After starting 27 games as a true freshmen, Grace Kenyon was forced to the bench after an injury ended her sophmore season before it started.
Kenyon tore her ACL, forcing her to sit out last season and use her one and only redshirt.
Kenyon underwent surgery and with months of grueling physical therapy behind her, she says she is a better athlete.
“I feel good, and I feel positive,” said Kenyon, an accounting and finance major. “I know exactly where I need to grow as a player to help the team, and I have a lot of confidence in my teammates and coaches. I think that we should have success this season.”
Kenyon’s journey began last year when she planted her left leg into the floor during practice.
She’d torn her ACL once before, playing lacrosse during high school and had a sinking feeling she injured her knee again.
The feeling was too similar.
An MRI confirmed her fears: a torn ACL that required surgery.
“It was pretty devastating,” she said. “I was pretty distraught. I remember going home, walking into my room and scream as loud as I can.”
Several of her teammates, who doubled as roommates, comforted her that day, Kenyon said. She remembers crying with a teammate who had previously suffered the same injury.
Their support would help her through the long months of recovery that followed, even as the team missed her presence on it.
“Losing Kenyon was difficult for many teammates,” said coach Seton Sobolewski. “She brings a competitive fire, an ability to score, especially at the basket. I think she brings really good leadership. It was tough for the players, because some of them were really excited. They were really anticipating playing with her, and so that was something they had to get over. It wasn’t easy.”
Watching her teammates—who Kenyon considers friends, even sisters—play without her was hard at first, Kenyon said. But soon, she enjoyed supporting them from the sidelines.
The optimism that allowed her to cheer on her team also propelled her through the draining physical therapy sessions necessary for recovery.
For seven months following her ACL surgery in Oct. 2015, Kenyon attended therapy two to three times per week. The sessions included a laundry list of exercises targeted at her left leg and core. During a typical session, she’d bike for 10 minutes, stretch, work with her physical therapist, complete leg presses and hamstring curls then move on to more specific workouts.
Because it was so intensive and focused on one area of her body, therapy drove her to exhaustion, Kenyon said. Progress was slow, and it was easy to become discouraged thinking about her previous fitness and skill.
“To have that taken from you, it puts down your confidence,” she said. “You just want something so bad and you can’t have it because your body isn’t ready for it. You want things to happen right away but it’s so slow.”
Over a year after her surgery, Kenyon has returned to the team, performing even better than before.
Her perimeter shooting has improved, as well as her lateral movement, a remarkable development considering Kenyon injured her knee, her coach said.
“It’s been impressive how much better she got as a player while injured,” Sobolewski said. “You don’t see that. Usually you hope they return to where they were before they got hurt, but she surpassed that.”
Kenyon believes she’s a better athlete than she was before the injury, but she also credits the recovery process with personal growth that’s not just physical.
“I truly believe everything happens for a reason,” she said. “I’ve become a more mature person, I think, and learned to grow in areas of my life that I didn’t care about before.”