When Kellie Morehouse steps onto the Xcel?Energy Center court Friday morning as a representative of Bemidji High School and its volleyball program the senior will officially reap the ultimate reward for her dedication to the sport and to her teammates.
"I'm counting the minutes," Morehouse said. "I'm very excited. This is the first time any volleyball team has made it to state. We're all excited and we'll be ready to play."
Morehouse, who shares the senior captain duties with Nicole McDonald and Jenna Sagedahl, gives her all on every point but that isn't unique on this team. In fact, playing that way is mandatory.
What makes Morehouse stand out is the brace on her knee.
"I was at a basketball camp in July in Bemidji and during a scrimmage I twisted and my knee gave out," Morehouse said. "I just thought I hyper extended it and I was hoping that it was just a strain."
An MRI, however, revealed a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
"When I found out the ACL was torn I was upset. I didn't think I'd be able to play volleyball my senior year," Morehouse said.
Morehouse, who also plays basketball and softball at BHS, was referred to Dr. Jason Caron in Bemidji and he gave the senior two options.
"I told Dr. Caron that I was a three-sport athlete and that volleyball was my favorite sport," she said. "Dr. Caron then gave me the choice of having surgery right away or trying to play volleyball. When he told me I couldn't hurt the knee any worse by trying to play I decided to give it a shot.
"And it turned out to be a good decision," Morehouse added.
Sagedahl said that Morehouse has inspired her teammates and have made them appreciate volleyball and the opportunity to the game.
"Any little injury we may have doesn't compare to Kellie's," Sagedahl said. "Kellie brings so much to the team. She is an inspiration because she puts it all on the court all the time. Kellie has shown that the sport can be taken away from us at any time and that the way to play the game is to never hold back."
BHS coach Teresa Colligan has made only one concession to Morehouse's injury.
"We don't play Kellie in the back row because you usually have to do more twisting in that position," Colligan said. "At the beginning we didn't know how far she could push herself but now I don't think anybody thinks about it. We are glad she can play and we don't dwell on it.
"And if Kellie is in pain I guarantee you that we won't hear about it," the coach added.
Morehouse has adjusted to the injury and to the brace and during the heat of the moment she forgets that she is injured.
"In the beginning of the season I was timid but now the knee is so strong that I don't even think about it," Morehouse said. "I don't think it's a problem. I can bend the knee like it is normal and I have confidence that it will hold up."
Morehouse's high school athletic career will end Nov. 17 when she has surgery to repair the ligament. The rehabilitation will take six months and she will sacrifice basketball and softball.
"I'm glad I stuck it out, postponed the surgery and gave volleyball a try," Morehouse said. "All of the work I put in to strengthen the knee for volleyball worked out.
"This could have been my worst year but it will turn out to be one of my best. We're playing in the state tournament!"