Written by: Ed Collins, SouthCoastToday.com
Eleanor Taylor wasn't going to let anything keep her from playing her senior season on the UMass Dartmouth field hockey team.
Not even a knee injury that forced her to sit out all of last season and watch from the sideline as the Corsairs won the Little East Conference championship and went on to play in the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Taylor tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee playing in a summer pickup game last June and she knew right away that something was very wrong.
"I planted my leg to make a cut and the knee blew out," said Taylor, a senior forward from Fairhaven. "It was the worst pain of my life. It was a 12 out of 10 for about 30 seconds and I was crushed, because I knew I wasn't going to be able to play in the fall."
Taylor graduated in the spring with a degree in nursing and she returned to UMD in September as a Spanish major with a 12-credit academic schedule so she could finish up her career with the Corsairs (9-3-0, 6-0-0 Little East Conference), who are tied for first place in the league standings with Keene State (11-2-0, 6-0-0) and play a 12:30 p.m. conference game at Southern Maine on Saturday.
"You build up for three years to get to your senior season and there was no way I was going to end my playing days with an injury," said Taylor, who leads the Corsairs in scoring with 11 goals and five assists for 27 points. "I played a lot of club team field hockey last summer and worked my butt off to get ready for this season. I feel blessed to be playing again. I know how lucky I am and I'm determined to make the most of it."
Taylor, who scored both goals in a 2-1 league win over Eastern Connecticut State on Wednesday, has been a leader on and off the field for the Corsairs.
"My job is to put the ball in the net and provide senior leadership," said Taylor, who has five game-winning goals this season. "I have all the respect in the world for my coaches and teammates and I try to set a good tone at practice and in games. We're a very close team. Everybody gets along and we like playing with each other."
UMD head coach Nicole Maher said Taylor's return has been everything she thought it would be.
"Eleanor works on field hockey all year round and she has a real passion for the game," Maher said. "She has a will to succeed and she leads by example. She's a threat in front of the net and she plays with a lot of confidence. We look at every season as a fresh start and we were thrilled to find out that Eleanor was going to come back and play her final season."
Lauren O'Brien, a senior goalie from Rochester who has an impressive 1.11 goals-against average this season, said Taylor is one of those players who has a lot of natural talent.
"We're coming off a great season and we're looking to do even better with Eleanor back on the field for us. She puts the spark in our forward line and she knows how to put the ball in the net," O'Brien said. "She's a very determined player who shrugs off double teams. She's quick, she fights for every ball and she's a great team player. We're lucky to have her back. We're a family and it was nice to welcome her back into the fold."