All student-athletes look forward to their senior year. Most even look forward to the long, hard preseason workouts.
But no senior athlete in Erath County entered preseason practices Monday with greater anticipation than Stephenville's Kristin Kaiser.
That's because Kaiser is trying to squeeze two years worth of sports thrills into one after losing almost her entire junior season to a devastating knee injury suffered halfway through the Honeybees' 2011 volleyball campaign.
Kaiser recalls the injury as if it happened yesterday.
"It wasn't pain. A rolled ankle hurts worse than the act of actually tearing your ACL," Kaiser explained Monday morning after the Honeybees finished their first preseason practice of 2012. "I thought I just hyperextended it; that's what all the athletic trainers thought until I went to the doctor.
"The hardest thing was telling Coach Metzger I couldn't go back in," she added. "When I had to tell her that I couldn't go back in, I just couldn't stop the emotion."
Fans and teammates don't have to think hard to remember the sight of Kaiser tearing up during the national anthem before the Bees' next contest. Kaiser doesn't have to think hard at all to remember that emotional moment.
"There were harder times than others," she said. "Obviously the first volleyball game was hard, and so was the district track meet when the mile relay qualified (for regionals). I was so happy for them, but I was also sad I couldn't be out there, too."
Between volleyball and track and field, Kaiser also missed the Honeybees' run to the regional quarterfinals in basketball.
It wasn't until a recent summer volleyball tournament in Abilene that Kaiser, dominant enough to be an all-state pick despite missing the last third of the season a year ago, returned to the net. And there was plenty of hard work that went into being ready for her senior campaign.
"It was a lot of work, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally," she explained. "Several times I wanted to stop, but my therapist wouldn't let me, my parents wouldn't let me and my teammates and coaches wouldn't let me. Everyone I'm closest to was behind me 100 percent."
One area coach said the return of athletes to the practice fields and courts Monday was like Christmas morning. Kaiser disagrees.
"It's better than Christmas," she said. "I'm back with my teammates. After my injury last year, I was always in the training room while they were practicing. I was only with them on the bench during games. Now, I get to be a part of it all again."
How excited was Kaiser Monday morning?
"I couldn't sleep (Sunday) night because I was so excited," she said. "Words can't even explain how excited I am."
Now she focuses on making her senior year one to remember, in volleyball and more.
"I'm definitely going to come out and play everything with no regrets and no mercy," she pledged. "I'm going to play my heart out because I couldn't last year. I know all the hard work will start to pay off."
And she knows her support crew will be right there every step of the way, especially her senior classmates.
"We've always been 'that group that's coming up,'" she said. "Now, we're the seniors. It's our time."
Follow Brad Keith on Twitter @etsports