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24 I SPORTS I April 11, 2018 WEST NEWSMAGAZINE @WESTNEWSMAG WESTNEWSMAGAZINE.COM Clayton Kruse returns to boys volleyball after recovering from back injury By WARREN MAYES De Smet Jesuit junior Clayton Kruse is back – and his back is fine, too. The 6-foot-6, 190-pound Kruse only played one boys volleyball match last season – the final match of the season. After starting as a freshman two years ago, he sat on the bench all last year with a fracture in his back. In February 2017, Kruse discovered that he had a small pars stress fracture in his lower back, but there was no point of trauma. “It was just an overuse injury from jumping, believe it or not,” Kruse said. “I had to get a custom fitted back brace and participate in physical therapy for three months. It was not a fun experience, to say the least. There were points where I couldn’t even bend over to tie my shoe.” That injury put a stop to a career that began with a solid freshman season. “He is the only freshman varsity starter I have had in my three years,” De Smet Jesuit coach Tim Haffner said. Kruse was pleased to earn a spot on varsity. “I came into my freshman year unsure of what to expect. It’s abnormal to have a freshman on the starting roster of a Final Four team,” Kruse said. He showed he could fit in and carry his fair share. “I believe that I played my part in what the team needed that year, but I wasn’t really an offensive threat,” Kruse said. “To put it into perspective, I had 60 kills total in my entire season, which I have already nearly surpassed this season. What really made my freshman season memorable was the upperclassmen on my team going crazy when I made a big play. Playing in the state semifinal match against Lafayette was also a really cool experience.” Those experiences made missing his sophomore season even more difficult. “It’s extremely tough sitting on the bench for an entire season when you know that you can’t step on the court until districts to help the team,” Kruse said. “There were a few times in the season where I pleaded with my coach to let me play one set.” He did make what turned out to be De Smet Jesuit’s final game of the 2017 campaign. It was good for him to play, Kruse said. “I think that the rest of the guys were hoping for me to be successful, too, as they were awaiting my return for playoffs after Clayton Kruse is back in action for the Spartans after a back injury derailed his sophomore season. a rough season,” Kruse said. With a clean bill of health, he said he didn’t do anything “too special” to get back on the court this season. He finished his club season in the summer and started a new one in October. He plays club volleyball nearly all year round. This season has begun well for Kruse. “He looks as good as expected,” Haffner said. “I see a lot of the guys during the club season so I knew coming into tryouts that he had returned to form and gotten better. I have not been disappointed.” His teammates also are glad Kruse has returned to playing. “The guys on the team know that he changes the makeup of the team pretty dramatically. In terms of wins and losses, it is easy to see the impact he has when he is on the court,” Haffner said. “But I think he adds a lot more that I don’t think he realizes or doesn’t want to admit. “He is not always super vocal in practice and games, but he leads by example. The rest of the guys see him working hard and emulate that. Plus, he is just fun. He has a good time. He loves playing volleyball.” A middle hitter and outside blocker, Kruse said he has been around the game for “a very, very long time, which has developed me into a strong all-around player with good court awareness and a high volleyball IQ.” “Clay makes it look easy,” Haffner said. “But his ability to cut around the block, read where the opponent’s setter is going, close out to a block quickly and make himself available for our setter every ball is not something that is easy to do. Clay just sees the game really well. It makes my job easier to not have to talk about some of the things he already just understands.” Timberwinds Has Class Join us for our FREE gardening classes Saturday, April 14, 11am Bonsai 101 Our instructor from the Bonsai Society of Greater St. Louis will demonstrate the basics of Bonsai. Saturday, April 21, 11am Oh Deer! Learn tips and techniques to manage these garden visitors: plant selections, repellents and more.. Seating is limited. To reserve your seat call 636-227-0095 or register online at timberwindsnursery.com/classes New Plants Arriving Daily Stop in to see our latest selection of trees, shrubs, perennials & annuals Plants - Trees - Pottery - Gift - Décor & More! 54 Clarkson Road, Ellisville, MO 63011 636.227.0095 Open 7 Days a Week timberwindsnursery.com ONE MONTH Gardens Victorian Resort Style Living • Spacious Luxury Apartments • Nutritious Chef Prepared Meals Health and Wellness Programs • Staff Led Exercises and Water Aerobics Fun Filled Activities • Complimentary Transportation VG FREE WITH 6 MONTH COMMITMENT Downsizing 101 April 26, 2018 • 11:00 am Goldilocks Solutions, LLC will teach about key principles of organization and decluttering for efficient living with style. 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