While body mends, Mallon lends spirit

May 02, 1991|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Evening Sun Staff

Bryn Mawr's Colleen Mallon was making a drive to the basket in a game last January when three Maryvale defenders moved to stop her.

"I saw them coming, but one crashed into the upper part of my leg and I went down," said Mallon. "I knew it was serious immediately."

The excruciating pain made it obvious, but the rest of the basketball season was of little concern.

"I wondered right away if I would be able to play lacrosse," she said following Bryn Mawr's 11-6 victory over Maryvale in lacrosse on Tuesday.

Mallon was there, but not on the field. She has been serving as offensive assistant to coach Pat Becker this season.

A four-inch scar on the lateral side of her right knee, a smaller scar just below her kneecap and a slight limp are the only visible clues to the damage doctors had to repair.

Mallon tore the anterior cruciate ligament. It's the same injury that makes professional basketball players cringe. Just ask Bernard King of the Bullets, Johnny Dawkins of the 76ers and Danny Manning of the L.A. Clippers. All are members of the ACL club, explored by Rick Mehak in the April 29 issue of Sports Illustrated.

This injury does not result from years of getting banged around. It happens in an instant. Mallon had it repaired in what has become the traditional method: A portion of her patellar tendon was removed, then was attached with screws to her leg bones.

"After six to nine months of rehabilitation, I should be fine," said Mallon, who spends an hour or so every day at practice, working with her teammates on shooting accuracy. Three days a week, she then takes off for her own therapy at the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Clinic.

"I think Colleen's coaching efforts have helped," said Becker. "We tied the first game of the season and lost the second. We have come a long way to be 12-1-1."

Curiously, Tuesday's 11 goals only matched Mallon's single-game high of last season, when she was among the top four scorers in the area with 118 points. But, in truth, this spring's scoring average has been on a par without Mallon's on-field support.

The slack has been picked up by the likes of Jenny German, Julia Chu, Mimi Vishio, Kimberly McCleary and Zan Stuehlar.

"We're not as good without Colleen," said Becker, "but we have gotten much better since the first two games."

Obviously, the Mawrtians needed a brief time to adjust to Mallon's absence, just as she has needed time to adjust to watching this season go by.

"It's satisfying to help coach, but it's not the same as playing," said Mallon, who this week made a commitment to attend Yale next fall.

Sometime around July, she hopes to get the OK to begin jogging, and to begin picking up a stick in earnest. But it may take longer for her to put the injury behind her.

"At first, everyone seemed to just stare at my brace," said Mallon. "Now that I don't have to wear it, it feels like they are staring at my scars. I don't enjoy my therapy sessions, because there are too many mirrors. I don't even like to look at my knee."

In time, those scars will fade and so will Mallon's memory of this lost season. But, for now, she must be content with rooting for her teammates, who enter the Association of Independent Schools tournament on Monday.

"I believe we probably will draw a first-round bye for the tournament," said Becker.

That, in itself, is a tribute to Becker and her team's talent and dedication. How many teams survive the loss of their top scorer without a significant decline?

"It was just a matter of their believing in themselves," said Becker, who got an approving nod from her assistant coach.

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