West Orange High duo return to the volleyball court

West Orange High’s Lucy Noegel and Sara Reinbolt have dealt with significant challenges in the past year, but both have found a refuge in the game of volleyball.

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  • | 11:08 a.m. March 18, 2021
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As Lucy Noegel and Sara Reinbolt go through the motions during West Orange High’s sand volleyball practice, there is a sense of comfort in the smallest of moments.

The warm sand underneath their feet, the cool breeze blowing about and the sound of volleyballs being knocked around rings out at Veteran’s Park in Winter Garden. From an outsider’s perspective, it’s nothing but practice — for Noegel and Reinbolt, it’s an act of perseverance in the face of great adversity. 

Last year, both girls suffered significant injuries. In Noegel’s case, she is lucky to be alive after a car accident put her in the hospital with multiple fractures and breaks in her pelvis, hip, backbone, femur, knee cap, ribs and face. That’s why getting back into the swing of things has been a challenge — one she welcomes despite the difficulties.

“I’m closer to where I was before now, but I don’t know if I’m quite going to be there — which is fine,” Noegel said. “(Because) I hadn’t played in so long and (because) so much had happened to my body, my timing was off — when I would go up to hit the ball, I’d just be way early or way late.”


Lucy Noegel and her mother, Christina Noegel, were driving in Georgia during a vacation in June 2020. The two were in a turn lane when they were hit from behind, which pushed them into oncoming traffic where another car struck the passenger side of the vehicle — Lucy’s side.

Although Christina Noegel was knocked unconscious briefly and suffered minor injuries, paramedics were forced to use the Jaws of Life to get Lucy Noegel out the car before airlifting her to a trauma hospital.

The now-17-year old West Orange junior spent two months in a wheelchair before undertaking three months of physical therapy. The therapy wasn’t bad, but not being able to play the 2020 indoor-volleyball season was tough, she said.

“It kind of sucked,” Lucy Noegel said. “I didn’t really do much — I didn’t stay home by myself, because I really couldn’t get around. … But I mean, it got better, and it got easier.”

A few months before the accident, Reinbolt was dealing with her own struggles. In February 2020, Reinbolt was doing sand volleyball, weightlifting and indoor club volleyball. The wear on her body was taking a toll that — at the time — she didn’t know.

At first, Reinbolt, now a senior at West Orange, said she felt incredibly sore — with pain in her left hip. She was confused and could barely walk, but her doctor told her it was simply her overexerting herself. Then, a trip to an orthopedic doctor revealed the truth: She had a torn labrum and stress fracture in her left hip.

“They told me what happened, and they said that it usually should heal itself over time, but the way that my stress fracture impacted my tear was really bad, and it kept irritating it — causing me to be in so much pain,” Reinbolt said.

“It was really heartbreaking, because I was like, ‘I can’t play the one sport I’m truly passionate about and truly love,’ because I wanted to go to college for it, and I was talking to a few schools, as well,” she said. “When the time came and I was in so much pain, I was like, ‘I don’t think I can play in college, because I don’t know how the surgery is going to be after this — if I’m going to be the player I was before.”

Originally, Reinbolt was going to have the surgical procedure done in November, but the pain was so bad it got bumped up to September. It took three months of recovery and physical training post-surgery to begin to get back on the mend.


With both girls stuck on the sidelines during the indoor season, both found refuge in coaching and helping where they could.

In Lucy Noegel’s case, it was serving as the Warriors’ JV team manager — helping the girls learn the game — while also helping coach Five Stars Volleyball Club’s 12U team. Meanwhile, Reinbolt was helping coach the 11U team at Oviedo Volleyball Academy.

For Reinbolt, despite sitting out the indoor season, coaching actually helped her gain confidence and picked her up off the floor.

Since being cleared to get back to the sport, Lucy Noegel got to play some for the 17U team at her club, but both now are members of a West Orange sand volleyball team put together at the last minute before the start of the season.

Having things work out for the team, and for Lucy Noegel and Reinbolt, is incredible, head coach Rachel Johnson said. 

“Lucy is such a strong player, and she has the best attitude — it’s so crazy that something like that happened to her not even a year ago,” she said. 

“And the same can be said for Sara, too,” she said. “I saw video of Sara serving on her senior night — that was the one rotation she got in all season — and she served an ace, and she couldn’t even walk onto the court from the service line. To see where she is at now — jumping, running and able to dive again — it’s really great to see them both back on the court.”


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