Emily Jancauskas is one tough gal.
After tearing both hip labrums during her sophomore track season, she faced this conundrum: Have surgery and miss her junior volleyball season or delay surgery and play.
She picked the latter.
“Volleyball was my first family here, so I opted to participate in volleyball,” said Jancauskas, a senior at Kodiak High School.
Even when an off-balance jump or a misguided step shot pain down her leg, she barely complained. That’s the type of person she is. Tough.
“Every once in a while, she would say my hip is a little sore today. I’m going to sit out,” KHS volleyball coach Amy Willis said. “I’m thinking, ‘She is a 10 on a (pain) scale of 1 to 10. She just doesn’t quit.”
A sprinter and jumper in track, she didn’t realize she had torn labrums until after the season when she visited a doctor. Track coaches thought she was experiencing muscle problems, but after being forced to miss the Region III Championships, she began to wonder if it was a more severe injury.
It was. A hip labrum is cartilage that rims the hip socket's outer edge and allows for a significant range of motion. Labral tears are a common injury among athletes. Jancauskas said a bone impingement caused the double tear.
After completing her junior volleyball season, she flew to Anchorage to repair her left labrum — surgery can only be done on one labrum at a time, Jancauskas said. She was expecting the surgery to be over in an hour. It lasted close to four hours.
“They (surgeons) found out it was way more torn than they had originally estimated. I had basically shredded it,” she said.
She spent the winter and spring rehabbing for her senior volleyball season and feels like she is a stronger player, even with her right hip labrum still torn, which she is planning to get repaired after the season.
“I felt like last season I was more prone to being off-balance, which caused a little bit more pain. There were certain things that I didn’t want to do because if I did, I was out the next day,” Jancauskas said. “This year, I feel a little more confident in my abilities to get down on the ground and to hit.”
The middle blocker hopes there will be a season. Currently, the team is only practicing and scrimmaging community members as the school district has banned travel through September because of COVID-19. The volleyball season is scheduled to end in November.
“As much as it is different, and not necessarily what everybody had hoped for, for the most part, I am just happy to be here and get to experience a last year,” Jancauskas said. “I would much rather have participated in a season like this than no season at all.”
Jancauskas’ volleyball career started as an eighth-grader at Mirror Lake Middle School in Chugiak. Her path to being a Mustang changed when her mom accepted a civilian job at the Coast Guard base in Kodiak — both her parents are retired Coast Guard.
“I really found a family and a community here through the volleyball program,” she said. “It made the whole process a lot more enjoyable. It made it something that I thoroughly enjoyed instead of just another sport that I participated in.”
Her infectious personality and willingness to sweat won over the Kodiak coaching staff. She plays with a smile on her face.
“She is just kindness beyond kind to every other athlete in the program. She is encouraging … and is the kind of person you want on your floor building your team up,” Willis said.
Jancauskas started on varsity for the first time last season — she was on the C squad as a freshman and junior varsity as a sophomore.
“To get on the court as a junior and try to face girls, who are typically a little bit taller than me, and to know that I have to do my best on the court is definitely intimidating … As terrifying as it was, it was something that I really needed.”
Jancauskas plans to graduate at the end of the first semester. She will then switch her focus to reaching her dream of becoming a pediatrician — her favorite medical shows are “Bones” and “House.”
Until then, she is soaking up her final season as a Kodiak Bear.
“It’s been absolutely enjoyable,” Jancauskas said. “I have made some pretty good friends through the volleyball program and I felt really welcomed here.”