Ellie Woodall’s senior year of high school took a toll before it even started.
Last summer in a summer league basketball game, she suffered a right knee injury that caused her to miss her final season of volleyball and the first 14 games of basketball. Woodall got cleared to play on Feb. 3 and made her way back into the lineup against Victoria on Feb. 8.
“The best day of my life,” Woodall said on being able to get back to playing sports. “The nightmare was finally over. I loved that day.”
Woodall’s return has helped the Knights to three consecutive wins, including a 45-44 victory over St. John’s Beloit-Tipton on Monday at the Sacred Heart gym.
“I just kept telling myself that there’s an end goal like I want to play again,” Woodall said. “I just overcame it (by) surrounding myself with people that could help me. My physical therapist, Nate Lee, was just great. He was definitely one of the biggest parts to not only physically get me back, but also mentally and emotionally.
“My parents (and) coaches really just encouraged me. It’s my senior year (and) I just wanted to be part of it.”
Sacred Heart coach Carl Hines was just two weeks into his new job when he had to witness Woodall suffering her injury.
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“It was one of those moments where it hollows you as a person,” Hines said. “I’ll remember it for the rest of my days (and seeing) her go down. She missed out on so much, and she knows that.
“She didn’t let this beat her. It made her a much stronger person.”
Woodall was devastated by her injury, which meant a decision for surgeries and recovery times. She was given several options but chose a patellar tendon surgery, which meant the shortest recovery — six to seven months.
“I couldn’t even process it,” Woodall said. “They told me basketball was possible if I worked really hard, but there was just so much doubt in me throughout the whole time, like even in the beginning. There’s no way I’ll ever be able to walk again.
“It was really tough, let alone play a sport at the highest intensity.”
Woodall had a goal to return in six months, but an additional month paid off.
“I really wanted to play basketball,” Woodall said. “I was going to do whatever it took to get (back in) six or seven (months).”
Missing her final year of volleyball hurt, but Woodall said her favorite sport is whichever one is in season.
“Going to (volleyball) games was really hard and it was tough,” Woodall said. “I think it’s made me strong mentally.”
Once she made her return to the court on Feb. 8 against Victoria, it felt like she had never left. She called it the best feeling she’d had in quite a while.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to come back, like it didn’t seem possible,” Woodall said. “It was really, really tough to get over, especially being my senior year.
“I just love to play sports. I just love the competition, and I missed it.”
Hines said Woodall’s work ethic and dedication allowed her to return get back on the court with her teammates.
“She’s special to this team,” Hines said. “Now that she’s playing, she’s accepted more of a leadership role.
“She is so genuinely excited for everybody on the team, so getting her back has been a blessing.”
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Woodall not only gets to finish the basketball season, but she’ll also have a full softball season this spring for the Knights. After she graduates from Sacred Heart in May, Woodall plans to attend Kansas State University.
She said she is going to cherish these final few months of sports and knowing she’s surrounded by a lot of good people that have helped her overcome a speed bump in her high school athletic career.
“I think God just really helped me through it because I prayed every day,” Woodall said.
Avery Eshleman, Katie Weiss help Sacred Heart girls edge St. John’s
Woodall’s nine points helped Sacred Heart pick up its third straight victory to improve to 8-9, but the play of sophomores Avery Eshleman and Katie Weiss was also pivotal.
Eshleman had a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds. Weiss scored 13 points, including a game-winning 3-pointer with 35 seconds left that gave the Knights a lead they held down the stretch.
“I was really confident,” Weiss said. “I was going to let it fly. I got some space and said, ‘No, I’m shooting it.’ It was a big confidence booster for me. I kind of had a tough game mentally.”
Hines said Weiss shoots in the gym for an hour and a half four or five nights a week for moments like that to make a big shot at a critical time.
“She’s got the green light to go ahead and pull the trigger,” Hines said. “It was pretty awesome for her to hit that.”
Eshleman said the Knights work on rebounding every day in practice for about 20 minutes.
“Since we’ve worked on it, we’ve won three games in a row,” Eshleman said. “I think that’s really helping us.”
Evan Bogart gaining confidence for Sacred Heart boys
After scoring 15 points and making five 3-pointers against Council Grove on Friday, Evan Bogart has become another scoring threat for the Knights.
He had 13 points in Sacred Heart’s 54-48 victory over St. John’s-Tiptton as the Knights improved to 14-3.
“I feel pretty good right now,” Bogart said. “When I get my opportunities, I’m going to take them.”
Sacred Heart coach Brian Gormley said Bogart gains more confidence when a shot goes into the basket.
“He feels more confident in taking it,” Gormley said. “He’s an 80% free-throw shooter all year, and his two at the end, they were big. I know he’s not our primary ball-handler, but he’s got to a pick a spot because when (teams) want to foul, we want him to have the basketball.”
Alex Disberger led the Knights with 16 points and 14 rebounds while Max Ehrlich also had 16 points.
Dylan Sherwood has been a sports reporter for the Salina Journal since August 2019. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @DSherwoodSJ