Kentwood volleyball phenom Fairchild is back for one night only

A biting sense of humor pulled her through. Because during even the most difficult of times in what was supposed to be the finest volleyball season of her already strong prep career, Alison Fairchild always had that on which to fall back. Even when she couldn’t fall back on the one thing she once unknowingly counted on the most: her left knee.

  • BY Wire Service
  • Friday, July 18, 2008 6:20pm
  • Sports
Kentwood product Alison Fairchild lost more than a year of playing time after sustaining a major knee injury in May 2007. Though she’s not quite 100 percent and missed her entire senior season

Kentwood product Alison Fairchild lost more than a year of playing time after sustaining a major knee injury in May 2007. Though she’s not quite 100 percent and missed her entire senior season

She lost her senior season to a knee injury. Now, Kentwood product Alison Fairchild is returning for one last day of prep competition at today’s All-State volleyball series

A biting sense of humor pulled her through.

Because during even the most difficult of times in what was supposed to be the finest volleyball season of her already strong prep career, Alison Fairchild always had that on which to fall back.

Even when she couldn’t fall back on the one thing she once unknowingly counted on the most: her left knee.

A little more than a year ago while playing at the Emerald City Classic with her Kent Juniors volleyball team, it was that left knee that gave out on Fairchild, a Kentwood High graduate who will play at Western Washington University in the fall.

“It was me being stupid,” admits Fairchild, 18, who lists her favorite movie as “Anchorman” with Will Ferrill and her favorite book as the dictionary, sections “B” and “S”. “I went up for a hit, came down and landed on one foot. It just snapped out from under me.”

Snapped out might just be the mild description of the year.

Though the injury stole her senior season, it did not take away the final match of Fairchild’s prep career. That will come on tonight during the 23rd annual All-State series at Fife High School. Despite missing the entire school year, Fairchild still was named to the all-state team in mid-April.

She admitted it’s an honor, to say the least. And an opportunity for a second chance.

“I am hoping to play a little. I haven’t played much in a year and I am very excited,” said Fairchild, who had a staple removed from her injured knee in mid-June. “I didn’t think I’d make the team. When I got hurt, I was like, ‘I am never going to do anything for high school ever again.”

Tahoma’s Kaytlyn Aust is the only other local player who will compete in the match.

One step at a time

For Fairchild, it will be as much about stepping onto the court again as it will be as taking another step toward recovery, a road that hasn’t gone as smoothly as she would’ve liked the last several months.

The injury not only cut out Fairchild’s legs from underneath her, but stole the senior season from Kentwood’s middle blocker/outside hitter. The unorthodox landing resulted in a torn ACL and MCL. In addition, upon trying to get to her feet after falling, Fairchild also fractured her leg.

“It was a lot of fun,” deadpanned Fairchild, who’s never at a loss for words and routinely can reply to virtually any question with a sarcastic quip. “I was still in great hope (that I could play in the fall).

“But when the doctor touched my knee,” Fairchild said, “I couldn’t handle it.

“My leg was just dangling there, being held on by skin.”

So Fairchild, a first-team all-league selection as a junior, had to spend her senior year watching while Kentwood cruised to the South Puget Sound League North Division title. Won a district championship. And took third at the state tournament, the program’s best placing since 1987, all the while finishing with a 35-1 overall record.

“It put a hole in our team where we didn’t think we’d have one,” Kentwood coach Bil Caillier lamented.

Would Fairchild have been enough to overcome Lewis & Clark in the state semifinals, a match the Conquerors lost by just two points in the fifth and deciding game?

“It’s hard to quantify that,” Caillier said. “After we lost to Lewis & Clark by two points in the final game, I turned to Alison and said, ‘What do you think, you think you’re good enough to give us two points?’”

Despite the injury, Fairchild remained “invaluable” to the Kentwood team, Caillier noted, showing up for every game, match and tournament and lending a hand anywhere she was needed as the team’s manager.

In fact, there probably wasn’t a better stat taker in the league.

“I talked to (Cailler) before I ever went to the doctor and I told him, even if I couldn’t play, I’d manage,” Fairchild said. “I think he was a little disappointed. (But) he loves to have me around, he can’t deny that.”

All along, Fairchild used her unique sense of humor to keep her spirits afloat.

“(My sense of humor) made it look like I was up when I was down,” she said. “It was really hard. No athlete wants to sit on the bench and take stats for a team you should be playing for.”

Some doors shut, another opens

Before blowing out her knee, Fairchild was being recruited to play college volleyball by the University of Idaho, Washington and Cal Berkeley, among others.

And after the injury?

“After I was hurt, I had no one,” she said. “I went to top of the line to the bottom. And then Western came along.”

Western actually had been in contact with Fairchild since her sophomore season. And even post-injury, the Vikings still wanted the Kentwood standout to be part of their program.

“From my perspective, a significant injury like this can ultimately heal, but it is revealing of a person’s character, too,” said Western Washington volleyball coach Diane Fick, whose team is coming off its finest season in school history after going 26-5 and winning the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championship. “Alison did everything she could to be involved with her team and contribute, which impressed me a lot.”

It still might be a while before Fairchild is able to contribute as much as she once did for Kentwood, when she routinely racked up 8 to 10 kills per game her junior season. That said, going to a school that will welcome her with open arms — bum knee or not — is nice to have after a lost senior season.

“When I go to Western, they’ll still need to work with me because I can barely even jump right now,” said Fairchild, who fittingly is considering a career in physical therapy and will be on a partial scholarship with the Vikings. “They’re going to have to put a lot of time into me and I don’t think a lot of coaches wanted to do that.”

Of course, with Fairchild, that additional work can always bring a smile.

“Sarcasm runs deep here, and Alison will fit in very nicely with this group,” Fick said.

Erick Walker can be reached at 425-432-1435 or ewalker@reporternewspapers.com.


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