The Orange Leader
When it’s your senior season, you want to go out with plenty of flair.
When your Orangefield senior setter Rylie Granger, it’s a whole new ball game.
Granger, The Newcomer of the Year as a freshman on the All-District 21-3A Volleyball Team in 2009, is making a huge impact as a senior, just like she wanted to do.
You see, Miss Granger has missed the last two volleyball seasons entirely, due to a major foot injury.
The injury actually started to interfere with Granger’s play in eighth grade. She gutted it out as a freshman but she no longer could take the pain.
“It was such a tough injury for me, not only physically but emotionally too,” said Granger. “I had pulled tendons away from my bone and it was so painful.”
Granger had two surgeries after her freshman season. They were just six weeks apart.
So the last two seasons, Granger has had to watch the Lady Bobcats make the playoffs, keeping stat sheets for the team and doing a little ‘assistant’ coaching.
“That was so tough on me but I wanted to help the team anyway that I could,” said Granger. “It was hard, trying to teach someone else my position. Like last year, Kaitlyn Henson was one of the best hitters I’ve ever seen but she had to move to my position because I was still out. She was awesome, but I sure would’ve like to be the one that was setting her up all the time.”
It’s been a grind to get back into the game, but it’s truly a game Granger loves to play.
“We got in touch with some great doctors in Houston and they’ve been great,” said Granger. “For two years I had to go to Houston for physical therapy. I had to go three times a week during the summer and two times a week during the school year. I still fight it some and there is some soreness from time to time but I know how to deal with it.”
To say that Granger has returned the Lady Bobcats with full force would be a major understatement. She has been a “setting machine” for first-year Lady Bobcat coach Meagan Adams.
The Lady Bobcats, who will host rival Bridge City tonight, stand at 20-5 overall and a perfect 6-0 in 21-3A play. Orangefield has only lost one game as well in district play, winning 18 out of 19 of them.
“Rylie has made such a huge impact for us,” said Adams. “She could be the MVP for a lot of teams because she can do it all. She has such excellent setting quickness and if you’re an opponent, you have no idea where the ball is going with her. She’s either setting someone up for a quick kill and you can’t underestimate her hitting skills too.”
Granger’s main goal is to get all of her teammates involved, including the likes of standout libero Kacey LeBlanc and top hitters Jennifer McManus and Morgan Moss.
“When you get a big kill, that’s sweet, but my favorite thing to do is to get that perfect set and assist,” said Granger. “When you’re a setter, you have to be strong mentally because there are so many options on the court. You almost have to have eyes in the back of your head sometimes. Besides, there’s nothing better than setting up a teammate for a big smash.”
Adams realized that Granger was going to be a “go-getter” from the beginning.
“The first time I saw her, you could tell how hungry she was,” said Adams. “To sit out for two years had to be so tough. She’s battled back from a whole lot. She’s like a coach out on the floor and she’d make a good coach one day. She plays with so much energy and passion and all of the kids feed off that. She’s a gem, that’s for sure.”
Granger feels that the Lady Bobcats have plenty of leadership qualities.
“We have 11 seniors so our time is now,” said Granger. “We’re such a well-rounded team. We play excellent defense and we have some tremendous hitters. Our depth is excellent and everyone contributes.”
Granger also pointed out that nobody in the area plays defense like libero LeBlanc. No one hits the ball harder than McManus and know one is more “sneakier” with her kills than Moss.
Now Granger and the Lady Bobcats have a mission to go through the rest of 21-3A play unscathed and carry that momentum into the playoffs, starting with tonight’s “Pink Out” match with rival Bridge City.
“We’ve got Bridge City twice in our last six matches,” said Granger. “Those have always been tough matches in front of packed gyms, plus, we all know each other pretty well. We’ve ‘choked’ a few times when we’ve played Bridge City in the past, so we really would like to make a statement Tuesday. Orangefield has been to the playoffs several times but we want that banner in our gym that says ‘District Champions’, we don’t have one of those just yet.”
Granger has aspirations of playing volleyball at the next level as well.
“Volleyball is my passion and I would love to play at the next level when that opportunity comes,” said Granger. “When I look at it, the injury has made me a much better and stronger person. I realize that I can cope with just about anything and that I can overcome. Right now, it’s all about the Lady Bobcats. I really think we have the potential to go far in the playoffs, we’ve just got to keep riding this momentum that we’re on now and continue to improve every time we take the court.”