Volleyball preview: Falcon faces fear at Prairie

Scarred by horse-riding accident, Prairie junior returns to play volleyball

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter



For a little while after the accident, Carissa Campbell was apprehensive about being seen in public.

She got over it.

Today, the scars on her face are just part of who she has become, evidence of a difficult ordeal. But they also are a reminder of how she dealt with the pain, inside and out.

Volleyball Preview


Annie Baker, sr., La Center; Taylor Barrus, sr., Skyview; Treneisha Doyle, sr., Hudson’s Bay; Megan LaFond, so., Union; Brindl Langley, jr., Camas; Nicolette Nesbitt, so., Woodland; Katie Pagel, sr., Prairie; Korrie Stephenson, jr., Ridgefield; Katie Trimble, sr., Columbia River; Taylor VanValey, sr., Hockinson.


4A Greater St. Helens League: Skyview has a new coach, but expectations are the same. Storm haven’t lost a league match in years and will be the team to beat until some team actually accomplishes that feat. ... The Union Titans believe they have a team that can challenge Skyview for the top spot. ... Heritage is always in the mix, and always seems better as the season progresses. Battle Ground and Evergreen are looking to improve, as well.

3A Greater St. Helens League: The Prairie Falcons opened the year ranked third in the state by the Seattle Times. They remain in the top 10, while Camas and Columbia River are “bubble” teams just outside the top 10. Camas, though, is in a re-load mode after years of success. The Chieftains believe they are on the rise. A year ago, the rest of the league finished Kelso, Mountain View, Hudson’s Bay, Fort Vancouver.

2A Greater St. Helens League: Usually a competitive league, last year’s champion (R.A. Long) lost three league matches. Mark Morris, Woodland, and Hockinson followed, each a game behind the team ahead of it. Yeah, that’s close. Mark Morris returns six players. Woodland had a strong showing at district last year. And one coach believes Hockinson, with height, talent, and experience, is the team to beat this season.

Trico League: Ridgefield finished one match behind champion Castle Rock last year. The Spudders’ goal is to make it to state and compete with the best in Washington. Stevenson finished fourth in the league a year ago and has quality talent returning. La Center is looking to improve on its 6-8 league record.

Class B: Seton Catholic and King’s Way Christian both reached the 1B state tournament last season and won first-round matches. King’s Way went on to place seventh. From early season reports, Seton Catholic looks primed to make another deep run. King’s Way has a new coach in Josh Armstrong.

Two years ago, when Campbell was a freshman at Prairie High School, a horse riding accident left her with more than 80 stitches on her nose and left side of her face. Within a week, she was back with the freshman volleyball team, cheering from the bench. By three weeks, she returned to practice. A month later, she played again.

The next year, Campbell was playing for the varsity team, earning a starting position.

She could have opted for plastic surgery, but it would have taken her away from an already hectic schedule of year-round volleyball and barrel racing.

“I just decided I didn’t have time for it,” Campbell said.

She does not regret that decision.

“All of my friends adjusted to it. I learned to adjust to it. It’s just part of me now,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine myself without my scars anymore. I like them. They are a part of me.”

So is volleyball. Now a junior, Campbell has moved from right-side hitter to the middle for the Falcons. Once again, she is adjusting to something different. Her coach says Campbell is the perfect person to make such a transition.

“She’s a great team player, she has a great sense of humor, and she demands perfection of herself,” Andrea Doerfler said.

No one can question Campbell’s toughness.

She was riding “Stormy” when he bucked her off and sent Campbell face-first into a fence post two years ago this month.

“I didn’t know anything was wrong with me. I’d fallen off of horses before,” said Campbell, who has been riding since she was a baby. “I got up and then my sister saw me and said, ‘Lay back down.’ I had adrenaline so I didn’t feel it. Then I started seeing blood. That kind of scared me.”

While her face looked nasty, Campbell is proud to say the wooden fence post got the worst of the deal.

“I broke it,” she said with a laugh.

The three weeks she spent away from volleyball was agony. She did not like being a spectator.

“I took a week off of school because everything was not looking pretty,” Campbell recalled.

Her first time out in public was to watch her teammates play in a match.

“I guess I was embarrassed,” she said. “Everyone had sympathy for me. I was really self-conscience about it.”

“It was heart-breaking,” said Tori Porter, another Prairie volleyball player who has been close friends with Campbell for years. Porter and her teammates were there for her, trying whatever they could “to make everything better.”

“Her whole team was so amazing,” said Carrie Campbell, Carissa’s mom. “I couldn’t have asked for more support than what she got. I’ve been so impressed with everyone around her.”

Mom, obviously, is impressed with Carissa, too.

“She’s dealt with it better than I would have expected,” Carrie Campbell said, referring to a then-14-year-old girl with fresh scars on her face. “She is one tough kid.”

Carissa Campbell quickly realized that her friends would still accept her. The next thing she wanted was to return to the court.

“I kept bugging (my doctor) for a note so I could start practicing again,” she said. “I had to be super careful.”

In matches, it is not unusual for volleyballs to be spiked into a player’s face. In practice, with multiple balls in the air at the same time depending on the drill, there is even more opportunity to get smacked in the face.

“I get hit almost every practice,” Campbell said.

She remembered the first time she got hit after the accident.

“It scared me. I was worried it was going to open again,” she said. “Nope. Everything is good.”

In fact, in a making-lemonade-out-of-lemons moment, Campbell said there is at least one benefit to the accident: She lost some feeling to the left side of her face, so it doesn’t sting when the ball hits her there.

This season, Campbell is hoping her experience will make her an even better player.

“We’re going to state this year, no doubt about that,” she said. “We’re looking really good, with the bond that everyone has.”

Campbell also got past a personal hurdle recently when, for the first time since the accident, she rode in the arena where she was injured. That repaired post was there.

“I’m going to sign my name on it,” Campbell said.

The post needed repairing.

Campbell just needed time to heal, and then got right back on the horse, right back on the volleyball court, right back on with her life.