Another season, another injury for Chelsea Albers.
This time, though, the 6-foot-1 Kansas outside hitter was determined to keep a positive attitude and not worry herself or her teammates.
And after missing two games with a rolled ankle, Albers will be back in the lineup Tuesday when the Jayhawks play No. 24 Creighton at 6 p.m. at D.J. Sokol Arena.
“I’m back in less than a week,” Albers said. “I was so excited.”
That hasn’t been the case the past two seasons. Last year, the Papillion-La Vista graduate — a former World-Herald athlete of the year — was sidelined for a few weeks by a back problem. Her freshman year it was a muscle pull in her abdomen.
After playing in KU’s first four matches this year, Albers thought she’d avoided her jinx.
“I’ve been knocking on a lot of wood,” she said.
Injuries happen, Albers said, when you go after the ball 100 percent every time. To remain in the lineup, Albers spent a lot of time in the training room this summer doing preventative drills.
“I feel good, very good,” Albers said.
That’s good news for KU coaches after Albers’ hot start.
She’s notched double-doubles in three matches, the first of her career. She’s averaging 2.88 kills per set with a .345 hitting percentage.
In a win over Arizona at the Arizona Invitational, Albers had careers high in kills (16) and digs (18) and was named to the all-tournament team. In a win at UMKC, she had 15 kills and 16 digs.
“She really committed to her fitness level and overall skill acquisition in all areas of the game over last spring and summer to where, when she showed up for two-a-days as a junior, she looked like someone ready to take the next step,” KU coach Ray Bechard said. “Then she’s been playing at a very high level for us early in the season until she unfortunately tweaked her ankle, but she’s healing up and we’re looking forward to getting her back in the lineup.”
Albers, who plays on the right side, says she gives the Jayhawks (4-2) an extra weapon at the net instead of always going to the middle or outside hitters.
Although she’s trying to be more aggressive, she also brings a calming presence, she said. Her teammates trust that when she demands the ball, she’s going to put it away.
“We’re very versatile,” she said. “Right, outside or middle, we’re all dominant hitters.”
Albers is thrilled to return in time for KU’s match with Creighton. She’s well-acquainted with some of the Bluejays.
Creighton (4-1) will be trying to bounce back from Saturday night’s sweep by California in the title match of the Bluejay Invitational. The Jayhawks lost on Saturday to Arkansas after beating them in Fayetteville two days earlier.
“It will be a competitive match,” Albers said. “Two good schools who have good offenses and defenses working against each other.”
Albers is excited about playing before a large group of Omaha fans. Her mom Pam, a brother or two and a lot of extended family will be at the game.
It will also be a homecoming for KU’s Sara McClinton and setter Maggie Anderson. McClinton, an outside hitter from Millard North, is averaging 3.23 kills and hitting .267. Anderson, from Lincoln Southwest, is the backup setter.
“Our team in general, we enjoy playing in front of a good atmosphere,” Albers said. “That just adds excitement to it.”