Plum’s Susko recovering from injury but ready for another multi-sport school year

Sunday, July 31, 2022 | 8:47 PM

Dannika Susko has taken a detour this summer in her preparation for her senior season with the Plum girls volleyball team.

The 2021 All-WPIAL Class 3A honoree suffered a torn hamstring tendon during the early minutes of a WPIAL girls lacrosse playoff game against Hampton on May 18.

“That kind of put me on a pause,” said Susko, a three-sport standout at Plum who also is a three-year letter winner on the girls basketball team.

Surgery wasn’t necessary, but rest has been a requirement as the injury heals.

“I’ve been going to all of the open gyms for basketball and volleyball and just helping the team, and I’ve been slowly getting back into it,” said Susko, a 5-foot-10 middle hitter on the volleyball court.

“I can’t really jump yet, but by the start of the season, I should be back to full strength. I just have to be patient. I had to slow down, which was hard for me considering I have so many things going on. I just need to continue to listen to my doctor so I can be as ready as possible for the start of my senior year.”

Susko said all of her teammates from her various teams have been supportive in her recovery, and that has helped the time away from athletic activity be more bearable.

“They’ve all been asking me when I can play again, and they’ve been so excited to hear good news every time I have a doctor’s appointment,” she said.

Plum volleyball coach Kelsey Bonk said priority No. 1 is to make sure Susko is healthy.

“We know how valuable she is to this team,” Bonk said.

“She wants to go go go because she loves the sport and wants to always be active no matter what. I love that about her, but we know that in order for her to be 100% for the whole season, she needs to get to 100% now. We just want her to take it step by step and not overdo it. We move forward when she gets clearances for every point in the process.”

Susko said she is excited to share her final Plum volleyball season with fellow seniors Emily Bologna, Sam Glatz and Maya Nonnenberg. Preseason practices begin Aug. 16.

“We’ve been talking all about it since last year, and for it to finally be here, it’s almost weird to think it is our last year,” Susko said. “It’s flown by so fast. We’re really looking forward to seeing what we can do.”

Plum finished the 2021 season as co-champion of Section 1-3A with Franklin Regional. The Mustangs made it to the WPIAL Class 3A semifinals before falling to Hampton in a five-set thriller.

Under the new WPIAL alignment for the next two seasons, Plum and Hampton find themselves in the same section.

“We really want redemption against Hampton,” said Susko, who has garnered a great deal of interest from college volleyball programs. IUP is among the schools on her recruiting radar.

“We know we have to come out strong for those matches.”

From her freshman year in 2019 to last year, Susko pulled double duty in the fall as a member of the Plum girls soccer team — a sport she played since she was 5 years old — in addition to her primary focus on the volleyball court. With class work and also trying to make open gyms for basketball, it made for quite a busy schedule.

Thinking of her injury, Susko said she has been contemplating not playing soccer this fall.

“It has been a tough decision, but I think that if I got hurt at soccer, I don’t think I could forgive myself for the volleyball team where I feel I am more of a presence,” she said.

“Even though I feel it is the best decision for me, it will be weird not being on the soccer field with my friends. I’ve had a lot of fun in soccer, and last season, with going to the WPIAL title game and making the state playoffs, it was really special.”

Susko is somewhat of a dying breed in high school sports with specialization to a particular sport taking hold more and more.

She owns nine letters — three in volleyball, three in basketball, and one in soccer, track and field and lacrosse.

Susko earned second-team Section 2 all-star honors in basketball after helping last year’s youthful team, with just one senior, navigate the waters in and out of a challenging Section 2 in Class 5A.

“Everyone has done really well with taking advantages of all of the workouts and games this summer,” Susko said. “There are a lot of freshman who hope to do big things. Everyone is in the gym working hard, and we know we have a good chance to improve.”

Susko ran the 400-meter dash, was a part of the 400 relay, and performed the high jump during her sophomore track season, but last spring, she transitioned to a new venture as a combination midfield/defender on the girls lacrosse team.

She helped the Mustangs earn the No. 6 seed for the WPIAL playoffs. Plum topped Seton LaSalle in the first round before falling to No. 3 Hampton in the quarterfinals.

“My sister, Farrah, plays lacrosse, and I was always watching her games,” Susko said.

“I would make little jokes like, ‘Oh, maybe I will play my junior year.’ But I have a lot of friends on that team, and they were all encouraging me to give it a try. It was hard at the beginning because I was learning everything, but after a while, I got more comfortable. It was a really successful first season for me.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .

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