The Hanover senior missed her sophomore and junior campaigns

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Sara Durika expected it to be a minor setback.

It was February 2014, and the Hanover sophomore softball player was about to undergo surgery to have her appendix removed. While admittedly a little scared, Durika thought she'd be back on the field in no time.

"I figured two weeks after the surgery that I would be back at practice and I’d be fine," Durika said.

But Durika wasn't back at practice when the Hawkettes began preparing for the 2014 season. And she wound up missing every high school game for the next two seasons.

A PIAA Class AA all-state team honorable mention her freshman year, Durika missed her sophomore campaign because of complications from the appendectomy and her junior one from lingering knee injuries.

But after two years filled with frustration, rehab and moments of doubt, Durika played in a high school game for the first time since her freshman year Thursday. She pitched five innings for the Hawkettes in a 15-1 loss to Newport.

It might not have been a storybook return, but with the way the past two years have gone, Durika was just happy to be on the field.

"It felt great to be back, I've missed it a lot," Durika said. "I played (travel softball) all summer, but high school-wise, I'm excited to show what I can do."

Having spent this past summer playing for the PA Blaze travel team, Durika wasn't completely rusty going into this season. Still, it took two years of rigorous training to put herself in a position to play the sport she's loved since childhood.

Following the appendectomy she had as a sophomore, Durika developed infections that sapped her energy and caused her to lose 30 pounds. She still attempted to pitch that spring, only to be carried off the field before the first inning of a game against Eastern York when she was unable to stand in the pitching circle.

"My legs knotted up so bad because I was so weak," Durika said. "I was nauseous and in pain constantly. I wanted to be out there but I couldn’t, and it was just the most frustrating thing I’ve ever gone through.”

It took months for Durika to get back to a normal eating schedule and train enough to gain back the muscle she had lost. The next year she developed tendinitis in her knee and spent the entire 2015 season watching her teammates from the dugout once again.

Durika admitted it was hard to stay positive while she was rehabbing from that setback.

“There was a lot of doubt,” Durika said. “Mentally I was so ready to be back, but physically my body wouldn’t let me. There were times when I thought I wouldn’t be able to play during the summer. It was definitely scary for me.”

One person who helped Durika get through the tough times was her father, Hanover softball head coach Kerry Durika. According to Sara Durika, her father kept her spirits high by being "really sarcastic and always making jokes the whole time."

While Kerry Durika kept his sense of humor for his daughter's sake, the past two seasons weren't easy for him either. His daughter's injuries were tough on him personally, and they also robbed him of his best pitcher. With Durika on the sidelines in 2014 and 2015, the Hawkettes went a combined 7-33.

With just 11 girls on Hanover's team this season, Kerry Durika is relying heavily on his daughter to help the team reach a level of respectability.

“She’s been a competitor from day one,” Kerry Durika said. "As far as seeing her back on the field, I like seeing her in the role of team leader. There are some girls who have come out for the first time. Others coming out for the first time in three years. And then we have Sara who’s played over 400 games. She’s trying to help coach on the field for me."

Both Sara and her father admit that she isn't back to full strength yet. She looked uncomfortable at times against Newport and struggled to accurately throw every pitch in her arsenal.

While Durika is excited to represent her high school again, she also hopes the Hawkettes can reach the District 3 playoffs.

“Being back on the field my senior year is amazing," Sara Durika said. "Last year I didn’t know if I would be back this year because of my knee. But I'm definitely looking at districts."

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