WATERVILLE — This is not how Lindsey McKenna and Dori McAuliffe, senior members of the Colby College women’s lacrosse team, wanted to spend the final NCAA tournament of their careers. In sweatpants, they watched the Mules play Plymouth State in the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament from the sideline.
McKenna and McAuliffe, two of the teams’ leaders, two of the players who have been on the team for four straight trips to the NCAA tournament, were lost to injury in Colby’s 13-10 defeat to No. 1 ranked Trinity in the New England Small College Athletic Conference tournament last Saturday.
McKenna tore the ACL and meniscus of her left knee. McAuliffe suffered a concussion. Last Sunday night, once the Mules knew they were off the bubble and in the tournament, they knew they’d have to play without two of their best.
“A lot of us want to play for them. They’ve helped us get to this point. We want to make sure they know what it’s meant to us,” Colby head coach Karen Henning said. “We’re digging as deep as we can, because we want to show them how much they mean to us.”
There was a shot. The ball struck McAuliffe in the temple. Saturday was the first day since the injury she hasn’t had headaches, McAuliffe said.
“It’s not fun. It’s definitely not fun,” McAuliffe said.
In the same game, McKenna suffered what she called her first real injury. She had the ball, and was making a move toward the net. A 40-goal scorer this season, McKenna already had two goals in the game and was going for a third. She was blanketed by Trinity defenders, but that wasn’t anything new. Forty-goal scorers draw a lot of attention. McKenna was hit on the side of the knee, and she went down.
“Probably the first time I haven’t popped right back up,” McKenna said.
McKenna went to the sidelines for treatment, and tried to re-enter the game. She crumpled trying to run a straight line, and she knew her season was over.
“I’m just happy it’s at the end of the year and I can watch my team go on and watch them play,” McKenna said.
Both McAuliffe and McKenna set a standard for hard work, Henning said.
“Those two in particular are known for making hustle plays. I know a lot of people know Lindsey as the goal scorer, because she’s been our leading scorer for four years,” Henning said. “It’s all the little extra things she’s always done. That’s what I said to the team, we do those extra little things, we’ll find ways to score. One person can score an extra goal, but those hustle plays are hard to replace.”
A midfielder, McAuliffe has three goals this season, but she has 11 ground balls and is the kind of grinder every team needs.
“(McAuliffe) is a workhorse. She doesn’t get tired. Forty minutes into the game, she’s going the same way she did at the beginning of the game. She doesn’t give up,” Henning said.
The Mules hustled against Plymouth State, won 16-5, and picked up the slack for their injured teammates. McAuliffe and McKenna noticed.
“It’s so fun to watch. The excitement on the sideline is almost as electrifying as on the field. I still feel like I’m a part of it,” McAuliffe said.
“Our bench is really awesome. I’m taking a part in that, and not being sour on the sidelines, just being as positive as the rest of team is,” McKenna said.
McKenna will graduate at the end of the month, before having knee surgery. McAuliffe will learn on Monday if she’ll be cleared to play when the Mules take on Williams in Cortland, N.Y., in the next round.
“So, fingers crossed. Either way, I’ll be down there in Cortland with everyone,” McAuliffe said. “I’ve never been a part of a team like that, where everyone cares so deeply for each other. Just seeing how excited everyone gets for everyone else’s success, it shows how great the team is.”
McAuliffe watched a few team alumns walk past, congratulating the Mules on the win. To her, it was more proof that you don’t need to be on the field to be a part of the team.
“I’ll be part of it forever,” she said.