Senior Fiona Lazzaretti has not played a single minute for the Lafayette girls volleyball team this season.
But that doesn’t mean she hasn’t played a big role in the Lancers’ success.
Lazzaretti, a 5-foot-10 outside hitter, averaged 1.73 kills a game last season and figured to be a key cog in the attack this season.
But that all changed in an instant in May when Lazzaretti was involved in a serious car accident. At the time of the accident, doctors were more worried about saving her life than getting her back on the court.
“It’s been really slow, very small steps,” Lazzaretti said of her recovery. “Not a lot of big progress, but over the months it’s been getting a lot better.”
She had a rod put in her leg and suffered nerve damage in her right arm along with a myriad of broken bones.
Lazzaretti spent two weeks in a normal hospital and two more weeks in a bridge hospital. Lazzaretti still doesn’t know if she will make a full recovery.
“It’s kind of hard to tell,” she said. “There’s not a 100 percent guarantee of anything right now.”
What is 100 percent guaranteed is Lazzaretti’s devotion to the Lafayette volleyball program – and its devotion to her.
“Our biggest thing that we like to describe us as is we’re all a big family,” Lazzaretti said. “They would come and visit me in the hospital and at my house all the time.”
Lazzaretti says her teammates have played a big role in her recovery.
“We all play for Fiona because we know you can’t take anything for granted,” senior Brooke Borgmeyer said. “We know Fiona would love to be on the court with us, but she’s always here with us and she’s always cheering us on, so it’s a big impact on us.”
Even with her severe injuries, there was still a hope that Lazzaretti could make it back for an appearance late in the season. But a setback with her hand derailed those plans.
It didn’t damper Lazzaretti’s role as the emotional leader of the team. She has only missed one match due to surgery and she only misses practice if she has a physical therapy appointment.
Coach Zach Young said she’s an inspiration.
“How could it not be?,” he said. “You look over at a kid who can’t play her senior year, lucky to be alive, and how can you take reps off in practice when you see her? She’s been a huge inspiration. She’s all in with us. Actually the days she’s not there, we feel it. It’s different.”
Lazzaretti was wearing her No. 13 on the Lafayette bench on Saturday as the Lancers swept both Oakville and Cor Jesu to punch their ticket to their eighth final four appearance in the last nine years.
Lafayette (30-8) finished second last season and is seeking its seventh state title and first in three years. The Lancers will begin pool play against Francis Howell Central (19-5-2), Liberty (28-7) and Nixa (34-4) at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau on Friday.
“We’ve had constant focus on practice,” Lafayette setter Shannon McLain said. “We’ve worked on a few new things and we’ve just put it into gear.”
Lazzaretti’s accident hit close to home for McLain. The two play club together and are close friends.
“It’s really tough for her,” McLain said. “She’s been awesome. She’s so supportive and it’s nice to see that from someone who’s gone through so much.”
Lafayette definitely has the firepower to add to its trophy collection. Borgmeyer and Allison Beaton both average more than three kills a game and Morgan Isenberg, Jordyn Lochmann and Allison Sink round out a balanced offense run by McLain. Libero Maggie Rogan leads a stingy defense.
This group takes pride in carrying on the Lancers’ tradition.
“With every good program you see those who came before you,” Young said. “You see how hard they worked to get a chance and you know that’s the level of work ethic you have to have to have a chance.”
Lafayette has lost twice to Nixa this season, both setbacks came in the Blue Springs Tournament three weeks ago.
The Lancers have won seven straight since.
“We’ve got to keep pushing, keep working on what we’ve been working on the past few weeks,” Borgmeyer said. “We’ve turned the chapter and we’ve been getting a lot more effort, a lot more energy and we’ve been practicing a lot better.”
Lazzaretti likes what she is seeing from her teammates. She’s expecting big things this weekend.
“Them just being able to come together as one big group, everybody being able to encourage and support each other,” Lazzaretti said. “Everything is in its right place and it’s really coming together well.”