For W.T. Woodson field hockey player Shelly Montgomery, the only thing more painful than playing on a fractured ankle was sitting on the sidelines this season during the team's dominating 10-game winning streak.
Montgomery, who was voted the 2008 co-Northern Region Player of the Year, may not be at 100 percent, but her play in Woodson's 5-1 victory against Lee High School on Sept. 25 suggests that she hasn't missed a step — even if she still is pulling stitches out of her foot after games.
"I had fractured my ankle and a part of the bone chipped off from playing on [my ankle]," Montgomery said. "I had 15 stitches from surgery, but I am still finding some in myself that I've pulled out [after games]. My foot still hurts."
Montgomery missed six weeks of action due to her injury, creating a huge gap in the Cavaliers line up, but one that the team was able to compensate for, currently sitting at 10-1 on the season.
Montgomery’s return comes at a crucial time. With a few games left in the regular season, her teammates hope she can play a key role for the Patriot District tournament.
The senior forward possesses just about every skill one would expect of an elite field hockey player: impressive ball handling, excellent field vision and a sense of where her teammates are without even looking.
"When you watch her play, the way she steps to the ball and commands the field is exceptional," said Head Coach Becky Preston. "She can make other players better. She picks up our pace and our intensity."
Even Montgomery's teammates noticed a difference in their play with her return.
"She adds that extra [element] to our game," senior Regan McLaughlin said. "I thought it would be weird getting her back [from injury] because you have to adjust your game to [her], but it was easy to flow back into our game with her."
Even without the star forward, the team outscored opponents 26-10 before the meeting with Lee High School.
In the Lee match, McLaughlin, senior Rachel Obregon, junior Casey Dexter and junior Lindsay Nebhut scored goals, showcasing the Cavaliers' depth.
"The team stepped up [in Montgomery's absence] and her injury made other people step up," Preston said. "Shelly was there to support the team from the sidelines, but [the scoring] just shows how well the team has stepped up."
Montgomery did manage to score a goal in the second half of the Lee game, but she was frustrated by Lee goaltender Laura Geter who stopped many of her scoring chances.
Montgomery said that her limited production is a byproduct of making a late-season comeback.
"I kind of laughed about missing those shots," she said. "I tried not to be frustrated. I've had lots of [missed] opportunities since coming back, but I've just been trying to forget about them. I've only had two goals since I came back, but the team is playing well."
Montgomery also has decided to take on a new team role.
"It’s my senior year and I've had enough attention for myself," she said. "If I can make [my team] look good, then I should work for that."
After the Cavaliers 5-1 victory against the Lancers, and with the district tournament looming, Montgomery joked that the team had moved on without her.
"They really don't need me," Montgomery said. "It was hard to watch from the sidelines for most of the season, but the team has really come together well. We just have so many good players."