Davis reestablishes presence on field

Midway through the national semifinal game last year against Virginia, the Blue Devils were unstoppable. With less than 20 minutes remaining in the match and a 13-4 Duke lead, midfielder Carolyn Davis carried the ball down in a routine fastbreak.

The official's whistle blew again, but this time it wasn't to mark another Blue Devil goal. Davis had fallen to the field in pain, clutching her left knee. As the then-sophomore was carted off the field to the sidelines, she could only watch helplessly as the Cavaliers scored 10 unanswered goals, pulling off the biggest comeback in Division-I history.

"She felt like she was playing one of the games of her life," head coach Kerstin Kimel said. "We needed her energy. It was tough to lose her at that point in the game."

Although the heartbreaking loss was difficult for the players, Davis would feel the residual pain for the next several months. Because of the ACL tear, the midfielder underwent surgery soon after the game and began a grueling eight-month rehabilitation process.

"I've never suffered a serious injury before," Davis said. "At first, I wondered if I would ever be able to walk again. You're never sure what's coming next. Once I walked, I couldn't help thinking in my the back of my head, 'Am I going to be able to run again?'"

Until three weeks ago, Davis found herself watching from the sidelines as Duke began preparing for the start of the season. When the doctors finally gave her clearance to play, however, the junior hit the ground running.

Through the first four games of the year, Davis has led the Blue Devils in scoring with 13 goals and seven assists. Although Kimel worried about Davis getting back to game speed, her performances thus far have removed any doubt.

"One game she told me, 'I need to play more,'" Kimel said. "'I need to be out on the field.' Once she said that, I knew she was fine. She's going to need a break here and there because she's winded, but she's picked up right where she left off."

But Davis came close to never realizing those accomplishments after nearly re-injuring her knee in November. As she began practicing with her teammates, the junior tore her scar tissue. Although the incident could have been much worse, it still delayed her recovery another month.

"I went into a little bit of a panic mode," Davis said. "I told myself it was just a speed bump, but it was frustrating to be set back again."

Because of the scare, Davis is conscious of playing smart on the field to avoid reaggravating her injury. Although she is wary of another hit to her knee, the junior has not let the fact that her knee is now encased in a brace affect her on the field.

"There are some things that you have to be smart about," Davis said. "I was mostly worried about playing against a high level of competition while keeping my body controlled."

In addition to the months of rehabilitation, Davis switched positions from midfielder to attacker. The move gave her less responsibility on defense and more scoring opportunities. Even though Davis had become a defensive presence for Duke last season, the change has allowed her to regain her endurance and mobility while still contributing to the team.

Although Davis is happy to put the injury behind her, some positives have emerged from the painful situation. Along with a drive to achieve more than the final-four finish of last season, Davis credits the injury for helping her become a stronger athlete.

"Before my injury I didn't take the time to appreciate being out there on the field," Davis said. "It really helps you to be stronger, physically and especially mentally. I've grown as a person because of it."


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