Injuries teach Jennie Frager love lesson

By Walter Villa

Jennie Frager’s life last year felt like it belonged on the ABC series “Wipeout.”

“I’d be really good on that show,” Frager said.

The 6-foot-5 junior middle blocker at Torrey Pines (San Diego, Calif.), suffered two serious injuries last season while playing club ball for Wave Volleyball Club.

During an intrasquad scrimmage in March, Frager, 17, came down on an opponent’s foot on a play at the net and tore three ligaments in her right ankle.

She returned to action three months later, but her comeback lasted just two weeks. During a practice drill in which she was to jump on and off a 3-foot high wooden box, disaster struck.

“I mis-footed it and wiped out,” Frager said. “It was pretty embarrassing.”

Frager said her teammates -- not knowing the severity of her injury -- initially laughed. Frager laughed, too, got back up and went to pass a ball when she felt intense pain.

She had torn ligaments in her elbow and needed surgery, which sidelined her for three more months.

Frager returned in October -- she said she felt so rusty “it was like I had never played volleyball before” -- and helped Torrey Pines win its CIF section.

But it is only recently that she started to feel like her old self.

“Last year was a bummer,” Frager said. “I’d never been hurt before. I guess I figured I’d get it all over in one year.”

Frager said missing the Junior Olympics in Atlanta was the low point, but her time away from her sport did bring some clarity to her life.

“I realized how much I love the game and how much I missed it,” she said. “I know I’m lucky to get the chance to play volleyball.”

With a scholarship to national champion UCLA secured -- she committed to the Bruins in March of 2010 -- Frager figures to have several more years of volleyball ahead of her.

Frager, who has a 3.9 GPA, said her parents, both of whom are USC graduates, “encouraged” her to check out the Trojans’ program. Frager also has a cousin who plays water polo for the Trojans.

But Frager visited UCLA first and fell in love with the campus, coaches and players. She then toured Cal, Stanford and USC, but her first choice was always the Bruins.

Ed Machado, the director of Wave Volleyball, and Jeanne Reeves, who coaches Frager in club ball, had no qualms with their star player’s choice of universities.

Machado was on the Bruins’ first two national title teams (1970, ’71). Reeves, who was an All-American for the Bruins, was also an assistant coach on the 1990 and 1991 UCLA teams that won national titles.

Machado, who has been working with Frager since she was 12 years old, said she’s made great improvement.

“She was already 6-foot tall at age 12,” Machado said. “It took time for her to grow into her body. It’s started to come together for her in the past two or three years.

“With those long arms and legs, she is dominant at the net, and she moves fairly well for a 6-5 girl. She can serve, pass and is not afraid to hit the floor.”

Wave of talent

Four former Wave players competed in this past season’s Division I women’s volleyball Final Four: Kelly Reeves (daughter of Jeanne Reeves) and Karsta Lowe from UCLA and Natalie Hagglund and Katie Fuller for USC.

This year’s Wave 17-Jeanne team figures to be similarly loaded with Frager and 5-8 libero Maddy Kerr leading the way. Kerr, the daughter of former NBA standout Steve Kerr, has committed to Cal.

Also on the team are 5-10 setter Ryann Chandler, who has committed to Pepperdine and is the daughter of former NFL quarterback Chris Chandler; 6-0 outside hitter Madison Dutra, who has committed to Santa Clara; and 6-1 middle Alexis Salmons, who has committed to St. Mary’s and is the daughter of 1984 U.S. Olympic volleyball standout and gold medalist Steve Salmons.

The team would have had another standout in Reily Buechler, but the daughter of former NBA player Jud Buechler is likely out for the season due to a shoulder injury.

Frager, who said the team’s goal is to win this year’s Junior Olympics, said she has spoken to Buechler about her injury.

“I’ve tried to talk her through it,” Frager said. “I know how hard it can be on you when you are injured. But I try to be there for her for support.”