Local Sports: Broken ankle didn’t hold Sydney Rix back for long

There was some talk going around RDC last season that a major ankle injury may be career threatening for Queens volleyball middle Sydney Rix.

Rix only laughed when she was told that.

“I never even heard that … it definitely was not the end in my mind,” she said.

Rix suffered the major injury to her right ankle during practice on New Year’s Eve.

She came down on a foot breaking a bone in her ankle and sustaining major ligament damage.

It meant the former Hunting Hills star was out for the rest of her rookie season. But instead of letting bit bother her, she looked at the positive side.

“It was definitely disappointing, but I looked at it as being only one semester. Plus I was able to sit and watch and use it as a learning curve. I saw the game from a different view-point and was able to work in the gym and get stronger which I can see this year.”

Queens head coach Talbot Walton sees that as well.

“Having been involved in sports since she was young and in a demanding sport like gymnastics (prior to age 13) she put in that additional training and physio that was needed. She has a great work ethic which helped in the recovery process. She was in the gym and did the work knowing she’d get better. “

Sydney was part of a strong rookie class last season and earned a starting role early on. She played 12 matches and 41 sets averaging 1.27 kills per set with 14 blocks.

This year she’s played in five of the team’s eight matches as the coaching staff gives her time off when needed.

“Those extra days off do help,” she said. “After a week of practice and two games my ankle does get sore.”

Walton expected that.

“Playing middle there’s a lot of jumping and moving and unfortunately for her it was a major ankle injury and it takes time to recover. We’re fortunate we have five middles, who we feel can all play, so we’re able to give them time off when needed.”

Ali Greenshields has played the majority of the time with McKenna Olson sharing time with Rix. Brook Ure and Kira Weddell round out the five.

This season Sydney had played in five matches and 17 sets, has 1.24 kills per set average with eight blocks.

She also continues to work hard on rehabilitation.

“Ice, heat and exercises and I take physio twice a week,” she said, adding she’s had the same physiotherapist since she was 13 and involved in gymnastics.

Despite the ankle injury you can still see her athletic ability on the court.

“I believe coming from competitive gymnastics helped It’s a fast-paced sport and I use some of what I learned there here … I can see where some of my power and strength comes from.”

“I can see that,” added Walton. “She’s very athletic and the gymnastics background gives her another type of strength which others who have only been involved in volleyball don’t have.”

Physically Rix was able to do all the work she needed to get back on the court. Mentally it helped in that she played sports most of her life, plus she had a strong support group with the team and staff.

“My teammates were super supportive,” she said. “Plus while I wasn’t playing last year I was still involved at practices and games, which helped.”

“It’s tough when you’re a first-year athlete and receive a season-ending injury, but we have a super group of athletes,” added Walton. “Every year we have a good group who really support to each other. It’s a good culture and why I enjoy working with them.”

This year’s edition of the Queens have a 6-2 record, winning six in a row following a pair of losses on the road against Briercrest.

“That was a tough weekend as it was our first two matches of the season, in their gym and with a big crowd. We’re continuing to improve and looking forward to playing them here.

“We’ve grown as a group and you can see it in how we play … we’re learning each other’s tendencies and playing better as a team,” added the five-foot-11, 19-year-old, who got into volleyball in Grade 8, playing in school and with the Queens Volleyball Club.

She played on the outside in school but in the middle with club.

“I really enjoy the middle … I enjoy the fact you have to be fast and be ready for anything.”

The Queens have drawn well off their club program. Seven are from the Red Deer high schools, including Rix, who felt all along she would end up at RDC.

“Being from Hunting Hills I wanted to stay close to home and I’ve been a Queen my whole life and wanted to continue. It just feels like home.

And she’ll be here for all five years as she works on her Bachelor of Education Elementary degree.

RDC is at Lethbridge this weekend for a pair of matches and finish off the first half of their schedule with a home-and-home against SAIT — Nov. 29 at RDC and 30 at SAIT.

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at danrode@shaw.ca

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