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Undaunted Dunn: Clarion-Limestone Senior Continues Strong Volleyball Play Despite Devastating Knee Injury

STRATTANVILLE, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Kendall Dunn was in denial.

She knew exactly what that popping sound meant. She knew exactly what the pain emanating from her right knee was telling her.

The Clarion-Limestone senior didn’t want to admit it.

When Dunn, a standout setter on the Lions’ volleyball team and a three-sport star at the school, received the sobering confirmation that she had suffered a complete tear of the ACL in just the second match of her senior season, she was surprisingly stoic.

“I didn’t cry,” she said. “I never really cried. Not at all, which is surprising. I was just in shock and it was kind of painful.”

It was hard for Dunn to believe because the injury happened on what was just an ordinary, mundane volleyball play.

She jumped at the net to make a block attempt, but when she landed, her right knee buckled.

Deep down, she knew right away it was serious.

“I felt the pop,” she said. “They say when you do it you always feel that pop, but I didn’t want to accept the fact that it was torn. Me and my coach made eye contact and it was like, ‘There’s now way I’m coming back into this game.’”

Clarion-Limestone High School sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Redbank Chevrolet and DuBrook.


Dunn, though, was determined not to miss out on her final high school volleyball season.

No matter what it took.

Initially, she figured there was nothing she could do. She thought a torn ACL was a death sentence to her season. But then she found out Clarion-Limestone classmate Ryan Hummell was playing football at Central Clarion with his own torn ACL — and playing well — and decided she was going to give it a try, too.

“I never really knew you could play without your ACL,” Dunn said. “I thought it was kind of weird. Oh my gosh, you can play with a torn ACL?”

In an odd way, having a complete tear and no other structural damage turned out to be a blessing.

It allowed her to put off surgery so she could finish out her senior campaign.

“I knew that I wanted to get back out there because the people who I’ve been playing with now, I’ve known them for so long,” Dunn said. “I just wanted to finish my senior year out with the people who I love.”

Dunn consulted with Dr. Justin Arner, a orthopedic surgeon and partner at Burke and Bradley Orthopedics at UPMC St. Margaret Hospital in Pittsburgh. Arner, a 2005 Clarion Area High School graduate, gave Dunn the green light to try to play with the injury.

Dunn did miss eight matches while she waited for the swelling to go down and to rehab the muscles around the injury to support her damaged knee. She returned last week and has picked up right where she left off.

She had 39 assists and 10 kills in a four-set win over A-C Valley in her return to action.

Dunn did have a scare in that match when she crumpled to the court with pain in her right knee.

“I’m completely fine with no ACL just walking around the school, but I have that brace on,” Dunn said. “It’s kind of weird when you tweak it because it’s a different type of pain. It’s just really scary when you do it at first. But you get used to it.”

The mental hurdle was also something Dunn didn’t expect would be so difficult to clear.

When she returned to the court, she found she was playing timid. Her injury was never far from her mind.

She had to make the decision to ignore those fears.

It took awhile. Dunn admitted she was concerned jumping for a block because that was how she suffered the injury. It took her a few successful leaps to put her mind at ease.

Now, she plays with the same abandon she always has.

“I’m very proud of myself,” Dunn said. “I’m glad I could get to this point in my life, to be mentally strong and get my knee stronger than ever. And just the support of the team in whatever I do has been great. They make it happen.”

County Clarion-Limestone coach Ryan Troupe among those impressed with how Dunn has performed since returning.

“She has the heart of a lion,” Troupe said. “She’s got to fight. She has to keep going. I don’t think there was a second that Kendall ever thought she wouldn’t try to come back. The day after she went down, she was like, ‘I want to be back for Senior Night,’ and she was back well before that.”

Even during the time she was out, Dunn was on the bench, serving almost like another assistant coach. She helped Kaylee Smith, her cousin, fill her shoes during her absence.

“Her leadership is undeniable,” Troupe said. “There’s never a moment when I’m not proud of that kid.”

Dunn had to make another very difficult decision.

Also a star on the basketball court in the winter, as well as on the softball diamond in the spring, Dunn has decided to undergo surgery in early January.

“It was very hard,” Dunn said. “But I know what I’m doing.”

She wants to play volleyball in college next fall. To do that, she has to be healthy.

Dunn doesn’t know where she will be playing in college yet.

She’s happy she is still playing for Clarion-Limestone now.

“I feel like I have no limitations,” Dunn said. “I feel like I’m playing like myself. I’m just going out and going at it. I just feel fortunate. Everyone has been so supportive of me being able to finish out my senior year. I just couldn’t image only playing one game of my senior year of volleyball and then just have that be it. I’m glad that I have a little bit of a backstory with my journey of tearing my ACL and getting a few more games under my belt with the team that I love.”

Clarion-Limestone Area High School sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Redbank Chevrolet and DuBrook.