Women's Lacrosse |
April 18, 2011
By Rachel Hundley
On March 6, 2011, as the Bearcats were taking on the University of Oregon at Nippert Stadium in their home-opener on a cool Sunday morning, University of Cincinnati senior lacrosse player Natalie Starvaggi experienced every student-athlete's worst nightmare. The infamous "pop" sound in the knee and the pain that followed was a sure sign to the senior from Cincinnati, Ohio that something was wrong.
Starvaggi, a Bearcats team captain in her fourth season, is one of many athletes set back by sports injuries. After an ACL tear sidelined her against Oregon this season, she was determined not to let the injury keep her from the game she loves, pledging to return as soon as possible. Less than two months after suffering that potentially devastating knee injury, Starvaggi joined her teammates on the field April 17 as they took on Rutgers.
The NCAA reports that in any given year, approximately 2,200 collegiate female athletes are expected to rupture their ACL. Based on these statistics, research shows that women have a four to eight times higher incidence of knee injury than their male counterparts.
Starvaggi made the daunting and courageous decision that she was going to return to the lineup for UC this season. She had been through too much and come too far with this lacrosse program to end her career without one last fight. The senior midfielder was not going to let her last memory as a Bearcat be her of being carried off the field in pain.
"I knew coming back for the rest of this season was something I had to do," Starvaggi said. "It's my last season playing for UC and I feel like I owed it to my teammates to try to make it back this year. This team is definitely something that I wanted to be a part of this season."
But an ACL tear does not repair itself. Reconstructive surgery, while effective, typically sidelines the athlete for a challenging six to nine months of rehabilitation, which was time that Starvaggi didn't have left in her career.
The only option she had in order to make it back to the field this season was to rely on rehabilitation, a knee brace, and the invaluable support she would need from her lacrosse family.
"Everyone has been so supportive of me through all this. My teammates, the coaching staff, the training staff, and my doctors have all been there to support me from day one," Starvaggi said. "Once I realized that I definitely wanted to make it back this season, everyone was behind me."
Starvaggi has been a staple of the program since its first year, and she has been forceful presence for UC both in terms of leadership and productivity. Last season, Starvaggi was tied for third on the team with 16 goals, second in assists (15), and second in groundballs (33). She has tallied five goals and an assist in limited action this year.
No one can question Starvaggi's dedication to this Bearcats squad, and she hopes the passion and commitment she has to this team, this program, and the game of lacrosse shows through to everyone who has seen her fight to overcome such a serious injury.
"I hope my teammates and everybody realize how much I love this game and love this team," Starvaggi said. "It was very important for me to show them that I wasn't going to quit on them, ever."
The Bearcats have one remaining home match left on the 2011 schedule, which will also be Senior Day for Starvaggi and eight other seniors. UC will take on Notre Dame on Sun., May 1 at Noon at Nippert Stadium.