Freshman Kaili Rowland of the Matthew C. Perry Samurai has been battling a deep bone bruise since the fall, but has played on through the volleyball, basketball and soccer seasons without missing a game.

Freshman Kaili Rowland of the Matthew C. Perry Samurai has been battling a deep bone bruise since the fall, but has played on through the volleyball, basketball and soccer seasons without missing a game. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)

The painful reminders are there every day, in virtually everything Kaili Rowland does.

It begins the moment the Matthew C. Perry freshman wakes up and gingerly sets her right foot on the floor. It follows her through every class, then worsens when she takes the field for a soccer workout, just as it did during volleyball and basketball seasons. It really flares during games.

The ache governs her every move, making each step upfield a major undertaking, a few winces on her face completing a tableau of determination and pain.

Some might have sought advice from the nearest orthopedic surgeon. But that would take up precious time.

“It hurts, but I want to keep playing,” says Rowland, a three-sport standout. “I don’t want one injury to take me out of sports.”

The source of Rowland’s anguish is a deep bone bruise in her right ankle, suffered in October during a volleyball match.

“I went up for a spike, came down and rolled it,” she said.

Rather than hit the sideline, Rowland continued to play in pain, through the end of volleyball season. Three days after volleyball ended, basketball practices started. Basketball gave way to soccer in February.

“I just have a heart for playing sports,” Rowland said. “So I’m just going to keep going. Even if I have to stop, I’d rather be a team manager or something than not be involved at all.”

Rowland’s determination hasn’t gone unnoticed by Perry’s first-year soccer coach, Mark Lange, whose team was winless through its first six games this spring.

“She’s all heart. She’s an athlete,” said Lange, who also has Rowland as a student in his English class. “She works hard there, too. I’m lucky to have her on my team.”

A native of Grand Rapids, Mich., Rowland, whose first name is pronounced Kay-lee, has played soccer and basketball and run track and field since she was 9, encountering many bumps and bruises along the way.

Her father, Chief Warrant Officer 2nd Class Michael Rowland, was assigned to Iwakuni three years ago, and Kaili immediately became a fixture in Marine Corps Community Services youth programs, until joining the Perry athletic program last fall.

Perry endured a winless regular season in volleyball, and won just one of its nine matches in the Far East Class A tournament.

The Lady Samurai fared better in basketball. Despite having just five players available because of injuries and parental worries about security in South Korea, Perry made the Final Four of the Class A tournament.

“We had a lot of tough times,” Rowland recalled of an exhausting week, in which the team went 6-4, sometimes playing two games in a four-hour span. “Even with five players, I knew we could take fourth, but it took a lot of work.”

The adversity helped the Lady Samurai bond, and allowed Rowland to forget about her injury — at least for a while.

“It made us have more confidence in ourselves, and made us play stronger and harder than we had been,” she added.

Freshman Samantha Gingras, a team manager until forced into the lineup by the roster crisis, and now Rowland’s soccer teammate, said her resolve inspires the entire team.

“It proves that even if you have a little bruise, you see how Kaili goes all out with that much pain, that all of us can make it through,” Gingras said. “I’m glad to have her as a teammate.”

Whether Rowland can finish the soccer season, which culminates with Perry hosting the Class A tournament April 29-May 1, is uncertain. Following a weekend trip to Yokota for two matches, both losses, Rowland planned to visit a doctor to get her ankle evaluated.

Even if her worst fear is realized, that she may have damaged her ankle enough to require surgery, “one injury isn’t going to stop me, because I’ve had plenty.”

Ask Rowland what she would tell somebody else in her situation, and the answer might surprise you:

“I’d tell them not to keep going.”

Convincing herself is another matter entirely.

“I’m an all-out person. I know I’ll have to face consequences,” she said. “But it’s different if it’s somebody else who’s facing that. I’d tell them not to do what I’m doing, because they’d regret it.”

Call her courageous. Call her foolish. Lange says he’ll take Rowland’s attitude.

“Her effort rubs off on all the other players,” Lange said. “You watch. She’s going to be a big-time athlete.”

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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