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ALBRIGHT: Mady Winters’ return accelerates Magnolia timelines

Mady Winters pulled it off. She fully rehabbed a torn ACL thus allowing her to return to various Magnolia sports teams early.

Sure, a knee brace protects the repaired joint, but it hardly slows her down. Amid the flashy smiles in numerous practices, her new moves show off an improved athlete hungry for more success.

Pivots and rolls to the basket are smoother. Jumps up to the net are higher.

The basketball still finds the bottom of the net when she shoots it. Volleyballs still viciously smack off the floor past opponents after she spikes them. Shot puts and disks still fly far after she flings them.

In other words, all systems are a go.

Just in case this isn’t exciting enough, much of her workout routine changed for the better, too.

She’s far stronger and at least 20 pounds lighter.

“People really are going to be surprised by her athletic ability. She is going to be a whole lot better than she was,” brother Mark Winters said.

Considering where she ended her sophomore season, those should be scary words. Not many people go down to the Charleston Civic Center and drop 45 points in a state tournament game in today’s age of available game film for opposing coaches. Almost as few people score 1,000 points by the end of their sophomore season and fewer still own her knowledge of volleyball and the throws.

Then you factor in this is her senior season. An inability for a mulligan creates a sense of urgency. Any one thing could be the last of her high school career, which really is another frightening proposition in and of itself.

All of this is why her return accelerates several MHS sports timelines by a full year.

To get a player of her caliber back is largely like winning the power ball. It starts with her physical gifts, but her new view of the game from a mental standpoint changes things even faster. What she understands now makes her far more valuable from a coaches’ perspective. Now someone out on the floor can make suggestions in the middle of games or sets and her teammates trust what she says.

There’s already universal agreement among her coaches that simply her presence makes everyone calmer.

“I think it truly helps our teams. She is a senior with playoff experience and having her back gives our other players comfort,” Magnolia volleyball coach Pam Chapman said.

Yeah, yeah she hasn’t even been on the floor with her teammates during real game action, yet. But ventures into the unknown aren’t something new to her. If there is one example that demonstrates how well she responds to adversity, the immediate success in basketball, despite limited experience, does.

Pointing all this out isn’t meant to brand her a savior. No one deserves to carry that burden. Her strong flair for the moment makes it hard to think she won’t come through in crunch time, though.

Assuming everything goes as planned with the COVID-19 plans, she doesn’t have long to wait before the games start to count.

When they do mean something, Winters gets the tough ones out of the way in a hurry. Her chance to erase the tears she shed over not being able to help Magnolia volleyball in a regional final against Ritchie County last season begins in earnest. But she doesn’t have to worry about just being a coach this season, her voice on the front line alongside Tyler Consolidated transfer Victoria Hood and other height gives the Blue Eagles reason to think they can reclaim the Class A crown.

Basketball’s not much farther away after that and track and field follows along in the spring.

It is not going to be easy. It was never going to be. Her past success made sure of that. But Magnolia volleyball begins their season with a realistic shot to win back what they believe is their state title. They were close before Winters began her rehab. It is due to her perseverance to get back on the court that they are closer now.

“I am looking for four state championship trophies and I am excited for a fresh start,” Mady Winters said.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.

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