On a partially opened section of bleachers at the Antelope Valley College gym, Shelly Montanez sits and jots the score of an intrasquad practice match by the Marauder women’s volleyball team.
A right-hander, she struggles to write with her left hand while her right hand, the one in a cast to protect a broken wrist, holds the pad in place.
This is not how Montanez, 29, envisioned her return to junior college volleyball after a nine-year absence. But then again, a few months ago she wasn’t even thinking about playing.
“It was kind of an afterthought,” said Montanez, a former star at Royal High. “I do things on the spur of the moment.”
The seed that led Montanez back to competitive volleyball was planted over the summer when she tried to enroll in a volleyball class at the school and was told the course was open only to those wanting to try out for the team.
So, although she spent most of her time the past few years chasing her three daughters instead of errant passes, Montanez agreed to the terms for the sake of joining the class. The idea of actually making the team hardly crossed her mind.
“I really wasn’t sure if I wanted to play, but Coach (Jane) Cwayna and my friends pushed me toward playing,” Montanez said.
In her high school days, when she was known as Shelly Dawson and excelled in three sports at Royal, there was no question about her playing. Whether it was softball, basketball or volleyball, Montanez wanted to be involved. Volleyball was her favorite.
As an outside hitter, the position she’ll play with the Marauders when she returns, Montanez led the Highlanders to the Southern Section 2-A Division final in 1981, her senior season. She repeated that season as the Marmonte League most valuable player.
After graduating, Montanez attended San Diego State briefly and did not play volleyball. She enrolled at San Diego Mesa in 1984 and played one season before leaving to raise a family, living the last 2 1/2 years in Palmdale.
“I started working and making money (while in college) and that was definitely more appealing to me than school,” she said. “The last four or five years, I was home, being a mom.”
Montanez was surprised to make the team, but Cwayna says Montanez fits well on the sophomore-laden team.
“I think she can make a contribution to our team when she gets back,” Cwayna said. “She has pretty good hands.”
Montanez suffered a broken wrist in a scrimmage on Sept. 11 and has been sidelined since.
“This is the first time I’ve hurt myself in competition,” Montanez said. “My feet were tangled with another player’s and I tripped. I broke the wrist trying to break the fall. I played three more games after I did it, but it hurt pretty bad.”
The inactivity has made a spectator of Montanez, who admits she doesn’t miss practice.
“I’m not crazy about practicing every day,” she said. “The most difficult thing has been getting into shape.”
Overall, Montanez says returning to competitive volleyball has been a good experience.
“Most people don’t go back and play sports in college after 10 years,” Montanez said. “I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would. It’s been a nice surprise.”