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THE GRIND: Pinecrest Academy's Wesemeyer using devastating injury to inspire
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THE GRIND: Pinecrest Academy's Gabby Wesemeyer

Filmed by Micah Green Edited by Paul Dybas

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Gabby Wesemeyer has always been a dreamer.

As an elementary school kid, she already made up her mind that she’d play collegiate basketball at the University of Tennessee for the legendary Pat Summitt. Her father, Craig—a former college basketball player himself—never pushed her to play a sport, but when she decided at a young age that’s what she wanted to do, she chose her father to be her mentor.

Flash forward to jersey night at Pinecrest Academy, just before the school year started. Craig was standing at a podium, speaking about Gabby’s journey, captivating the crowd of parents, players and coaches.

“He started off with a basic ‘I love you,’ but then went into the story about the past year. There were a lot of tears,” Wesemeyer said with a chuckle that hinted the toughest days are behind her.

The truth was, Wesemeyer eventually found out she didn’t want to play basketball. In the seventh grade she joined the volleyball team, coached by Sandy Seiferth—now the varsity coach at Pinecrest—and alongside Seiferth’s daughter, Adeline, fell in love with the sport.

Her goals of playing collegiately still applied, and she began to obsess over the process of rising up the ranks and becoming a prospect.

However, the story Craig told on jersey night wasn’t about volleyball—it was about everything else. How Wesemeyer’s sudden departure from the game helped her become what her father thinks is the best version of Gabby yet.

“It got us all so emotional, because we know Gabby, and it all rang so true,” coach Seiferth said.

Wesemeyer isn’t on track anymore to earn a scholarship to play Division I volleyball. The 6-foot senior is cherishing every moment of her final season in a uniform after recovering from a devastating ankle injury that sidelined her for much of her sophomore season and her entire junior year.

“It was at a club practice. It was one of those last point things,” Wesemeyer said. “I went up at the net and came down on an opponent’s ankle, and my ankle rolled. From then, I kept trying to play on it. We’d tape it, braced it. Nothing worked. Eventually I had to just not play, and that was really hard.”

After months of frustration, Wesemeyer finally realized she needed to get surgery to repair the damage in her ankle. The problem was that the operation came at the most prime recruiting timeline for a young female athlete—the window between her sophomore and junior season.

“I was playing A5 ball, wanted to play in college so bad,” Wesmeyer said. “It was hard. I prayed a lot, had a lot of motivational talks from my dad. I was on crutches, I was in tons of pain, basic things weren’t coming quickly.”

But Wesemyer still had a plan, and she still obsessed over volleyball—even when she couldn’t play, and even when she knew her prospects of having a career past Pinecrest began to dwindle. She’d write down goals in her journal: Walk again. Run a mile. She’d also use a marker to write down goals on her mirror. She’d spend time laying on the couch watching film.

Through it all, Wesemeyer managed to come back from her injury in four months—the doctors projected it to be a six month recovery—and because of that she’s in shape to play her entire senior season with the Lady Paladins. Pinecrest has goals to return to the postseason after just missing state last year, and with an 8-4 start under its belt the season is off to a strong start.

She’s even learning a new position as a setter and right-side hitter after playing in the middle in the past, and loving every moment.

“It’s kind of weird because there’s younger girls on this team and I’m listening to them, taking as much advice as I can, but I can’t get enough of it,” Wesmeyer said. “Volleyball is my release. I get my stress out and emotion out during it. It’s where I can forget about everything.”

To make amends, Wesemeyer hopes to use her senior year to lead other girls toward their goals of playing collegiately. She also plans on majoring in physical therapy in college so she can give back, much like those who helped her conquer her injury over the past few years.

That’s her new dream.

“I’m okay with knowing this is my final season,” Wesemeyer said. “This is my last chance to make a statement with these girls and honestly to prove myself.”