Loudoun Valley junior Jessica Everhart first felt the excruciating pain of her right shoulder popping out of place more than three years ago. But when it went back in -- and an MRI exam later failed to identify any problems -- she returned to her three-sport life of volleyball, basketball and year-round softball.
Everhart, though, never quite went back to playing like her old self. Instead, she struggled with pain and deteriorating arm strength.
"We started noticing that my accuracy wasn't there and the velocity of my throws was going down," said Everhart, an All-Extra shortstop a year ago. "It never happened in a game where I couldn't get the ball where it needed to be. I did my job, but I could hear people talking about how I had no arm. And it was really frustrating because people just thought that it was me."
Said Loudoun Valley Coach Joe Spicer: "She definitely didn't have the same zip on her throws. But she was still effective."
That stopped being the case at a fall league practice in September. Everhart was moved to third base to fill a void but was unable to get the ball from third to first.
"It was horrible," she said. "That night my dad made another appointment."
Instead of just using an MRI, doctors also shot dye into her shoulder to better see the cartilage. She was immediately diagnosed with a torn labrum, the type of cartilage damage usually associated with pitchers and quarterbacks. Surgery later that month repaired the tear, but Everhart had to forgo volleyball and basketball so she could rehabilitate for softball season.
"To be honest, my hope was to get her back in mid-May, in time for the playoffs," Spicer said. "I always knew she was tough, but you never know with a kid just how much adversity they can handle. She handled it all."
Everhart diligently kept her arm in a sling for a month -- she even paired her short, black homecoming dress with the bright blue device -- and then began therapy three days a week.
She missed only the first two games of the year before being inserted into the starting lineup at second base, cutting the distance she had to throw the ball.
Her twin sister, Jennifer, moved to shortstop.
An All-Met, Jennifer has been errorless in the field for the No. 2 Vikings (22-2). She also is batting .602 from the leadoff spot. And Jessica, despite being what she recently classified as about 85 percent healthy, has batted .407 from the cleanup position and hit the winning home run in a 1-0 victory over Broadway in a Region II semifinal Wednesday.
"Jessica at 80 percent is better than a lot of kids at 100 percent, and she's proven that this year," Spicer said. "Since she got back out, there she's given me every last drop of what she has."
Despite her success -- and progress -- Everhart is still in therapy at least two days a week and ices her arm after each practice and game in hopes of being full strength this summer, when college coaches start making official offers to rising seniors. She and Jennifer, who share friends, secrets and even a car, are hoping for a joint offer.
"We definitely want to stay together," Jessica said. "Always."