“I tried to run a little bit and touch the ball a little bit, but it wasn’t the same as being with my volleyball team.”
The stands are empty for the opening scrimmage of Savannah State’s volleyball season, but senior Liz Ortiz provides enough energy for a whole crowd.
“It has been a long time since we touched a ball,” Ortiz said. “We’re excited that we’re back on the court.”
For Ortiz, its been a longer time away than most: two full seasons to be exact.
“Maybe it wasn’t meant for her to play for me as much as I wanted her to,” said coach Roselidah Obunaga.
“The last practice that I had, I remember really good (sic),” Ortiz said. “It was a bad practice and we just went to grab food after to feel better.”
That was in September of 2019, just before Hurricane Dorian forced the evacuation of Savannah State’s campus.
Ortiz was going home with her teammate and roommate Karissa Tatum.
“One hour past when we got on the highway, we were in a car accident,” Ortiz said. “I lost consciousness for a little bit and I woke up when we were being dragged out of the car.”
Ortiz survived the crash, but Tatum died from her injuries.
“When everything happened, I was the first person to be called and then I had to call the parents,” Obunaga said. “And then I spent the night at the hospital with Liz.”
The physical injuries were no worse than a bruised rib and a concussion, but the psychological trauma didn’t fade so quickly.
“We tried to distract so that she’s not thinking about what happened to her as an accident,” Obunaga said. “I encouraged her to keep talking to her family members.”
“Its been kind of a situation that I need to accept,” Ortiz said. “I think I’m in the process of now accepting that I’m not going to have a senior season.”
She will play in four spring matches, though; four chances to finally get some closure.
“Seeing that my techniques are still there, I still have the movements that I need, I still can hustle for the ball,” Ortiz said. “It was definitely a good healing process. I still can do it, I just need to enjoy it as much as I can.”