McCallister's senior season ends early

April 14, 1994|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Sun Staff Writer

This is one Roland Park tradition Brent McCallister would rather not uphold.

Her right knee encased in a massive brace, McCallister stands on the sideline on crutches recovering from that season-killer of a knee injury, a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

McCallister is Roland Park's third All-Metro lacrosse player in seven years to lose her senior season to a torn ACL. After surgery to practically reconstruct the knee, she needs four to six months of rehabilitation before she can play again.

It all happened as she headed to goal in a mid-March scrimmage on a muddy field. McCallister, an explosive attack player, stopped just outside 12 meters, then quickly cut in trying to fake out her defender.

"My ankle planted and my knee rotated. I felt it pop and I screamed when I fell as much out of panic because I knew what had happened. I don't really remember that much pain at all. I just remember thinking that was my knee -- there goes my season," said McCallister, who led the Reds with 50 goals and 14 assists last year.

The No. 2-ranked Reds miss McCallister's scoring instincts, including her uncanny ability to turn loose balls into spectacular garbage goals. But at least the Reds retain her vocal leadership as they go for an unprecedented fourth straight Association of Independent Schools lacrosse title.

"The key thing I'm losing I still have," said Reds coach Wendy Kridel. "She was the leading scorer, but we still have a lot of kids who can score, and with her talking to them from the sideline, it's like we haven't lost her. She's like a 13th player. In a sad way, it's like we have an advantage."

Still, Kridel would prefer to have McCallister on the field, and she hoped her star might put off surgery until after the season.

McCallister thought about playing, and Kridel would have moved her from third home to first home to cut down on the running. But McCallister decided to go ahead with the operation, fearing further damage that might threaten her athletic future at Princeton.

"[The doctor] said that I could play on it," said McCallister, "but that every time I pivot I run the risk of throwing it out of joint again, which is probably the most painful thing one can do to one's body."

McCallister knows about that pain. She didn't feel it when she first went down, but she felt it during the examination. When the doctor told her to relax, she did -- so much so that he popped the knee out.

Right then, McCallister knew she didn't want to risk that pain or even the routine aching and swelling from playing on it.

"I figured that even though this season was really important to me and I would have loved to play that it's not worth risking my knee and the next four years of field hockey and lacrosse. It took a lot of prioritizing to get to that point, but when I really thought about it, that was really the most reasonable thing to do," she said.

One of the toughest things for McCallister, who skipped basketball season to train for lacrosse, was missing the Reds' spring-break trip to Florida. She had to stay home to work on strengthening her knee for the operation.

On March 28, she had two hours of surgery at Union Memorial Hospital. In about a month, she can start biking and swimming. The knee could be fine just in time for her to play field hockey at Princeton this fall.

To help her get through her disappointment, McCallister has to look no further than the other two Reds stars who suffered the same fate.

Jenny Slingluff, who tore her ACL in a Reds lacrosse game in 1988, went on to become a two-time All-American and led Virginia to the national title in 1992. Jeanne Lekin, a terrific defensive player, tore hers in a soccer game last year, but has gone on to play lacrosse at William & Mary.

"The tough thing about the beginning of rehab," said McCallister, "is that scar tissue forms and you have to break it so you can maintain your full range of motion. I think that's what makes it so painful. After they do it, they say it's like I have a new knee. In a year, it'll be like nothing ever happened."

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