It was easy to miss outside hitter Lindsey Eckenrode's contribution to the 2009 Wichita State volleyball season.
She didn't play a match. She barely practiced. Knee surgery ended her activity in August.
So she assumed the role of mentor for WSU's 10-person incoming freshmen class, nine of whom redshirted. She was there to help the rookies adjust to college volleyball and college life.
"Good people want to contribute any way they can," WSU coach Chris Lamb said. "With so many new players it was awesome to have somebody who could dedicate themselves as kind of the middle-man, liaison, between staff and them."
Eckenrode, a senior from The Woodlands, Texas, is back on the court this spring. She tore the anterior cruciate ligament and the meniscus and partially tore the medial collateral ligament in her left knee during practice last year. Wearing a brace, she participates in individual workouts this spring. The next few weeks will determine how fully she can participate when the Shockers begin spring practice in mid-March. She is running with few restrictions. Jumping repeatedly is the next hurdle.
"It feels good," she said. "I'm ready to play. I should be able to do hitting off a toss and hitting off a setter and the rest will be slowly getting me back into full drills with hitting."
In individuals, she works on passing and serve-receive, drills that don't require jumping.
"They call it slow return to play," she said. "Pretty much relearning how to play volleyball. I haven't jumped in a while."
Eckenrode is on pace to be recovered when the Shockers start practice in August. She will bring a different perspective after spending 2009 watching from the bench. She noticed little things, such as how players mesh and how players respond to teaching, that can be helpful.
"Everyone wants help in different ways," she said. "Some people like being super-cheery. Some people don't like that and like being more technical. I think coaching always makes you a better player."
Thanks to OU — WSU's spring volleyball schedule is highlighted by its April 3 tournament featuring Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Colorado State.
Lamb and Sooners coach Santiago Restrepo continue to help each other with a scheduling cooperative. OU's presence in the Shocker tournament helped attract Colorado State, an NCAA regional semifinalist in 2009, and Kansas State.
"What I really appreciate is the coach at Oklahoma," Lamb said. "If I go there in the fall, he comes here in the spring and vice versa. We've got a nice thing."
The Shockers will make their usual trip to Houston for the Texas Tornados tournament and are looking at one in either Dallas or Fort Worth. If the budget allows, Lamb said, a fourth is possible.
Beyond the trip to Oklahoma, the 2010 fall schedule remains a work in progress.
Serving time — WSU baseball player Taylor Gilmore will sit out the first six games of the season as the final piece of punishment from the NCAA.
Gilmore and men's basketball player Clevin Hannah were not properly certified as amateurs by WSU before the 2008-09 season, due to an administrative error. Both are junior-college transfers who came to WSU in 2008.
Hannah served his penalty to start this season, missing three games. Gilmore, a senior walk-on infielder from Bishop Carroll, will also miss 10 percent of his season. He played in 20 games in 2009.