RAINBOW WAHINE VOLLEYBALL
UH's Hittle to miss rest of season
The junior outside hitter, sidelined by a foot injury, plans to seek a medical hardship year
Finally, some certainty in the uncertain world of Hawaii women's volleyball.
Junior Tara Hittle said yesterday that she will not play the rest of the season because of her injured right foot. After playing in the first five matches for the Rainbow Wahine, the all-conference outside hitter has been held out of the past three, relegated to cheering from the sidelines.
She's now promoted to head cheerleader.
Hittle said an MRI showed a stress fracture of her right fibula down by the ankle and a hole in one of her ankle bones.
"I think my injury never healed all the way from last year," said Hittle, whose severely sprained right ankle kept her out of the first two matches last season. "Maybe I came back too soon. But it always felt like it was getting better.
"This time, nothing happened to it. I didn't get kicked or land on it wrong. It just started hurting, came out of nowhere, and I saw it getting worse after the first game against Pepperdine."
Hittle said she thought about playing through the pain but realized that the only way the injury was going to heal was with a lot of rest. That decision has hurt her more than her ankle.
"It's going to be hard for me not to play, very frustrating," Hittle said. "But I can't jump as high, can't move as fast, and I'm not helping the team if I'm playing like that.
"I weighed the options and there were more positives than negatives to not playing. The long-term benefits outweigh the short-term ones. Dave (UH coach Shoji) was really understanding."
"I have to go along with what the athlete feels," Shoji said. "I'm not surprised. Her situation has not been good for over a year. I hate to see someone not playing up to their potential and that's been the case for her.
"She's already tried to lead the team (despite not playing). She's been right in the middle of every huddle, which gives the girls confidence. They know she believes in the team.
"We've already played three matches without her. Our system's in place and, once we've figured out this is the way we're going to have to play the rest of the season, we'll settle into it."
Since her first season when she was named the conference freshman of the year Hittle has brought a certain spark to the court. Even when she was injured last season, Shoji had her play libero to somehow get her on the court.
Hittle said she anticipates petitioning the NCAA for a medical hardship year at the end of the season, which would restore her junior year and leave her two years of eligibility. If that is denied, there is the option of using up a redshirt year, which would also give her two more years of eligibility.
"Everyone on a volleyball team has different roles, those on the court have different roles than those on the bench," Hittle said. "My new role is of being real encouraging, putting 100 percent into the team mentally and emotionally since I can't help them physically."
Hittle is second on the team in kill average (3.32 kpg) and dig average (3.58).