The UMary women’s basketball team is right in the thick of the NSIC race, and it could be because of the return of Lauren Rotunda.
It was 14 minutes into the first game of last season when Rotunda tore her ACL. Now after a medical redshirt year, she has returned despite the uncertainty of whether her knee would hold up again.
“It did cross my mind definitely the first time back on the court,” said junior Rotunda. “But I’ve had enough time in the offseason to kind of get back and being used to playing and everything. So that’s been helped out a lot and kind of not in the back of my mind anymore.”
It did take a few games to shake off the rust, something head coach Rick Neumann noticed.
“She had some good games in the non-conference,” Neumann said. “But I think those first couple of times is when she got hit and fell to the floor and got back up and was like, ‘Oh, I’m in one piece.’ You could see the confidence elevate and then since then, she’s been almost a double-double player for us.”
Her contributions to UMary have been huge for their chances at a conference championship, sitting in the middle of a five-team race in the Northern Sun.
“Her floor game has been instrumental to our success this year,” said Neumann. “Rebounds, assists, being able to guard multiple positions. Just the way that she can bring an element of toughness in just being able to drive the basketball to the hoop.”
Now at 100 percent, the next step is worrying less about an injury and more about playing her best basketball.
“Getting back to how I used to play and just trying to figure out how to trust my knee and everything,” Rotunda said. “But I think it just helps knowing that we are still similar to what it was before I got hurt and everything, so it helps out too.”
Rotunda and the women are back in action this Friday when they host Sioux Falls.