A 3-sport senior faces a different challenge

Profile: Mount Hebron's Annie Collins, with a Maryland lacrosse scholarship secured, goes down with an ACL, her first bad injury.

February 25, 2000|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

Mount Hebron senior Annie Collins had never missed a day of practice or a game because of injury. And considering she played three sports -- soccer, basketball and lacrosse -- since her freshman year, that was saying something.

"I've been so lucky before this," said Collins.

That all changed last week. With five seconds left in the Vikings' game against River Hill, Collins ran toward Greeba Outen-Barlow to foul her.

"I guess I stopped and my knee didn't," Collins said. "It just twisted. I could hear it."

She tore the anterior-cruciate ligament in her right knee.

"It was really painful," said Collins, who played four years of varsity soccer and basketball, and moved up to the varsity lacrosse team at the end of her freshman season. "I know people were talking to me, but I really can't remember what they were saying. I just remember that it hurt so bad."

She also was thinking about her future -- playing lacrosse this spring, going to college in the fall.

Collins, a second-team All-Metro selection in lacrosse, signed early with the University of Maryland, the national defending champion in the sport and preseason No. 1 this season. She's talked to Maryland people about her injury, and they've told her to get better and not worry.

College coaches are well aware of the high incidence of ACL injuries to female athletes, a subject of extensive research.

"I might not be at full strength for fall ball, but I should be fine for the season," Collins said.

For now, Collins must come to terms with the fact that her playing days, at least temporarily, are over. And with sports being "such a big part of my life," it's not easy.

"I'm seriously doing a lot better than I expected I would," said Collins, a National Honor Society student with a 3.7 grade-point average. "It's a really big setback, but I've learned it's something I have to deal with."

Like sitting on the bench during Tuesday's game against Wilde Lake.

"It was really hard, knowing that I'll never play basketball again," Collins said. "I was having such a fun year. I love the team, and everybody's been great. It was the year we've been waiting for, our senior year, and now I can't play in the state playoffs."

Collins visits the trainer every day after school, then goes to watch basketball practice.

"Right now, I'm focused on doing what I need to do to heal the fastest," said Collins, who leads the team in assists and three-point baskets.

"I've been going to the trainer every day to strengthen it and get it ready for surgery, because the more ready it is, the faster the recovery."

Surgery is scheduled March 10.

"From what I understand, physical therapy is going to be really hard," Collins said. "It's such a long, painful process, but it's something you have to do if you want to play again."

Before attending Mount Hebron, Collins played softball all the time.

"It was my life," said Collins, a pitcher who helped take her team to a national tournament.

Lacrosse coach Chris Robinson noticed Collins' athletic ability playing varsity soccer and basketball as a freshman and tried to get her to play lacrosse.

Lacrosse?

"I didn't even know what it was," said Collins, who waited until the day before spring practice to switch. "The first day I played lacrosse was the first day of tryouts.

Four years later, she would earn a scholarship to join the nation's No. 1 team.

"I'm surprised. I didn't know it would take me this far," said Collins, who was fourth in scoring last season for the top-ranked Vikings with 37 goals and 30 assists. "I just started [lacrosse] to have fun and be with my friends, and it became more serious as I kept playing."

Robinson knew Collins had the potential to be a very good player.

"She's a phenomenal athlete, and when she picked up a stick, she immediately was good," Robinson said. "She had skills that normally take kids two years to pick up just because she's such a great athlete."

And Collins made herself better with endless work.

"She's definitely one of the hardest working kids in the off-season, and it paid off for her," Robinson said.

Collins, who was second last season in ground balls with 134, still will be a part of the lacrosse team. She'll take statistics during games, and Robinson plans to find something for her to do during practice.

And Collins hasn't ruled out returning to the field of action.

"If I work really hard and walk pretty well by the playoffs, I'd like to go in for a minute or two, even if I don't touch the ball, just to say I played," Collins said.

Said Robinson: "There are a lot of variables, but certainly we would do anything to accommodate her needs as far as being a member of the team. She deserves any kind of playing time she could get on the field, as long as it's safe for her."

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