Tech’ Phelan back in the swing

The numbers should improve for Lacey Phelan this Montana Tech volleyball season. She won’t be playing one-handed, nor wrong-handed.
The 5-foot-11 senior from Missoula suffered a serious shoulder injury in her sophomore season, underwent surgery in December of 2010 and tried to make it back to contribute last year.
She struggled, because it hurt and her strength in the shoulder had been sapped by the injury. The recovery period wasn’t long enough for a full recovery, but she, coaches and medical staff were hoping she would be able to play pretty well. An injury-hampered Phelan is still an asset on the court.
She played rightside hitter and served as co-captain. The end-of-season ledger showed the Orediggers at 0-14 in the Frontier Conference season and 7-21 for the season. Phelan’s productivity, statistically anyway, exhibited a ledger of 1.11 kills per game on average, and a .148 hitting percentage while playing in 28 games. Her 2010 figures displayed more versatility with 100 kills and 25 blocks while also ranking among the Frontier’s top 20 in digs and assists.
Phelan is a co-captain again this season as the Orediggers prepare for their Aug. 21 season opener at conference rival Montana Western in a non-conference match.
The shoulder is probably mostly healed, she said, while also admitting to feeling a little less than confident about the shoulder’s durability.
“All of my strength isn’t back, but it feels better,” Phelan said during a break from practice. “It’s been almost two years since the surgery . I’m learning to trust it, but I still get pain sometimes.”
Phelan was a three-sport athlete at Big Sky High in Missoula and has been an Academic All-Conference honoree throughout her Montana Tech career. She will be graduating in December with a degree in applied health science, then hopes to attend physical therapy school, Phelan said.
She said most of the other seniors on the squad also will graduate in December, having spread their studies out over four-plus years to enhance their campus experiences and alleviate some of the stress in trying to perform at a high level on both ends of the student-athlete label.
“We all kind of stretched it out so we could play this year,” Phelan said. “Being here for 4 ½ years has helped in being able to take less credits at time and making school easier.”
She added that her chances at physical therapy school acceptance is enhanced by her degree being earned at Montana Tech. Phelan said Montana Tech’s reputation is great for consideration by the physical therapy schools.
Brian Solomon has arrived from Columbia (S.C.) College to take the reins of the volleyball program, succeeding longtime mentor Marilyn Tobin.
“It’s going really good,” Phelan said of the beginning of the new regime. “Everybody’s having fun learning new things and getting better. It’s been like a completely opposite style of practice. (Solomon) has a ton of new drills and new games that none of us has ever seen before. It’s good. Everybody is enjoying it.”
The roster has changed quite a bit, too. Eight Orediggers from last year’s roster did not return this fall. The coach is new and so transition is a focus in the program.
“The change isn’t just with Brian,” Phelan described. “Half of the team is seniors and the other half is freshmen. It is so different, but there is some anxiety.”
So progress is being plotted in steps.
“We haven’t sat down as a team and hashed out process goals,” Phelan said. “Brian always says to be mindful. If we do that, the wins will start coming.”
Still, after the Frontier coaches picked the Orediggers to place last in their league, the team members would like to see the wins come pretty quickly.
“After that, we have no place to go but up,” she said of the conference pre-season poll. “Even last year, we competed — and always at least in the first two games. It’s all about momentum.”
Phelan will be looking to help shoulder that responsibility.