Michigan wasn’t her first choice.

When Michigan water polo junior Rebecca Godek was a senior at Ann Arbor Pioneer High School, she never dreamed of coming to Michigan. In fact, she kept it in the back of her mind during the recruiting process while she looked heavily into playing at Indiana.

“Since I was a kid I always wanted to go (to Indiana), but now I realize that that would have been the worst decision of my life since Indiana is our biggest rival,” Godek said.

As a freshman in 2002, Godek enjoyed a solid season, playing in 35 games. She scored eight goals while tallying three assists and 13 steals. As expectations grew, Godek could have never imagined the hardships that would follow.

Going into her sophomore season in 2003, Godek planned to swim for the women’s swimming and diving team and then join the water polo team after the swimming season.

In the early stages of the swimming season, Godek swam as well as could be expected since she did not swim her freshman year. Then, around December, Godek began to consistently feel sick and exhausted, causing her to swim slow times such as in the first two meets against Florida and North Carolina. It got to a point in the season where Godek swam faster times in practice than in meets.

Women’s swimming and diving coach Jim Richardson noticed her fatigue and lagging times and met with her about scheduling a nutritionist to help her regain energy. When Godek’s situation still didn’t improve, she went to a doctor and was diagnosed with mononucleosis.

Because of the debilitating effects of mono, Godek was forced to redshirt her sophomore water polo season.

“It was a horrible year, both mentally and physically,” Godek said.

When the start of the 2003 season came around, Godek still suffered from chronic fatigue ­­­— a lingering side effect from mono. After returning to playing shape, Godek came back to the team. While readjusting to the flow of the game in the early stages of the season, Godek suffered a back injury where her L4 and L5 vertebra twisted slightly, which created uncomfortable pressure.

During the remainder of the season, Godek sometimes struggled to swim even a few laps in the pool. She finished the season playing in just eight games while scoring one goal on eight shots.

While the team continued to play, Godek worked with the team trainer and a specialist from Med Sport. Three days a week, Godek would arrive at practice an hour early to complete an exercise program that the trainer and specialist designed for her.

The following summer, Godek took time off from her training to work four days a week with three different physical therapists in order to return to the water polo team.

All of Godek’s determination during the intense rehab has paid off. Already this season she has scored eight goals and eclipsed her career assists total.

“It’s so great to be back in the water and be healthy,” Godek said. “I’m getting to play and be around my teammates again.”

Although her back still gives her occasional problems, Godek wants to contribute to the team any way that she can. She continues to do her exercises regularly in order to maintain her back strength and flexibility, and she encourages teammates whenever they need a mental boost.

While Godek isn’t looking to put up big numbers this season, coach Matt Anderson knows that he can count on her.

“I’m appreciative that we got her rocket arm back in the water,” Anderson said. “She has a howitzer, and it’s nice to see when she unloads one of her shots. When I put her in the game, I tell her, ‘Rebecca, you’re in the game to score.’ She knows that she’s expected to put the ball on the cage and hopefully score.”

Anderson believes that Godek contributed to the team even during her injury with her positive attitude and pleasant demeanor.

“Whether she’s having a good day or bad day, she always puts out 100 percent effort, and the other girls see that,” Anderson said. “She’s been important in the last two years even though she wasn’t able to play because, mentally, she was a neat teammate to be around.”

In retrospect, it might seem that Godek could have had a better career at a different university, but Godek thinks otherwise.

“There were so many times when I wanted to give up and stop, but I’m here for water polo,” Godek said. “I don’t score the most goals; I (play water polo) because I love it.”

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