Grant Lorelli’s story is one of perseverance through pain, the art of patience, and about overcoming obstacles — more obstacles than any 17-year-old should ever have to overcome.
Like rehabbing a pair of serious ankle injuries — one that required microfracture surgery to repair — and a torn labrum in his shoulder, injuries that cost Lorelli basically two full seasons on the volleyball court.
Like dealing with Crohn’s Disease since he was an 8-year-old, and monthly trips to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and now closer to home for infusion treatments, meaning more time away from the court.
And especially losing his mom before his freshman year at Hempfield, where Lorelli is hoping to resume his volleyball career in his junior year while yet another obstacle — coronavirus concerns — is keeping him out of school and off the court again.
“We’re all keeping our heads up about this,” said Lorelli, a 6-foot-5 multi-purpose outside hitter, opposite hitter and setter for the Black Knights. “Nobody has thrown the towel in yet.”
With all of spring sports on hold after Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all schools closed for another two-week period, Lorelli and his teammates are in limbo. Every athlete out there is itching to get back out and compete. But perhaps none more than Lorelli, who is trying to make up for lost time — while overcoming a myriad of heartache and personal pain.
The day before volleyball tryouts in his freshman year, he suffered a severe right ankle sprain and missed the first three full weeks of the season. Then, before the start of his sophomore year, Lorelli was coming down after a play above the net during a club-ball match, and he landed awkwardly on the foot of an opposing player under the net.
The diagnosis was a fractured growth plate in his right ankle, and Lorelli needed microfracture surgery to repair the bone, as pins were inserted to promote re-growth in the broken plate.
After that grueling rehab, Lorelli was able to work his way back on to the court late last season, and he made his first appearance for Hempfield in the L-L League championship match against Warwick, a victory for the Knights.
But injury struck again last summer, when Lorelli suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder. That’s his swinging arm. More therapy. More rehab. More lost time on the court.
And this is all on top of battling Crone’s Disease and still coping with the loss of his mom, Colleen Lorelli, who was a teacher in the Elizabethtown school district and heroically fought brain cancer.
With all of that serving as a backdrop, Lorelli turned to volleyball as an escape, and quickly grew to love it.
“Volleyball,” Grant’s dad, Dave Lorelli, said, “has been a bright spot for him.”
The athleticism, the ability to play multiple positions and being part of the team, yes. The injuries and all of the rehabs? Not so much.
But Lorelli has never wavered, clearing hurdle after hurdle to get healthy.
“It’s kind of been the worst-case scenario for Grant, because he needs reps, but he kept getting hurt,” Hempfield coach Mike Vogel said. “I truly feel for him, because he’s a kid who’s just scratching the surface. His best volleyball is ahead of him.”
For now, Lorelli is holding down the fort at home with his twin brother Conner — “it’s nice being at home with my best friend, that’s been the constant,” Grant said — and staying fit by taking walks and jogging around his neighborhood.
Now completely healthy, Lorelli is itching to get back on the court and play a full season. To contribute and compete and not let the Crone’s slow him down. And especially to honor his mom.
“It’s been pretty frustrating, all of this,” Lorelli said. “But the team has always had my back; they’ve always been there for me. And my family. They’re always here. I’m never alone. It could be a lot worse. I always look on the brighter side of things. That’s me. I’ve made it through a lot of other stuff, and (coronavirus) is one more thing to get through. I know I can do it, and I know we can all do it.”
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