If you have attended a Lake Mills volleyball game over the past few years, you've definitely seen Brooke Bergo making plays all over the floor.
Diving to save balls. Jumping to deliver kills.
This season, on top of her play, it's nearly impossible to miss what Bergo wears that nobody else on the team does. The senior hitter sports a large brace that covers much of her right leg, due to an injury last winter.
"I was in a straight leg brace and crutches for the first three months," Bergo explained. "The last three months, I've been wearing this brace every day, and PT [physical therapy] three times a week."
In her junior year last fall, Bergo was second on the team in kills behind graduating senior Kylie Greenfield. Bergo was ready to help lead her team to new heights in 2021.
But a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) tear in January during basketball season threatened to take that opportunity away from her.
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She had surgery right away. But a full recovery from a surgery to repair a PCL could take anywhere from six to 12 months.
"Her and I sat down together," Lake Mills head coach Jim Boehmer said. "We just said, 'OK, it's a bad deal. But here's the hurdle.' I just asked her, 'What do you want?' She just said, 'I want to play.'"
So, Boehmer and Bergo set a target date for Bergo's return to playing volleyball: Six months to the day from the surgery.
Bergo was determined to hit that date.
"It was my main priority to be back for volleyball," Bergo said.
By the time the date the two had set to fully return to practice rolled around, Bergo had already been taking part in volleyball activities for a couple weeks.
She was not going to miss her senior year, no matter what it took.
But Bergo admitted it wasn't the easiest thing in the world to return before the six-month date. Even now, she still plays with pain.
"Every play. When I jump, when I dive, when I pass," Bergo said. "It's everything. But I've got to overcome it to help the team."
Even though she returned to practice in time for the season, Boehmer was worried that she might play softer and more timid due to the pain. Rest assured, that hasn't been the case.
In fact, it's been the complete opposite. Boehmer and his staff sometimes have to remind Bergo to take it easy on her knee.
To have a talented player come back is something that Boehmer doesn't take for granted.
"For her to come back after that and contribute the way she does," Boehmer said. "Talk about a girl that just flies all over the place. She's going to go down trying, swinging and fighting."
The pain has been worth it.
Bergo has helped lead the Bulldogs to a 33-4 overall record and another Top of Iowa West conference championship. She was named second team all-conference for her efforts.
The only thing left to accomplish on Bergo's list is something the Lake Mills volleyball team hasn't done since 2012.
"State," Bergo said. "Make it as far as we can."
The Bulldogs will have a tall task ahead in the Class 2A, Region 6 semifinal. Lake Mills will play the defending Class 3A state champion Osage at 7 p.m. on Monday in Osage.
Gunnar Davis covers sports. Reach him via email at Gunnar.Davis@GlobeGazette.com or by phone 641-421-0598.