The gloriously sunny and warm April afternoon that promised that summer is not far away was equaled by the radiance of Lauren Whitcomb's smile. What a beautiful day it was for the Hofstra senior to end her outstanding lacrosse career.
Having persevered through the pain of three potential career-ending injuries, Whitcomb completed her collegiate run in Hofstra's 18-10 victory over Drexel Saturday. She scored twice, giving her 87 goals in four seasons. Junior Corrine Gandolfi had six goals and finished the season with 45. Hofstra (10-6, 4-3) just missed the playoffs. Drexel ends 8-9, 0-7.
Whitcomb's cheery mood was in contrast with a month ago, when the 5-4 senior midfielder, an all-CAA performer, collapsed on the turf with an apparent career-ending ACL tear - which would have been the third to her right knee.
"I pretty much went down screaming," she said of the home game against Stony Brook. "Not the pain, but knowing what is about to happen. Your season, your career is over. I just could not handle that I was done."
As a senior at East Rochester High School, Whitcomb suffered her first ACL tear in her final game. Her junior year at Hofstra ended with a torn ACL in the season finale at Stony Brook, and she spent all last summer rehabbing. Now this. All the effort Whitcomb had put into making her senior year special seemed to be in vain.
"Hysterical tears on her end," coach Abby Morgan said. "And no breath for all of us on the sideline. I got out to the field and I know where her brain is going. 'It's over, my career's over.' She was bawling her eyes out."
An MRI appeared to confirm a tear, and Whitcomb made an appointment with her orthopedist in Rochester. "I called and said, 'I did it again; let's schedule surgery,' " she said. But in the days leading up to the doctor's visit, Whitcomb started to feel some improvement.
Dr. Lucien Rouse told her that at worst, it was a partial tear, but said it probably was only twisted. "He said, 'It's not torn. You have an abnormal MRI. It looks like you have a torn ACL, but you don't.' I was literally sobbing. It was like my whole life came back to me in a second. I hugged my mom. I couldn't believe the doctor was so stoic. I said, 'You have to call someone [at Hofstra]; no one will believe me.' "
The injury cost her only two games, the only ones she missed in her Hofstra career. "I'll never have to worry about getting this time back," she said. "I'll never have to have any regrets."
On a perfect day, a perfect ending - and thoughts of a new beginning. "I know I will be coaching someday," she said. "I can never get away from this sport."