Hannah Thompson's back hurts when she plays volleyball. But that doesn't stop the Pekin junior outside hitter from inflicting pain on opponents.
"I just suck it up and play through it," Thompson said about her back issues.
Two stress fractures in her back forced a six-week shutdown from volleyball after the end of last season. A combination of stretches, exercises and a back brace keeps her mobile.
"I'd say I'm about 65 percent healthy," she said.
Thompson at 65 percent is as good as most other prep volleyball players at 100 percent. She was an All-Mid-Illini Conference and All-State honorable mention selection last season.
It was a great season for Pekin. The Lady Dragons finished 22-14, tying a team record for wins in a year established in 2000. Their 8-6 record in the Mid-Illini Conference was the best since Pekin joined in the conference in 2006.
Bloomington beat Pekin 25-15, 25-14 in the Class 4A Pekin Regional championship match. Had the Lady Dragons won, it would have been their first regional title since 1996.
Six letter-winners including Thompson have returned.
"We're a better team than last year," Thompson said. "We want to break the school record for wins, have more wins against strong teams and win a regional championship. We can do it."
The other Pekin returnees are senior setter Haley Peterson, right-side hitter Madison Cravens and libero Abbie Olsen and junior outside hitter Maddy Cash and libero Olivia Theleritis.
Pekin coach Yvonne Thompson (Hannah's mother) said Olsen and Theleritis are solid defensive players and passers.
The coach said the Lady Dragons have gotten extra enthused about volleyball from watching the U.S. women's volleyball team play in the Summer Olympics.
The enthusiasm shouldn't diminish during the season because Pekin will be wearing the Mizuno Stars and Stripes shoes worn by the U.S. Olympians.
The Lady Dragons have held a serve-a-thon for many years to help players pay for equipment like shoes. Players obtain donations for the number of serves out of 100 they send over the net during a practice session.
"The girls usually get 5 or 10 cents per good serve from a donor," Coach Thompson said. "I started the serve-a-thon after the 9-11 attacks (in 2001) when many families were hurting financially."