By, Maddie Mulkigian, Contributor
After facing almost two full years of injuries and illness, junior Lizzi Brown is back to making a consistent impact on the volleyball court. Brown’s freshman season was cut short after receiving two serious concussions. But even in this shortened season, she was an immediate impact player for the Manhattan College volleyball team.
Brown was a standout player in the MAAC and among the rest of its rookies, but she faced one obstacle after another until the fall 2021 season.
As a freshman, Brown started ten straight games and was continuing to improve as the season went on. As she continued to gain experience in games, she set season-high records for herself in kills, blocks and digs up until her season-ending injury.
Brown had already had her fair share of injuries throughout her high school career. Due to her past experiences with concussions in high school, Brown was aware of the gravity and risk of another head injury in her college career. Unfortunately, it was not one, but two more hits to her head that knocked her out of her freshman year.
According to Brown, her first concussion “split her head open,” but it was her second one that did the most damage. After colliding with a teammate and hitting her head in the same exact spot as her prior concussion, her doctors decided that it would be safest for her to sit out the rest of the season.
“At first, I thought it wasn’t that bad and I thought my head was hurting, but my dad said I was dehydrated,” said Brown. “Two days later I was still messed up and I played a game and I completely missed the ball when I swung. It wasn’t even close. Finally, I got tested and I knew I had a concussion.” Due to the severity of Brown’s concussion, she was not permitted to attend practices or games, which made it difficult for her to find her role on the team and be a supportive teammate. All she could do was send them a “Good luck” text and hope that they could pull out a win. However, no matter where Brown’s injury put her, she was determined to continue to be a part of the team.
Almost a year and a half after her concussion, Brown and the Lady Jaspers faced a new obstacle — the COVID-19 pandemic. The Jaspers had the opportunity to play in a shortened spring season but multiple players on the team, including Brown, tested positive for COVID-19 and were required to quarantine for fourteen days. Brown was again not allowed to be with the team and had to adapt her role.
Brown would send another teammate a message through her Apple Watch with a tip for the game as she was watching through her computer. Brown’s tactic allowed her to continue to add input and help the team succeed during games from a safe distance.
After completing her quarantine and the return-to-play protocols, Brown stepped back on the court for the first time since September of her freshman year. While it was an adjustment for her to get back into the intense level of play that she was at before her injuries, each challenge she faced resulted in a newfound appreciation and joy for the game.
This joy and appreciation for volleyball transferred over to Brown’s junior year where she has played in every game since August. Brown’s excitement for her first full season since playing in high school was quickly tested when the Jaspers weren’t allowed to play on its home court due to issues with the volleyball coaching staff.
“It’s not the season I thought it would be. We had to travel for practices, our team chemistry got a little rough because of it, but we’re allowed back in the gym,” said Brown. “It’s hard because I wanted a real season, but we’re in a mindset where we have nothing to lose. We just have to have fun with it and enjoy our time.”
Each year Brown has played for the Jaspers has come with new challenges. Her love for volleyball and her teammates remained relentless and she was able to help her team reach its first win of the season over Niagara, who ranked second in the MAAC.
Brown’s growth mindset and excitement to be back on the court exhibit the strength and positivity that is built into her character. No one is prouder of Brown’s growth, accomplishments, and commitment to the team than her roommate, teammate and friend Julieanne McKee.
“She has been through it. Over the years, I’ve seen her go through injuries and head trauma. She’s energetic and dedicated,” said McKee. “She’s one of those people who is always encouraging people and being loud. She’s one of those leaders and players who you can look to and create a bunch of energy when we’re in a lull.”
The team’s respect for Brown is a true testament to her character, especially when she wasn’t with the team in person for weeks at a time. Brown has faced so many challenges in her three seasons with the Jaspers, but she has become a well-rounded player and leader through her hardships.
“If you’re not doing well and you’re not contributing, you can still add something,” said Brown. “Energy… helping people out… you can always add something even if it’s not skill.”
Brown’s positive mindset and passion for the game have contributed to the Jaspers’ perception of its challenging 2021 season. It will continue to drive, motivate, and excite the team for what is yet to come.