Injuries cut Torey Buenger’s career short, but she’ll always be a volleyball player

by Hunter Hillygus, Sports Editor

INDIANOLA, Iowa — For most college athletes, your playing days end after your four years of eligibility are up. For others like Torey Buenger, injuries halt their careers a bit sooner.

Buenger was entering her senior season as middle blocker and right side hitter for the Simpson volleyball team when a severe strain to her hitting and serving shoulder ended her volleyball career.

“I have been struggling with shoulder problems since my sophomore year, and during preseason this year, it reached the limit,” Buenger said in an email. “My shoulder that I hit and serve with has been overused from the 14 years that I’ve been playing volleyball and had gotten to the point of being strained. If I was to continue playing, it may have reached the point of tearing and needing surgery.”

As an athlete, your body tells you when you’ve had enough, though it’s difficult to listen to your body. The athlete’s mentality is to play through the pain and tough it out, but there comes a point where you’re doing more harm to your body, and that’s when it’s time to hang it up.

“As hard of a decision it was to make it was 100 percent my decision to stop playing. After each practice I was in so much pain and nothing seemed to give any relief. I talked to my parents about it, and they supported me with whatever I decided to do,” Buenger said.

When it’s time to call it quits, it helps to have a support system around you. Buenger has had just that. From her family, coaches and teammates, everyone in her life was supportive of her decision to quit playing and transition into the next phase of her life.

“I talked to my parents about it and they supported me with whatever I decided to do,” said Buenger. “When I told (head coach) Lana (Smith) that I wouldn’t be able to continue playing, she automatically said she still wants to keep me as involved as possible being my senior year. My teammates have been great at helping me adjust to the change. This team is very strong, and knowing that I would be leaving my position on the court to strong players was nice to know.”

The transition from player to manager hasn’t been all smooth, however. It’s hard to go from playing and being in the heat of the moment to holding a clipboard on the sidelines. The desire to play is still there for Buenger, but she is still as supportive as she can be from the bench.

“Being the student manager for the team, I still am at every practice and match, and every day I wish that I could be back out on the court. In the moment when you’re playing, it isn’t fun to be running and putting in all the work. But now being sidelined I would give anything to be able to play again,” she said.

Despite her playing days being cut short, volleyball will always be a part of Buenger’s life.

It’s something she’s held with her since she was a child, and a bond with a sport isn’t something that fades away easily.

“Volleyball will always be in my life. I can’t take something that I’ve been involved with for 14 years and cut it out completely. Whether I help coach or get to the point of being able to play again, I’ll have volleyball in my life.”