ALGOMA - Oftentimes you find out the most about yourself when confronted with adversity. Taylor Schmidt was in that position last basketball season when she suffered a serious knee injury.
She had a decision to make and just eight short months after surgery she was as good as new.
Schmidt will always remember Feb. 9, 2012, that's when the Algoma senior tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee at Oconto.
"I never felt anything like that before," she said. "It just felt like something was wrong but I just wanted to get back up and play so I hopped off the court and then I was expecting to go back in.
"Then he took me to the training room and he's like; he didn't want to tell me that I did it, because he wasn't like 100 percent sure, but then he's like, the gist of this is, you tore your ACL. That's when the tears hit me."
A faint scar on the knee is all that's left from an injury that benched her for the first time in her career.
"I had to watch my team play through the regionals and when they lost, it was emotional for me and the team," Schmidt said. "I felt like I could've helped the team out in some kind of way; just like really killed me. And then after that I was just more focused on getting back for this year and finishing it out the right way."
After learning about the severity of her injury, Schmidt had no doubts. She knew she would be back for the start of this season.
"I never doubted myself," she said. "I knew it was going to be eight months of really hard work, and when I talked to Dr. McKenzie about it he said he was going to get us back for the sport I love."
Tearing your ACL used to mean about a 12-month recovery time, but now athletes like Schmidt are coming back much quicker.
"I knew she was pretty determined to get back," said coach Mark Zastrow, whose team is 6-1. "She loves the game of basketball. Again we have a good training staff so I think all those things with hard work; I'm not really surprised she came back. She's as good as she was in the past, if not better."
Dr. Patrick McKenzie repaired Schmidt's knee and said her attitude keyed her return.
"She never missed a day; she didn't miss a day," McKenzie said. "She didn't feel sorry for herself, she just went after it, rehabbed; did everything we asked and had a really great recovery.
"It was all about her dedication. I mean, Taylor went off the charts in how good she did and that really made me feel good."
Schmidt doesn't show any signs of the injury and doesn't even wear a brace. Off the court, the injury actually might've been a good thing.
"She worked so hard to get back," teammate Kennedy Blahnik said. "I think it's helped her a lot, which sounds bad. I think she's definitely a better person because of it."
Schmidt actually returned for the end of the volleyball season, but her return to the basketball court was her goal. First game back, 19 points. Then a couple weeks later, Schmidt drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat rival Kewaunee.
No doubt about it, Schmidt was back.
"I knew the ball was coming to me, so I knew I'd have to be ready to shoot," Schmidt said. "I guess I just let it go and it went in."
"No," Schmidt said laughing.
Blahnik was thrilled for Schmidt.
"There couldn't have been a better person to make that shot," she said. "She says she knew it was going in right away. I think that game is kind is kind of; we came back, she's come back and she came out on top."
McKenzie said it may look like Schmidt's knee is better than it's ever been before, but he said that's not the case. He said she's playing well because of what she went through.
"When you're a really gifted kid, often many things come easy to you, because you're gifted and that gets taken away and you had to work really hard to get back," McKenzie said. "All of a sudden there's a work ethic thrown into a gifted athlete that didn't exist before and that work ethic can make them better than they were before."
Schmidt hopes so, because she wants to lead her team back to the state tournament, just like in 2011.
"I feel like our team last year could've went; just watching them lose was one of the hardest things," Schmidt said. "I think our team has the potential to go there."
If Schmidt does lead her team back to state, this experience, no doubt, will leave her with a big smile.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay
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