It wasn't too long ago that Kayla Clarot dreaded getting out of bed in the morning.
The prospect of getting up, going to school and even just eating was overwhelming.
A mysterious illness that provided constant pain throughout Clarot's body.
The ailment cost Clarot the bulk of her senior season at Buhach Colony and still nagged her as she started her collegiate volleyball career at Merced College last fall.
"I was in pain. I was tired all the time," Clarot said. "I was just sick of being sick.
"I didn't want to do anything, it hurt so bad.
"I never got an answer as to what it was either. The doctor's best guess was a nerve issue."
Fortunately for Clarot, whatever the issue, it eventually subsided.
With a clean bill of health, the defensive specialist used the second half of her freshman season with the Lady Devils to win a starting spot.
Now with a fresh perspective on volleyball and life in general, Clarot looks to lead a young Merced College team in 2009.
"I'm probably in the best shape of my life," Clarot said. "When you can do little stuff like running without pain, you appreciate it more.
"Now that I'm healthy, I want to train and I want to work hard.
"It's my chance to make up for the last two years."
MC volleyball coach Jessica Casey can attest to the change in Clarot's efforts and spirits.
The sophomore set the bar for the team's summer workouts.
"Kayla is really strong," Casey said. "She can do 40 man push-ups.
"She got over whatever she had and hasn't looked back.
"She's physically and emotionally strong and sets the example with her play instead of her mouth."
After a 2008 squad with numerous big personalities and little team chemistry, Casey said the workman-like approach of returners Clarot, setter Laura Meller and outside hitter Melissa Ralls is a refreshing change.
"The three of them have taken their leadership role very seriously," Casey said. "We're a very freshmen heavy team, and they've helped set the bar as to where our incoming kids need to be.
"None of them are big talkers, but they all lead with their play."
Casey's freshmen class reads like the Central California Conference all-star team and has plenty of potential.
Atwater's Kahea Smith, Golden Valley's Gianna Bandoni and Merced's Kelsie Hanson are only a handful of freshmen with the potential to make a big impact this season.
"I'm excited about this class, because it's the first group that I've watched since they were freshmen in high school," Casey said. "It's mainly local girls. We have some decent size and some big outside hitters.
"There's a lot of potential."
One thing that's almost guaranteed to be better is the team unity.
"We're basically the all-CCC team," Bandoni said. "We've all played club together or played against each other for years, so it's a group that gets along.
"We're excited to see what we can do."