Caroline Livingston returns to the hardwood

Women's volleyball get boost as Livingston prepares to make comeback in time for playoffs

Caroline Livingston (centre) in 2016-17.
Caroline Livingston (centre) in 2016-17.
Robin Kasem

Caroline Livingston remembers the moment she came down on her ankle all too well.

“November 10th against Guelph — second set,” Livingston told The Journal in the ARC’s alumni lounge, thinking back to the game that nearly ended her season.

In the middle of the second set against the Gryphons, Livingston jumped up mid-point to retrieve the ball. In a miscommunication with a teammate, the two players collided. On the way down, Livingston’s ankle rolled against the hardwood.

In a flurry of adrenaline, Livingston got back on her feet and played two more points. But while she tried to chase down the ball later in the game, she realized something was wrong.

“I just couldn’t really move my body — my body wouldn’t let me go for [the ball],” Livingston recalled. She sat out the remainder of the match once her ankle started to swell.

A day later, she was told she’d have to sit out six to eight weeks with a convulsion fracture on her lateral malleolus — the rounded bone on the outside of the ankle. Assigned a cast and knee scooter, the 2016-17 OUA All-Star began her road to recovery.

But that was three months ago. And with the women’s volleyball team putting together unprecedented success in the regular season’s final stages, the Gaels are ready to bring back one of their strongest players.

Livingston’s ascent to becoming one of the Gaels’ best on the court hasn’t been a long process. After being recruited from Kelowna, B.C., Livingston played 15 games in her first season as a Gael and was named to the OUA All-Rookie Team.

Livingston in an aircast watching her teammates practice. Photo by Robin Kasem

After seeing steady improvement in her second season, Livingston rose to prominence in her third year. Following the loss of four players to graduation, Livingston found her role as a leader on the team. That season, she finished second in the OUA with 271 kills.

“I got a lot of volume, a lot of touches, and we fended really well for ourselves,” Livingston said. During the 2016-17 season, Livingston was one of the three oldest players on the team despite only being in her third year. 

With every intention of carrying the team’s momentum into this year, the injury was a blow for Livingston, who’s never experienced a lengthy injury in her career. Even with a positive attitude entering her recovery process, Livingston said her first extended period of time away from volleyball was harder than she anticipated.

“It was almost exciting, I had this new sick scooter and I had a game plan,” she said. Initially, the recovery period was set for six to eight weeks. But after the damage appeared to be more severe as the swelling in her ankle went down, eight weeks turned into 10. The unknown timeline made  the chance of playing again this season uncertain.

“I’ll talk to my physio … my doctor, [I’m] doing all the right things, taking all the right stuff but there’s no answer. I think that was the most challenging part,” Livingston said. Since hitting her first ball three weeks ago, the biggest challenge thus far has been trying to stay off the court during game day.

“Injury or not, you want to be on the floor,” Livingston said.

One thing that’s allowed Livingston some peace of mind during her recovery has been her team’s play. Currently, the Gaels sit in second in the OUA East with an 11-4 record and have recently defeated the nationally-ranked McMaster Marauders. 

The team’s development this year hasn’t shocked Livingston, who saw signs of greatness going into her game against Guelph this past November.

“I felt like we were starting to pick up,” Livingston said. Throughout the course of a season, she said tensions can sometimes start to grow amongst teammates and playing becomes emotionally taxing. “This year, [our strength] hasn’t been a second thought — we’re still connecting and thriving, so it’s all been about peaking at the right time.”

The team’s success has only added fuel to Livingston’s fire, who’s tentatively set to make her return to play this Sunday against RMC. After going through her first two-hour practice on Wednesday evening, Livingston appreciates the simpler things from sport.

“Now that I’m coming back, I think every time I’m putting in a rep at the weight room I have a little extra motivation,” Livingston said. “I get excited now and then when I go up the stairs.”

And now that she can play volleyball again, Livingston’s excitement to get back on the court is more than apparent. It’s something she hopes to tame when she’s back on the court.

“I’ll definitely be pretty giddy, but the goal will be to manage those emotions and give my best,” she said.

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