Freshman women’s basketball player Ann-Marie Jacobs fell to the ground after going up for a shot in a warmup drill. As Jacobs was taken to the sidelines to be examined by the trainer, the group she was drilling with went to the other end of the court to regroup and restart the warmup activity.
Five minutes passed.
Another player was down on the court — this time it was junior Hailey Pascoe from the other warmup group. She too was taken to the sidelines to be examined.
Jacobs and Pascoe, who both play the position of guard, tore their anterior cruciate ligaments, or ACLs, during their warmup on Oct. 6.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I have never had an experience where we had two kids have the same injury in such a short proximity of time,” coach Sue Troyan said. “I mean, it was during the first 15 minutes of practice when we were just warming up, the injuries happened within 5 minutes of each other.”
Jacobs was the first ACL injury for the team this season. As she drove to the basket, she pivoted on her left foot and as her right foot hit the ground. Her knee gave out. She immediately fell to the ground, clutching her knee which had a “sharp, tight, warm feeling.”
“I knew right away that something was wrong,” Jacobs said. “It felt more uncomfortable and unnatural than painful.”
This is Jacobs first year on the team. She came to Lehigh this summer and took a course while beginning workouts with the team. She said the early start allowed her to simultaneously get acclimated to college-level classes, adjust to collegiate athletics and bond with the team members.
She added that although her season is ending, the experience will help her gain a different perspective than if she were on the court. By listening to comments her coaches make and the smaller details about plays, she hopes that she can use this time on the sidelines to gain overall basketball knowledge that she can leverage next season when she’s healthy again.
Because of swelling, Jacobs must take some time to complete rehabilitation exercises before she can have surgery. After discussing options with the trainers and Troyan, Jacobs will likely take this time to focus on academics and use the winter break to get her surgery and recover.
Pascoe, who suffered the same injury just minutes after Jacobs, will take a slightly different route.
Unlike Jacobs, Pascoe is not a new face to collegiate training or athletics — she started in 24 games as a freshman and played in all 30 games last season. Troyan said Pascoe’s two years of experience in collegiate training has allowed her to physically develop her body and be in a good enough shape to get her ACL surgery just a week and a half after the initial injury.
Pascoe’s injury occurred during a drill similar to the one during which Jacobs was injured. While performing a step-back dribble, which Troyan said is her “patented move,” she stepped back awkwardly and tore her ACL.
Pascoe was unable to comment because of surgery and recovery, but The Brown and White spoke to junior forward Meagan Eripret who is Pascoe’s roommate and teammate.
Through conversations with Pascoe, Eripret said her teammate is focused on her rehabilitation exercises and completing the necessary steps to ensure a full recovery. Eripret said Pascoe’s dedication to the team is apparent, noting that Pascoe returned to sit in on practice the day after her surgery.
Eripret suffered an ACL injury when she and Pascoe were freshmen on the team. She said Pascoe was there for her throughout the injury, and she hopes that she can return the favor.
Although Pascoe and Jacobs are unable to contribute on the court this season, they still plan on participating and attending all practices, games and team functions. Eripret said the character of the athletes can influence the morale of the team, no matter how much playing time a teammate gets.
“Hailey (Pascoe) is the strongest person I know, and she is taking this as positively as she can,” Eripret said. “Her role probably won’t change that much, even though she’s not going to physically be playing. The person that she is makes her a great leader on our team, and I think that will stay true this season.”
Troyan said that while injuries are never a good thing, the two ACL tears occurred at a good time since the season has yet to begin. With weeks between the injuries and the first game of the season, the team has had the ability to adjust to the changes.
“Sometimes this stuff happens, but the focus right now for the girls is just that we have a lot of depth and now there is the opportunity for kids to step up,” Troyan said. “This will give more kids the chance to take on some more extended roles than if the injuries wouldn’t have happened, but we have the team to do it and we have time to adjust to that.”
Eripret said the temporary loss of two players has created a sense of increased awareness among the team that all of the players must remain healthy throughout the season.
“We are lucky that we are all healthy and able to play, so we aren’t taking a single day for granted,” Eripret said. “We are making sure that every time we step on the court, we are playing for those two who would give anything to be able to play and making sure they know that they are still in our minds when we are playing.”