)," she said. "I want to get healthy again. Stairs are bad sometimes, but it's not too bad (overall). It doesn't hurt. It's just that sometimes I don't feel stable."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Kilbourne and Thomas girls volleyball teams:

KILBOURNE

*Sept. 21 - Lost to Thomas 25-17, 22-25, 25-18, 25-20

*Sept. 23 - Defeated Hilliard Darby 25-22, 25-19, 25-20

*Sept. 28 - Lost to Upper Arlington 25-21, 25-17, 20-25, 25-19

*Sept. 29 - Lost to Dublin Coffman 25-8, 25-12, 25-20

*Sept. 30 - Def. Westland 25-14, 25-11, 25-7

Oct. 2 - Lost to Hilliard Bradley 25-19, 25-16; def. Groveport 25-11, 25-12

*Oct. 5 - Def. Hilliard Davidson 25-15, 25-13, 22-25, 14-25, 15-9

Oct. 6 - Def. Marion Harding 25-21, 22-25, 25-15, 25-14

*Oct. 7- Def. Central Crossing 13-25, 25-20, 25-21, 20-25, 15-12

*Last Tuesday - Played Coffman

*Today - Home vs. Thomas

Saturday - At Marion Harding in regular-season finale

Wednesday - New Albany in first round of the Division I district tournament at Big Walnut. The Wolves are the 11th seed.

Of note: The Wolves were 13-6 overall and 8-4 in the OCC-Central before last Tuesday.

THOMAS

*Sept. 21 - Def. Kilbourne 25-17, 22-25, 25-18, 25-20

*Sept. 23 - Lost to Upper Arlington 31-29, 22-25, 25-20, 25-14

*Sept. 28 - Def. Davidson 16-25, 17-25, 25-20, 25-9, 15-5

*Sept. 30 - Lost to Coffman 25-20, 25-16, 25-14

*Oct. 5 - Def. Westland 25-9, 25-11, 25-10

*Last Tuesday - Played Central Crossing

*Today - At Kilbourne in regular-season finale

Oct. 21 - Watkins Memorial in first round of the Division I district tournament at Columbus East. The Cardinals are the fifth seed.

Of note: The Cardinals were 16-4 overall and 8-4 in the OCC-Central before last Tuesday.

*OCC-Central match