In May of her freshman season, Monet Stuckey-Willis started to have pains in the lower right side of her back.
One month later, the now-sophomore was diagnosed with a stress fracture, sidelining her for the Owls’ fall season.
“It was really frustrating that I couldn’t play,” Stuckey-Willis said. “And watching everybody, it felt like a setback.”
During Stuckey-Willis’ freshman season as an Owl, she posted a 19-7 singles record, which tied for the third-best by a freshman in school history with teammate Alina Abdurakhimova. Her 16-6 record in doubles also ranked fourth-best by a Temple freshman.
From the summer until the second week of February, Stuckey-Willis visited with trainers Kendall Stewart and Ricker Adkins every day and did rehab three times a week.
“We’ve been going easy right now,” coach Steve Mauro said about how they have worked Stuckey-Willis back into the lineup. “We talk to the trainer, we get weekly reports about how much she can do or how much she can’t do. And we kind of leave it up to the training staff and the medical staff to let us know how much she’s able to hit.”
Stuckey-Willis said she still has pain in her lower back but she’s “learned how to push through it,” during the spring season. She added she’s at about 85 percent now and hopes to finish the year strong after coming off an injury.
“I think [Stuckey-Willis] is doing a good job, honestly,” junior Anais Nussaume said. “I’ve stopped [playing] tennis for three months and getting back is tough. You see everybody playing well and you have to double the effort and she’s been doing that a lot, and that’s because she really loves tennis and that’s great.”
Nussaume, who posted a 7-3 record as Stuckey-Willis’s doubles partner her freshman year, said Stuckey-Willis’ powerful stroke led to their success as a tandem.
“How we played is she would always be at the baseline, and I would always play at the net,” Nussaume said. “So since she hits really hard, the girls will always struggle at one point to hit their clear shot and that will always give me a really nice opportunity to just finish at the net.”
Mauro said the sophomore’s power is the strongest aspect of her game.
“[Stuckey-Willis] is a very powerful hitter,” Mauro said. “She can hit winners from any spot on the court. … She plays a very powerful game, she’s a very attacking player.”
Since returning during the spring season, Stuckey-Willis is 2-3 in singles and is 1-3 in doubles with two different partners.
“Compared to my freshmen year you can see the difference,” Stuckey-Willis said. “I’m not really satisfied.”
At this time in 2015, Stuckey-Willis was 15-6 in singles and 12-5 in doubles as a freshmen with the Owls.
Even though Stuckey-Willis hasn’t performed up to her full potential, Mauro said the sophomore will overcome this back injury and return to her dominant self this season.
“I think it’s coming back,” Mauro said about Stuckey-Willis’ progress on the court since returning from her back injury. “Every once in awhile [Stuckey-Willis] plays unbelievable tennis but I think she’s still rusty, especially the style of game that she plays. She really needs to be on. I’m very optimistic that she’ll finish with a strong season.”
Tom Ignudo can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Ignudo5.