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Garden City's Meghan Rode thriving after rehabbing from two ACL tears

Garden City's Meghan Rode (21) runs from behind

Garden City's Meghan Rode (21) runs from behind the goal marked by Manhasset's Mackenzie Beil (1) on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan/Joseph D. Sullivan

Meghan Rode went through it day after day, month after month, until seven months had come and gone. She rehabbed her right knee, pushing past the pain and weakness to get it in good working order again after a change of direction on a lacrosse field made her ACL tear, necessitating a surgical repair.

She was 15 and about to become a Garden City freshman in September of 2018 when she was hurt while practicing with her Liberty Lacrosse travel team in Manhasset.

So now it was 15 months later, December of 2019. Rode was playing in a Maryland tournament with Liberty. Then it happened. This time, she tore her left ACL. An operation and all that daily rehab were ahead — again.

The thought alone hurt.

"Yeah, it was pretty tough mentally," Rode said. "But my coaches for my travel team were pretty good with it. They let me take two days to complain about it, be upset about it."

Then she picked herself up, underwent the surgery, did the rehab, returned with Liberty last June and played well over the summer. The recruiting game began, and Rode committed in September to Syracuse. After playing basketball for Garden City in the winter, the junior attack has had a strong spring in her first lacrosse season with the Trojans, helping them earn the top seed in Nassau B.

Rode’s ride has been inspirational.

"It’s crazy," said Sydney Pappas, her Villanova-bound senior teammate and friend. "I couldn’t even imagine what she’s gone through. … I think what she’s contributing to the team, especially after two torn ACLs, it’s, like, inspiring. I couldn’t even imagine."

Rode joined Liberty’s program back around fourth grade. She’s 5-11 now, but she used to be a little girl with a dream.

"Ever since I was a little kid, I always dreamed of and looked forward to playing in high school," she said.

The first tear got in the way.

"That was really upsetting," Rode said, "because I was looking forward to playing in high school so much."

Dr. Answorth Allen performed the operation at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan on Sept. 19, 2018. Physical therapy began two days later.

"Those first two weeks are awful, like minimal movement, so much pain," Rode said. "It takes a toll on your whole body. You can’t wait to get moving around again."

She worked seven days a week for those seven months with a physical therapist and a trainer, and returned to play for her travel team in the summer before her sophomore year.

Then came the horrible sequel. Allen did another repair job on Dec. 9, 2019. She did the daily rehab again for about seven months, again with the physical therapist and trainer.

The rehab people gave her encouragement, as did her Liberty coaches, Danielle Gallagher and Danielle Etrasco.

There were indeed down days during her long rehab stints.

"I would go into physical therapy some days just, like, mentally wrecked, seeing all my teammates playing at high school games, at tournaments," Rode said. "It was just rough seeing them playing while I just wanted to be on the field so bad."

"Physical therapy every day is a grind," she added. "It’s pretty hard. You just don’t think it’s worth it."

Her older sister, Erin, tore an ACL while playing lacrosse for Garden City and underwent surgery. Bad enough.

But for Rode to experience this twice …

"It’s hard to watch your daughter go through some pain and struggle, and just to find your inner strength and pull through," her mother, Marianne, said. "Every day is like a routine and she’s only limited to do certain things.

"So for a kid that’s so active, that loves lacrosse and basketball so much, it was really hard. But she came through it pretty good. … She’s a really strong kid."

She plays with a brace for her left knee. It hasn’t slowed her. Pappas praised Rode’s ability to do "so many things."

Rode contributed 20 goals and 13 assists in the Trojans’ 10-2 regular season, which matched Manhasset at the top of Nassau I.

"It just says a lot of her character and what she was able to do in rehab to get herself back ready to play," Garden City coach Dave Ettinger said.

Ettinger said she can shoot hard with both hands.

"She’s very good when she gets in tight with the goal," he said. "Her hands are very good, and her ability to move the goalie is next level."

Her next team is really next level. Syracuse just went to the national championship game. Rode said she liked the program’s "good team culture" and the sports-loving atmosphere at the university. As she put it, "It’s just pretty cool to be a part of it."

“It just says a lot of her character and what she was able to do in rehab to get herself back ready to play.”

— Garden City coach Dave Ettinger

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