Through The Eyes

An Oakland Athletics site

My Return

By Libby Gentile

We’ve all watched games on TV and seen gruesome injuries that make us wince and cover our eyes.

Unfortunately, I was on the receiving end of one of those injuries in a moment that will be replayed in slow motion in my head forever.

In a desperate attempt to make a recovery move, I landed on my teammate’s foot, and my knee bent sideways instead of going forward.

Trust me, it hurt just as badly as it sounds.

Once I got sent in for tests, I found out I had torn my ACL, MCL, and severe bone bruises on both my femur and tibia. Having never sustained a serious injury before, I was devastated.

Relying on my faith, family, and teammates, I never would have been able to make it back – let alone return to playing at a high level – without my support system and trusting in God’s plan.

As difficult as this injury was to go through, it reminded me that I’m much more than a volleyball player.

I knew if I never stepped foot on the court again, I’d have my family, teammates, and an entire university at Oakland that would love me and support me through anything.

Staying close to home

Growing up with an identical twin, Abby and I had always done everything together. We played on the same teams in club volleyball and high school and went through the recruiting process together.

We initially committed to Jacksonville University, where we planned to play beach volleyball and indoor volleyball.

However, things didn’t go as planned.

The coach we both committed to left the program, which threw a wrench into things.

While it was far from an easy decision, I decommitted and decided to find a school closer to home in my home state of Michigan.

I was bummed that I wouldn’t be able to go to the same school as Abby and play volleyball together in college – just like we’d always imagined – but we went our separate ways knowing what would be best for our futures as student-athletes.

I’m extremely close to both my grandmother and mother, so staying in Michigan and being able to play my home games in front of them sounded amazing.

It was the family feel and connection to Oakland that led to me committing to play volleyball there, but little did I know the enormous impact and blessing this university and team would soon bring to my life.

Surrounded by love

The third game of my freshman season would turn out to be the most memorable game of my life in all the worst ways.

That’s when I went down with my knee injury.

Not only am I laying on the court in agonizing pain, but the entire arena is staring at me, so it’s obviously the last place I want to be.

But I’ll never forget our trainer, Jordan, kneeling down and telling me, “You’re going to walk off this court.”

I thought she was crazy.

I didn’t know the full extent of my injury, but I knew there was no way I was walking off the court.

Nevertheless, Jordan was persistent. She told me we’re going to walk off this court together, and sure enough, we did.

As I got to the trainer’s table on the side of the court, I had five or six bags of ice covering my leg, but all the pain and fear I was feeling in that moment disappeared for a brief moment in time.

Because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing unfold in the game.

When I left the game, we were playing Wright State and losing by a ridiculous score. We were down like 13-3 or something.

It was the third set, and we lost the first two, so it was looking like a sweep for Wright State.

Until it wasn’t.

The girls went on a run like I’d never seen before.

We ended up coming back and winning the set 38-36, which was outrageous and something I’ll likely never witness again.

There was a timeout during the match, and our senior and captain – the sweetest girl ever – brought the huddle to the trainer’s table around me, and the team rallied around my injury and said they’re going to win this thing for me.

Naturally, I bawled my eyes out.

We ended up losing the match 3-1, but I’ll never forget that set and how my girls fought back to win that set for me.

I’ve never felt more loved and a sense of belonging in my entire life.


As difficult as this injury was to go through, it reminded me that I'm much more than a volleyball player. I knew if I never stepped foot on the court again, I'd have my family, teammates, and an entire university at Oakland that would love me and support me through anything.

Guided by faith

Needless to say, rehabilitation after my injury was grueling. Truthfully, it may have been more mentally challenging than physically challenging at times.

I was heartbroken because I wasn’t able to play a sport I’ve loved and excelled at my entire life. Volleyball’s always been my thing, and in the blink of an eye, it was taken away from me.

That’s when I began to fully live my life through Christ, as walking in my faith has become the driving force behind my journey.

There’s a specific Bible verse that was especially helpful in my road to recovery that I reminded myself of constantly.

It’s Psalm 34:18, and it reads, “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.”

God knew I was hurt, but he was there for me every step of the way. I came to realize that he would see me through this journey and would not let me fail.

Jordan played a crucial role in my recovery. She pushed me to show up every day and dedicate myself to rehab. She believed in me even during my darkest moments when I doubted myself.

My family, including my fiancé, who was my boyfriend at the time, also provided unwavering support. They encouraged me to go the extra mile, pushing me to not only focus on rehab, but also on overall strength and conditioning.

Joy comes in the morning

With the support of my loved ones and my deepened faith, I made a triumphant return to the court in 2022. I embraced the opportunity to play with a newfound love and appreciation for the sport.

Receiving relentless support from my teammates only fueled my determination to make it back better than ever. Their encouragement and understanding played a significant role in my recovery.

Their presence reminded me that I was part of a university and team that loved me and wanted the best for me. It’s truly a family atmosphere at Oakland, and I’m so happy I decided to come here because there’s truly no place I’d rather be.

If there is anyone out there who is suffering right now like I was and going through tremendous pain and heartbreak, believe me when I tell you that it does get better.

There’s another verse from Psalms that says, “Weep may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning.”

Not only is there joy in the morning, but there is a lifetime of joy to look forward to.