Lisa Schaaf’s surgically repaired knee will allow her to cut, run, and ultimately score just like she used to when she returns to the lacrosse field next season. But her physical strength won’t be her strongest asset.
“I think that I’ve learned a ton from being able to sit out and see things,” said Schaaf, a co-captain who is missing this season due to that knee injury. “I wouldn’t wish a torn ACL on anyone, but it happened, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I think I’ve become a lot mentally stronger, and I’ve gained a lot in the lacrosse sense. I’ve been able to see things develop, and why you’re supposed to do certain things when you’re supposed to do them. I’m hoping that when I get back I’ll be able to put all that knowledge into action.”
Schaaf’s absence has played a role in AU’s struggles this year. When the 2008 campaign ended, the junior from outside Philadelphia had completed her first full season as an attacker, and was elected a co-captain by her teammates. The future seemed bright.
“She does have really good stick skills, and great height and ability on the attack to see over defenders,” said Coach Katie Woods. “She’s the type of kid who’s like a sponge. She takes in everything.”
Schaaf’s 2009 season was shattered during the final day of fall practice, when she planted her foot and spun to avoid a defender during a seven-on-seven drill.
“My leg just got caught and the top half went, and the bottom half didn’t,” she said. “It felt like five knuckles cracking up the side of my leg. It felt like a giant Charlie horse in my knee.”
Schaaf had torn her ACL and MCL, and underwent surgery on Nov. 4. The six-month rehab process has been grueling, but she decided early on to embrace both it and her role on this year’s team as a quasi-coach.
“It was hard at first because I felt like a lot of my leadership role came through my actions,” she said. “So I started talking more than I ever have.”
She earned the tongue-in-cheek title “undergraduate assistant to the assistant coach,” but she’s taken her role of mentoring her teammates seriously.
“Being out you can see so much more developing on the field,” she said. “I use the knowledge I have to help my teammates so they can play better.”
It’s been a big boost to the squad, Woods said.
“She has become much more vocal, she speaks out and helps especially the younger attackers,” Woods said. “She’s our hardest worker; she’s a really good role model for the program in general. She’s taken younger players under her wing.”
Through the trials and tribulations of her injury, Schaaf has discovered that she enjoys the teaching aspect of the game. Coaching junior lacrosse might be in the cards down the road for this statistics major and biology minor, who would like to one day work with children and medicine.
For now though, her focus is squarely on getting back on the field, and helping her teammates regain their winning edge. She feels comfortable in the range of motion and flexibility she’s recovered in her knee, and now is working on her speed and conditioning. Schaaf is confident that 2010 is going to be her year.
“Her vision is going to be a lot different,” Woods said. “She’s going to see things that she didn’t see before. She’s also going to have a lot more intensity and urgency about her training and play. She’s the type of kid who wants it—and she’s going to go do everything in her power to take it.”