After a February foot injury derailed her promising senior season, Bran spent more than two months rehabbing — working with trainers sometimes two or three times a day. She sat watching her teammates and waiting. On April 9, her wait ended.
"I was a bit nervous actually stepping back in," said Bran, who suffers from plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation near the heel that makes bearing weight difficult. "But after a few minutes it felt all natural again. It was amazing."
The rust didn't show on Saturday as the women's tennis star helped the Griz knock off Idaho State 6-1, guaranteeing a second straight Montana postseason trip. The Australian-born tennis player rekindled the fire with doubles partner Constance Alexander to the tune of an 8-0 thrashing.
"It brings in another piece for us," tennis coach Steve Ascher said. "Missing just that piece of competitiveness was big."
Though Bran was a major cog in the Montana machine last fall and during her junior year, the team was far from falling apart without her senior leadership. Montana has posted a 5–1 conference record this spring to go with an even 10–10 overall.
Sometimes replacing a veteran like Bran can't be done by one player, Ascher said. On Ascher's team, a slew of Grizzlies have met the challenge.
"I've seen growth and maturity from everyone in that lineup top to bottom," the coach said. "We're going into matches knowing we can perform well."
Sophomore Heather Davidson and seniors Whitney Paluch and Rebecca Bran — Amanda's twin sister — have combined for a 14–4 conference singles record. Underclassmen Ashley Mackey and Alexander have played beyond their experience levels as well, contributing nine wins.
Bran said she's excited to be back on the courts but plans to take things a bit slow at first. Montana has two games left in the regular season before the Big Sky Championships start at the end of April. She'll likely play in only doubles competitions while working her way back into prime shape.
But at this point that's enough. Bran is no longer watching her teammates work toward a conference championship without her. She's back where she wants to be.
"It's my last year and you want to make your mark," Bran said, emphasizing the significance of returning to action before her final season of eligibility expired. "I wanted to prove myself this year with this team. They make me really proud."