By Tom Williams
Healthy and hungry, Lowellville High’s girls basketball players are poised for the postseason of their dreams.
“Last year, I remember feeling incomplete not having all of our players,” said senior Emily Carlson after scoring 14 points in Monday’s 56-29 victory over Sebring in the Rockets’ tournament opener at South Range.
Carlson was referring to the knee injuries suffered last season by classmate Taylor Hvisdak and junior Kaye Solak.
“I feel whole out there with them,” Carlson said. “It feels great.”
Hvisdak, a four-year starter, and Solak, who started as a freshman two seasons ago, say the hard work to rehab has been worth it.
“Three times a week, I went to physical therapy,” said Solak of her routine after she tore her ACL in the eighth game last season. “It’s time consuming and frustrating because things you’ve done before that were so easy now are harder to do.”
Hvisdak injured her knee during the Rockets’ second tournament game. She missed the district final but was able to play in the regional semifinal before having surgery in late March.
It was the second straight year Hvisdak did not finish the season healthy. As a sophomore, her season ended when she suffered a broken wrist in the district tournament.
Although she spent six months rehabbing her knee injury, causing her to skip volleyball, Hvisdak says the broken bone two years was more frustrating.
“I was able to come back from my ACL and play the regional game,” Hvisdak said, referring to a 71-57 loss to Shadyside. “I had to sit the district [championship] game and the regional my sophomore year.”
Skipping volleyball wasn’t a slam-dunk decision.
“It was hard because I’m just so used to always being busy and always being involved,” Hvisdak said of her time off from sports.
Neither Hvisdak nor Solak knew how badly they were injured right away. Solak even returned for the next game when she played two minutes then felt her knee pop.
“That’s when I knew it was torn,” Solak said. “I had surgery about a week later.”
Hvisdak and Solak each scored 10 points against the Trojans. Ashley Moore scored nine.
Carlson scored 11 of her points during a 17-0 run in the first quarter. At halftime, Lowellville led 41-10 on their way to three-game season sweep of the Trojans.
“It’s a great feeling,” Lowellville coach Tony Matisi said of having a healthy lineup. “We believed last year that if we had been healthy, we had a really good shot [in regionals].
“I want to have all my guns for this run,” Matisi said. “If we get beat, that’s fine but I want to be able to say we had everybody here, we had them all healthy.”
Kayla Maretich led the Trojans (3-18) with 12 points including three 3-pointers.
Wellsville 34, Columbiana 28
In Monday’s other game, Wellsville (11-10) limited Columbiana (6-15) to nine points in the second half.
“That how our year has been going,” Columbiana coach Jeff Hammond said. “We played good defense — 34 points to a high-scoring team. But we go through stretches of having trouble scoring.”
Mikyla Tipton led the Tigers with 10 points. Columbiana’s Khylea Fullum scored a game-high 17 points and broke Irene Coy’s season record for rebounds by pulling down eight for 220.
“She’s been our leader all year,” Hammond said.