Cara Cadigan, Tufts University
Watching Cara Cadigan race up the middle of the field to collect a pass and score a goal during a 2009 soccer game at Tufts University's Kraft Field, fans would never know that the co-captain had overcome serious injuries to both knees. She was as fast and talented as ever.
Coming back from a knee injury is not as easy as Cadigan made it look. After each injury, she had to relearn how to bend her leg, not to mention how to run, jump and pivot. And she had to learn to trust her body again, convincing herself that she wouldn't get hurt when she was out on the field going for a tackle.
"For a short amount of time - less than an hour - I thought about not playing," she says, reflecting on her second injury. "I realized how much I wanted to play. I love soccer, and I love the Tufts soccer team. The girls on it are great, so just to get another chance to play with them before I graduated was incentive enough."
Cadigan's Tufts career stalled before it even started. In May 2006, when she was a high school senior, a hard slide tackle by an opponent snapped the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee. The rehabilitation took more than six months, wiping out her entire freshman season with the Jumbos. She was the team's scorekeeper instead.
Her comeback was spectacular. Debuting with the team as a sophomore in 2007, Cadigan scored a Tufts record 19 goals, including 10 game-winners. She led the New England Small College Athletic Conference in scoring and was voted the league's Rookie of the Year.
Then in the fall of 2008, seven games into her junior season, Cadigan blew out her right knee in a collision while going for the ball in a game at Brandeis. She worked hard through eight more months of rehabilitation. She returned to the team and was again a key part of the offense, finishing second in scoring.
With 25 goals and 12 assists for 62 points in 41 career games, Cadigan is third on the Tufts all-time scoring list. She was also a team leader - a two-year captain, as voted by her teammates.
"Cara is an exceptional athlete," Tufts coach Martha Whiting said. "She has speed, skill, strength, agility and quickness. She also has a determination that is truly remarkable. She would not be denied. When you have that combination, great things will happen."