Jackie Silva, the winningest player in Women's Professional Volleyball Assn. history, will return to action this weekend at the Santa Cruz Open after missing eight recent tournaments.
"I can't sleep because I'm so nervous about the tournament," said Silva, who has been sidelined because of an injury to her right shoulder. "I wake up real early and go to the gym. I still have to do therapy forever, but it looks like I made it."
Silva competed in one tournament--the Fresno Open April 27--and played left-handed with partner Rita Crockett-Royster. The team was defeated in the second round by Alison Johnson and Julie Thorton, 15-13, after leading, 13-2.
Silva, a Redondo Beach resident, has been sidelined because of a loose capsule in her shoulder, an injury common among athletes who perform a lot of overhead motions. Her doctor, orthopedic surgeon Frank Jobe, ordered her to refrain from playing since the start of the tour April 6.
Silva has undergone intense physical therapy for the injury. She also worked with Pat Zartman, who has trained several of the tour's top players, to improve her conditioning.
Although she realizes it won't be easy, the former Brazilian Olympian feels she is ready to make a comeback.
Her partner in Santa Cruz will be Crockett-Royster, a silver medalist for the 1984 U.S. Olympic volleyball team who spends winters competing professionally in Italy. In 1989, Silva and Crockett-Royster won the World Championships in Santa Monica. This weekend they are seeded 23rd and will play 10th-seeded Alison Johnson and Gayle Stammer in their first match Saturday.
"The pressure is going to be there," Silva said. "I think they're going to play real hard against us. Saturday is going to be the worst. If we get past Saturday I think we'll be fine. I have good feeling about it. I really think we can do good."
WPVA President Linda Chisolm-Carrillo says most of the tour's players will be glad to have Silva back.
"The top players want to say they play against top players. They want to compete against the best and she has been the best," said Chisolm-Carrillo, Silva's partner in 1987 and 1988. "I'm not sure what Jackie's status is or what her condition is, but I know she's been working out real hard. They're going to be one of the top teams out there. It's going to be very competitive."
Silva is $1,845.50 away from being the first woman to earn $100,000 in prize money. She can do it by placing third or higher at the $40,000 Santa Cruz Open.
"I don't care about the money," Silva said. "I want more than to just come back. I want to be the best again."
And how long will that take?
"I don't know, but soon. . . . I hope," Silva said.