By Tommy Keeler Jr. - email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL -- Sabrie Neeb is in pain.
Every day as the Skyline senior runs the base paths or smacks another hit into play during softball season, the pain is there. Neeb's left knee needs another surgery, but that will have to wait.
Neeb tore her anterior cruciate ligament and her medial collateral ligament last year. The surgery didn't go as well as the doctors would have liked. The bone was supposed to grow around the screw in her knee, but it hasn't and that is why she will have to have another surgery after the season.
Neeb is determined that she will simply play through the pain, because nothing was more painful than what she went through last year.
"I've had a lot of pain. It's very hard," Neeb said. "I just have to suck it up, because I never want to go back to where I was last year. I don't try and complain about it at all.
"The pain is really bad, but I would rather being playing softball than sitting at home on the bed icing my knee."
Neeb's love of softball goes all the way back to Little League. Unlike most girls who played softball, Neeb played Little League with the boys and it was there that her passion for the game began to flourish.
She was the only girl on her team, and said playing with the boys made her want to do even better to show them that she was just as good.
"At first they would try to take it easy because I was the only girl, but then when I would do better than them, they wouldn't take it easy anymore," Neeb said with a smile.
Neeb is used to being the only girl around a bunch of boys. She said she's the only granddaughter in her family, and her whole family loves playing baseball and softball.
"I was used to being around [baseball] all the time," Neeb said. "And I always felt better because they were always tougher and it made me tougher. I think it made me who I am today."
Her brother, Keaton, was a baseball standout at Skyline and played for Shenandoah University last year. He transferred to Campbellsville University this season.
Neeb said she's very close to her family and they've helped her a lot through her injury. Her family's love of the game has also helped inspire her to play the game and always give it her best.
"It's just something that's carried on in my family and everyone's expecting me to play," Neeb said. "There's not one thing I don't like about it. I don't ever dread practicing or anything. It's just something that I can do every day and not get tired of it."
Neeb is also very competitive and is always looking to improve her game. So it's no surprise that once her parents forced her to stop playing baseball and play softball, she wanted to play with the best team she could find.
Over the last six years, she's played with four different travel ball teams, including her current team -- the Vienna Shamrocks.
The program includes some of the best players from around the country and has won national titles. She plays with many players from the D.C. metro-area and many of them, like Neeb, have already signed to play at the Division I level.
Neeb said playing with the Shamrocks has helped her game a lot.
"I love it because you have so many different personalities," Neeb said. "And everyone's so competitive and everyone's at your level. Everyone knows what you're going to do next. Everyone is on the same page."
Neeb said the Shamrocks are already practicing three times a week to get ready for the upcoming season, which starts right after the high school season.
Once the summer begins, the team travels all over the country to top national tournaments in Florida, California and Colorado.
"Getting on a plane gets old," Neeb said of all the traveling. "But I like it because you get to sight-see. You're traveling, but you're doing the thing I love the most. So I really enjoy it. Plus, you're getting to play against teams from all over the United States -- that's the part I love. You get to meet different people with accents."
Two years ago, as a sophomore, Neeb had a strong season for the Hawks. She was one of the top hitters in the area and she had good reason to be excited about her junior year.
Last year, Neeb decided to play basketball with the Hawks just to have something more to do. The season was going fine for her, but on Jan. 28, 2011 everything changed.
Neeb tore her the ACL and MCL in her left knee and in an instant her hopes and dreams for the softball season were gone.
"I thought that was going to be my year to shine, and knowing that wasn't going to happen was devastating," Neeb said. "I felt like I really could have helped the team out a lot, and I felt like I kind of let them down."
While her teammates were preparing for the season, Neeb was having surgery, which took place on March 3, 2011.
After the surgery, Neeb knew she had a long road ahead of her.
Doctors used part of her hamstring to fix the ACL tear, which meant that Neeb basically had to learn how to walk again.
"It was really aggravating because you have to retrain your brain to get things to work," Neeb said. "I would try and walk or, like, flex my muscle, and I couldn't do it. It was really hard seeing everyone out there playing, and I just really wanted to get back as soon as possible, so I pushed myself too hard sometimes."
Neeb said her family was a big help, including Keaton, who would try to do better in his Shenandoah games for her. She also had the support of her travel league and Skyline teammates.
Neeb also had a special personal trainer who was a big help to her through her recovery -- former Washington Redskins linebacker Eddie Mason. Neeb trained at MASE training in Sterling, which is run by Mason.
"He had the same surgery, and he really helped me through a lot," Neeb said of Mason.
Neeb said she rehabbed three times a week with her doctors, but then would do things on her own every day because she wanted to make sure she got back on the field as quickly as possible.
Finally on Sept. 3, Neeb played with her Shamrock teammates in a tournament in New Jersey and was back playing the game she loved. Neeb said she now appreciates the game even more than before.
"It makes me appreciate a lot of things more, and always stay positive and be thankful for what I have," Neeb said.
After her injury, Neeb found that some of the schools that were looking at her for college wanted to wait and see how she did with the rest of her travel season.
Neeb said she got offers from many schools, including George Mason, Longwood, Central Florida and Saint Francis (Pa.). It was a tough decision, but Neeb decided to accept a full scholarship to play for Saint Francis.
"All of them were so different in so many ways," Neeb said, "where they were located, how many students went there and everything.
"I went up there and visited and I liked it and they offered me a full ride, which made me like it way more. I loved the coaches. They had the personality like me. That really had a lot to do with it."
Neeb has already shown this season why she was so heavily recruited. She's helped lead the Hawks to a strong start and hit a home run last week in a win over Sherando.
Skyline coach Frank Nelson said she can play pretty much every position on the field and she's a very important part of the team.
"She knows the game," Nelson said. "She's been around it long enough. Whenever she gets up, there's always a chance that she can put the ball out of the park."
Neeb said hitting is probably her favorite part of the game, but she also likes playing defense.
"I love diving after balls," Neeb said. "I love to get dirty. I feel like if you haven't come out of the game dirty, you haven't given 100 percent."
The Hawks are 4-3 this season. They won the Harry Combs Classic at Central on Saturday, which has helped the team get over a tough loss to James Wood on Thursday.
Skyline lost in the Region II quarterfinals last season, and would like to get back there this season. The Hawks have some young players on the squad, but are led by some veteran players, including Neeb, Taylor Henry and junior Sarah Beamer.
Neeb said she knows it's important to be a strong leader on the team, and she feels good about the team this season.
"I think we get along very well as a team," Neeb said. "And we have some younger players that are coming up with tons of potential, and they listen very well."
After having to sit and watch last year, Neeb wants to help her teammates be successful more than ever. She also wants to make sure her senior year is one to remember.
"I feel like I should leave with a bang, and do as many good things as possible for my team," Neeb said. "I know that they look up to me so much, some of the young girls, and I don't want to let them down at all."
Neeb has listened to the doctors throughout her rehab recovery. She said she is still not as fast as she had been and wants to get back that speed.
She still has rehab exercises to do before practice each day. Neeb is still in pain every day.
But just like everything she went through before returning to the diamond, her determination and drive are what keep her going.
"I wanted to be better than I was before," Neeb said of her drive to make it back. "And I wanted to prove to people that this surgery wasn't going to stop me from pursuing my dreams."