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Assumption senior hitter spikes adversity


Assumption outside hitter Erineka Mollere (4) returned to the court after missing the 2011 season because of health concerns. (Photo by Abby Tabor/Staff)


In a match earlier this month against Louise McGehee School, Assumption High senior outside hitter Erineka Mollere repeatedly sprang off the floor, as if weightless, to smash the ball past blockers or tip the ball out of their reach. She punctuated each of her 19 kills with a hop and a smile, before high-fiving her teammates.

The joy written across Mollere's face during that day's win served a stark contrast to her sad-eyed visage last November as she watched her team lose to St. Thomas More in the Division II semifinals.

Mollere, an all-district selection as a sophomore, missed her entire junior volleyball season while recovering from a heart inflammation that landed her in the hospital for a week. To this day, she laments not being able to help her team in its playoff loss.

However, the valleys of 2011 — her life-threatening health troubles, her distance from the game she loves, her powerlessness in the face of defeat — drive her this season.

Asked what she learned from last year's travails, Mollere responded, "To push harder."

"Never think twice," the 17-year-old from Belle Rose continued, "and go after every ball and never give up."

‘SCARED A LOT’

On Aug. 4, 2011, Mollere's chest tightened and her breathing became labored while sitting in a sports medicine class. She had experienced shortness of breath and gotten overheated during summer workouts in the weeks earlier. This time the pain didn't retreat.

Mollere stayed in intensive care at Ochsner Children's Hospital in New Orleans for a week, during which time doctors diagnosed her with myocarditis, a condition making it difficult for the heart to pump blood.

"I got scared a lot," Mollere's mother Dawn recalled of her daughter's six-day hospital stay.

Mollere's youth and prior health helped her survive the heart infection. Still, doctors advised her to sit out the volleyball season to let the muscle heal. She received clearance for track and field in January. Her star-crossed athletics year continued, though, when she missed regionals due to tendonitis in her knee.

 

‘IT'S JUST AMAZING’

This fall, Mollere is healthy in body and mind. Long gone is the depression that came from missing her first love – volleyball. She is whole again.

"It's just amazing," Assumption coach Sandy Fussell said of Mollere's recovery. "She's had no ill effects from her condition last year."

Mollere "puts us in a more relaxed atmosphere," Fussell explained. Part of that comes from the confidence Mollere's abilities bring to her teammates. She has a "tremendously quick arm swing," Fussell said of the right-handed Mollere, and great vision when it comes to attacking opposing defenses.

Mollere credited former Assumption great and U.S. Olympian Kim Willoughby for helping her realize not every swing she takes has to produce a kill. Willoughby is assisting Fussell this season.

Opposing coaches are also taking notice.

"What's special about No. 4 (Mollere) is she can also control the ball through her passes or plays on defense," Louise McGehee coach Val Whitfield-Dunn said following her team's loss to Assumption on Sept. 12. "She's really a solid all-around player."

Mollere's mother made her own observation after watching from the bleachers that day.

"My baby's back," she said proudly.