SHERIDAN — It’s hard not to notice them. Whether it’s a soft compression sleeve or a sturdier, more complex one, the Sheridan College women’s basketball team dons plenty of supportive knee braces.
The braces are helping to stabilize, protect and prevent further injury for a Lady Generals squad that has endured its fair share of ailments. Four players are currently playing through some sort of structural knee damage, while another two have suffered major knee injuries earlier in their playing days.
These injuries have not only challenged the individuals suffering them but also head coach Ryan Davis.
“It has been unique. There’s been a lot of different things we’ve had to change,” Davis said. “The biggest thing to me is changing the lineup. Then kids think, ‘Did I do something wrong? Well, not really, but somebody else is coming back that is really going to challenge you for that spot.’ So that can rattle your confidence.”
It’s unclear where the rash of injuries started. Lani Taliauli experienced pain in her knee at the beginning of the season that she originally thought was a form of arthritis. It turned out to be torn meniscus upon further evaluation over Christmas break.
Misini Fifita tore her meniscus before the season began. Tala Tuisavura tore her posterior cruciate ligament during the Lady Generals’ first road trip of the season. Aloma Solovi — who has endured three torn anterior cruciate ligaments in her basketball career — tore her meniscus prior to winter break.
All of those ailments have shuffled the lineup quite a bit. Tuisavura went from starting the first couple of games to sitting for the next month and a half. Solovi and Taliauli have had to manage her minutes and know internally when she needs to take a breather.
“I feel like we are still trying to figure who we want to play and when,” Sheridan’s Noora Parttimaa said.
One thing all four aforementioned injuries have in common: All four team members are playing through the pain.
“I don’t think I would ever question whether they’re tough or not,” Davis said. “They super tough.”
Injuries to guards like Solovi and Tuisavura, while they have slowed them somewhat, have helped them in other regards. The pair of explosive guards have had to reign in their respective games. Solovi can’t always drive downhill to create offensive flow, and Tuisavura doesn’t currently possess the quickness she once had.
That has forced those two to facilitate more and work on their jump shot. And both have showed improvement in those areas in recent games.
Davis hopes to increase the pair’s playing time together as the season wears on. Solovi and Tuisavura, along with fellow Polynesian Talauli, helped SC climb back into Wednesday night’s game against Casper College with their dynamic play and chemistry on the floor.
“Tala, Lani and Aloma are pretty good when they play together,” Davis said. “They have that connection out there. But we have to do that very sparingly because all three of those kids have something wrong with their knee. So we play too much of them, then they can’t move as much, and they get tired, and then we can’t defend.”
Darcy Walker was also a part of the five on the floor that made the run against the Thunderbirds. She tore both her ACLs in high school and now wears a big brace while competing in college. Kassie Hoyer has also torn her ACL.
The Lady Generals are beat up. In a sport that requires explosiveness, athleticism and speed, numerous players are battling through knee ailments. And while it may have slowed them somewhat, it’s hard to question the character and heart of each individual.