LANCASTER, N.Y.-- The captain of the St. Mary's of Lancaster girls volleyball team is prepared to help the Lady Lancers battle it out for their third straight state title this weekend, but that might be easy compared to a recent battle she just fought and won.
"I enter onto the court and all my worries go away," said senior Hannah Mulhern.
Mulhern isn't talking about typical teen worries. She's referring to beating brain cancer and learning to walk, talk and play again type of worries.
"I've gotta take it one step at a time," she said. "I've got to learn to crawl before I can run."
It was just 9 months ago when the star volleyball player started experiencing excruciating headaches and eventual numbness. In February 2018, test results revealed the source of that pain was a brain tumor wrapped around part of her spine.
"It was at the base of my brain and it was on the biggest nerve in my head, so they said if it hadn't invaded the nerve then I would've never felt it and I would've either died or have been paralyzed," said Mulhern.
Doctors performed emergency surgery on Hannah's 17th birthday in February to remove as much of the tumor as they could. She asked them to postpone her next brain surgery, so she could take her AP exams. She passed them with flying colors. After her second life threatening surgery in May, she took her SATS in August.
"I did alright. I got a 1460," she laughed.
Hannah also maintained a 4.0 GPA while participating in yearbook club, National Honor Society and Science Olympiad. Her math teacher who tutored her in the hospital, says Hannah's spirit and determination is inspirational.
"She's changed us all for the better. Never have I seen someone with the courage and the fight she's put up," said math teacher Lynn Tytka.
The 6'2" middle hitter has helped her team win the state Catholic championships the past two years. She says there was no way a little brain tumor was going to stand in the way of making it three in a row.
"I was immediately thinking about how I could win another state championship," she said.
So before she could even walk, Hannah was at every practice in her wheelchair, and little by little she retaught herself how to play the game she loved.
"When she was back it was like a miracle and we were just so happy," said teammate Bridget Vogl.
"The kid is just a competitor, a survivor, just an inspiration to anybody that comes in contact with her," said coach Don Pieczynski.
Hannah certainly has the talent to play volleyball in college, but instead she's choosing to focus on her studies, and plans to pursue a career in something with which she's all too familiar.
"I want to major in neuroscience in college. Learn a little bit more about all this and hopefully help a kid someday."
Hannah and the Monsignor Martin champion Lady Lancers will go for their 17th state title in school history, and third in a row, on Saturday Nov. 10 at St. Mary's of Lancaster.