Timberline thriving with key player back on her feet

Carson Mondada has battled through a series of surgeries, health issues.

rroberts@idahostatesman.comOctober 31, 2013 

Timberline coach Joline Armuth said peers and opposing players have asked where she found Carson Mondada, center facing. "Nobody in the conference knew anything about her besides me. Nobody knew that we had this secret little gem on our team who'd been playing hit and miss throughout four years. They couldn't have named her. She's kind of been a secret weapon for us."

Kaite Johnson's answer was immediate and without provocation.

"I think she was the puzzle piece that we were missing last year," Johnson said.

Her teammates all nodded in agreement.

Senior outside hitter Carson Mondada is back in the Timberline High volleyball lineup full time, and she helped lead the Wolves to their first 5A District Three championship since 2004.

The No. 1 seeded Wolves (17-1) face rival Boise in the first round Friday at Post Falls High, hoping to win their first state championship in team history. They finished third in the district tournament last season, and went two-and-out at state.

It's been a long road back for Mondada, who was diagnosed in the fifth grade with osteochondritis dissecans - a joint disorder that caused a hole to form in a bone in her right ankle.

She had microfracture surgery in the sixth grade that her doctor hoped would help fill in the hole. Recovery included two months on crutches and physical therapy.

Mondada lasted through her ninth-grade season of volleyball - on the Wolves' varsity - until she felt extreme pain in her ankle when she landed after a routine hit.

"It seemed unreal," Mondada said. "I was like, 'It's better. That wouldn't happen again.' I really didn't even think that it could be hurt again. I was just in shock."

An MRI revealed the surgery had been unsuccessful, and it was suggested Mondada have a second microfracture surgery, followed by another two months on crutches and more therapy.

She was able to rejoin her teammates for her sophomore season in 2010, but her ankle began to feel more and more uncomfortable as time went on, and she only played in six matches. More tests in October of that year showed the second surgery also was unsuccessful.

That led to Mondada's third surgery in December 2010 in which two bone grafts were taken from her knee and placed into the hole in her ankle. The transplant required a lateral release in her knee and her ankle essentially had to be broken open to place the grafts. The bone was then screwed back together.

She was not allowed to put weight on her ankle for nearly three months, and shortly after that she developed a staph infection, and later a secondary infection that caused her to lose 25 pounds.

"The biggest problem then became once my ankle was better and my knee was better, my leg had no muscle. I wasn't ready to play on it," Mondada said. "I couldn't even jump up. I wasn't strong enough."

As she worked to get stronger, Mondada was limited to playing libero her junior year.

"During the years and years of injuries, and battling and hours of physical therapy and still being at every practice, I've never heard her complain a single time, not even once," Timberline coach Joline Armuth said. "No woe is me, no feeling sorry for herself. She just shows up and does whatever she can do to contribute at the time."

Through her struggles, Mondada says she has gained a better understanding of the game, and a stronger appreciation for the moment at hand.

Her perseverance inspires her teammates, who have been overjoyed this season to see her return to the player they once knew.

"It's just been surreal. It's been the best experience," Mondada said of this season. "I couldn't ask for a better way for my senior year to go. I am just so happy that I got to play. My team and my coaches are amazing. All the support that people have been giving me through the years has gotten me here. I guess it doesn't even seem real, but it is."

For the first time since she was a freshman, Mondada is back to playing all the way around for the Wolves as an outside hitter. She leads the team in kills with 251 and a hitting percentage of .278. She also has 214 digs, 24 service aces and 11.5 blocks.

"I think we all play for Carson, honestly," senior setter Sarah Barker said. "This is her senior season. We all play for her."

Rachel Roberts: 377-6422,Twitter: @IDS_VarsityX

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