It’s safe to say that Alexandria Wilson’s heart is stronger than her knees.
The Greenbrier senior is finally back on the volleyball court after two brutal knee injuries costed her about half of her high school athletic career. Wilson, who also goes by Alie, suffered both injuries playing basketball for the Lady Bobcats.
“We’re really glad to have her back,” Greenbrier volleyball coach Kayla Grogan said, fighting back tears. “She’s got a really big heart. Her athletic ability is great, but also her presence alone – she’s a great kid.”
Even after tearing the anterior cruciate ligaments (ACLs) in each knee, Wilson was determined to play again. She didn’t want to live with any regrets.
“That’s why I came back,” she said. “I knew if I didn’t (return), I would always regret it.”
If Wilson had quit (and she certainly thought about it), her Greenbrier coaches and teammates would have understood. Few athletes return after shredding both knees. Doctors even told Wilson at one point that she might have trouble walking correctly.
“It taught me a lot of patience and strength,” she said. “I had to believe in myself. I had other people, but ultimately, it’s my body and my head.”
Wilson’s first injury was graphic, to put it nicely. During a freshman basketball game at Westmoreland on January 31, 2017, she fell and looked down to find her kneecap stuck in the middle of her shin. Every ligament in her left knee was torn.
“I looked down, saw it and started freaking out,” she said.
Wilson underwent surgery six weeks later and spent months rehabbing at STAR Physical Therapy in Springfield. She missed the rest of her freshman basketball season and her sophomore volleyball season.
She returned to basketball for District 9-AA play in December 2017. Wilson made it through the 2018 volleyball season without incident.
However, four days before Greenbrier began its 2018-19 basketball campaign, Wilson suffered her second injury in a scrimmage. She pushed off her right leg on a left-handed layup and felt a pop.
Wilson was all too familiar with that sound. This time, the ligaments in her right knee were torn.
“I think I was compensating for (the weaker left knee),” she said. “I didn’t really trust myself, mentally. The first one was so severe. I didn’t want to get hurt again.”
That put Wilson on the shelf for another eight months. While the first injury was physically worse, the second injury shattered her confidence.
But Wilson got plenty of support from her parents (Steven and Rachel Wilson), teammates and coaches. Former Greenbrier girls basketball coach Carl Miller, now at White House Heritage, was instrumental in Wilson’s return.
“The second time, I really didn’t want to come back,” Wilson said. “But (Coach Miller) believed in me. I wanted to play for him. He’s like a father figure in my life, other than my dad.”
She rehabbed at STAR Physical Therapy in Greenbrier and was cleared for the start of volleyball practice July 8. She plans to play basketball once volleyball ends later this fall.
“I feel the same, but I know that I’m not,” she said. “I have to readjust and do things differently. I used to be faster and be able to jump higher. Going to the bottom and trying to work back up has been hard.”
Wilson still wears a sports brace on her right knee and may have to wear braces on both knees for basketball season. But the braces have yet to slow her down.
“You would think that she would be terrified to go out there and do anything,” Grogan said. “Volleyball is a lot of up-and-down movements, diving, falling on the ground. But she still goes 100 percent in practice and games. She gives it her all.”
Wilson’s emergency room trips and doctor visits haven’t scared her away from a career in the medical field. She plans to take a pre-med track in college and eventually wants to work in a Neonatal intensive care unit.
Until then, Wilson has an athletic career to finish. She hopes her comeback story leaves an impression on future Greenbrier athletes. The injuries damaged her knees, but her heart for the team never changed.
“I want to leave a legacy for the girls behind me,” she said. “I want them to know that literally no matter what comes your way, you can always do something (for the team). Even if you can’t play, you can still be a great teammate.”