NO DOUBTING DOTY
Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 22:01
Her light brown hair held back by a piece of pink athletic pre-wrap, arms toned from years of weight lifting and legs molded by multitudes of suicide sprints, redshirt senior guard Caroline Doty looks just like the rest of her UConn women’s basketball teammates.
There is one exception: the bulky black brace tightly wrapped around her left knee.
That brace became a part of her life as a result of three separate tears of the anterior cruciate ligament in three years, which forced Doty to sit out a season and a half of college basketball.
Despite the disappointment, she never thought about quitting. That, she said, was never in the equation.
“Just the love for the game,” Doty says of her motivation to bounce back from each of her injuries. “You know, I’ve loved it since I was little … there’s nothing better than coming out for a game and seeing the fans and being in the jersey and warming up and being excited for the plays. I just loved it, I couldn’t give it up.”
Three years, three tears
After committing to UConn in November of her junior year, Doty – a three-sport athlete in high school – decided to continue playing her other sports during her senior year at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Penn.
“People were saying, ‘Oh, don’t play your other sports, just stick with basketball training,’ and stuff,” Doty said, recalling her first injury in an interview in the hallway outside of the team’s locker room in Gampel Pavilion in October. “But I couldn’t quit. I played varsity soccer, varsity track all four years in high school, so I can’t quit.”
Though her father was not keen on the idea because of the chance of injury, Doty said head coach Geno Auriemma never had a problem with her desire to play soccer her final year.
“I called him before and I was like, ‘Hey, coach, I’m thinking about playing soccer this year. What do you say?’” Doty said. “He goes, ‘It’s your last year to play, go for it.’”
Then, in one of her first games of the season, she collapsed into a heap after being taken out awkwardly by a slide tackle. She knew what had happened.
“It just ripped apart,” Doty said. “It was bad. It felt like my leg just separated.”
She had torn her MCL, ACL and had injured her lateral collateral ligament in the collision. In the blink of an eye, a slew of missed opportunities – the ability to finish out her high school basketball career, the chance to become a McDonald’s Basketball All-American – flashed through Doty’s mind.
But never did the possibility of losing her UConn scholarship cross her mind, even though she had not yet signed her letter of intent – she only had a verbal commitment.
The ESPN No. 10 ranked recruit in the nation was determined to rehab her knee and be back in shape in time to join the Huskies for her freshman season in Storrs a little over a year from when the injury occurred.
Not only did Doty recover in time for the season, she was one of the original starters and played alongside the likes of all-time greats Maya Moore, Renee Montgomery and Tina Charles.
As a guard, she started the first 17 games of the season, averaging 8.6 points per game. But in a game against Syracuse in January, as she sprinted down the court on a fast break, she crashed to the floor. There were 17 seconds remaining in the half of the 17th game in which she had scored 17 points.
Her left knee had again given out, leaving her sidelined for the remainder of the year.
Despite losing one of their star freshmen, the Huskies won the NCAA championship in the 2008-2009 season. But Doty could do nothing but watch the title run.
“It was tough because I was still so immature and I figured the only way I could be a part of the team is if I was on the court,” Doty said after a practice in late November.
Because Doty had already played more than one-third of the season, she was unable to apply for a medical redshirt. So she returned to a rehab regimen, hoping to be back for her sophomore season.
“The whole rehab, it sucked,” Doty said. “You need to get through the first month or two, and then you’re walking and doing more. And then you just start training again, so it just felt like you were training for a very long time.”
She realized her goal to return for the 2009-2010 season, starting in all but one game. Over the course of the season, she averaged 25.3 minutes per game – up from 23.9 minutes during her freshman year – and racked up 136 assists and averaged 6.8 points per game.
But once again, Doty was the victim of a cruel twist of fate.
“I wasn’t wearing a brace because I didn’t have to at the time and I remember I got hit,” Doty said, smacking the back of her left knee as she recalled her third ACL tear in three years. “And I remember it go a little bit and I walked off and I was like, ‘Oh, that felt weird.’ I kept playing, I kept playing. It swelled up a little bit but it wasn’t too bad.”
Other than some slight swelling and a little discomfort, the third tear left Doty in little pain. She continued to train for several days, unaware that something was seriously wrong with her knee.
But one morning about a week later, she woke up to a swollen knee and she decided to drive home to see her doctor in Doylestown. On the way back to Storrs, she received a call from her doctor with the news that her left ACL had again torn.
“Tears,” Doty said. Her eyes grew red and puffy as she remembered the call. “And I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’” I don’t really think it hit me – I was driving home so I was by myself so then I called my mom, called my dad, called my brothers and I was just like, ‘Oh my God, doing it again.’”