ARMOLD: Central York grad thrives as water polo player in college
Sometimes, an injury can derail an athlete's career.
Other athletes, however, come back better than before, taking their game to a new level and helping their program reach new heights.
For Penn State Behrend women's water polo player Taylor Reed, the latter defined her freshman season.
During her senior year at Central York High School, Reed had surgery to repair a SLAP tear to her right shoulder.
A SLAP tear is an injury to the labrum of the shoulder, which is the ring of cartilage that surrounds the socket of the shoulder joint. SLAP is an acronym for "superior labral tear from anterior to posterior."
Since the injury was to her right shoulder, Reed's shooting shoulder, she faced a common challenge experienced by athletes coming off an injury — lack of confidence.
"For me, the hardest part was my nervousness of doing something to make it worse and never being able to play again," Reed said. "I held back when I was playing games for the first part of the season."
Thankfully for Reed, the collegiate varsity season takes place in the spring, while the high school season plays out in the fall. That gave her roughly the recommended year of recovery time from her January 2014 procedure until the start of her freshman season at PSU Behrend.
"It kind of locked up at times during games, and I just kind of pushed through," she said.
However, winning proved to be the ultimate healing factor, or at least the one Reed cites as breeding the confidence necessary to get past the mental block and take her play up a notch.
Turning point: Reed said a trip to Pasadena, California, was the turning point in the season for her, when the confidence in her rehab brought a reassurance of her abilities.
On the trip over spring break, Reed scored her second goal of the season, helping the Lions capture their first victory, a 19-4 decision against Cal Tech.
"That was our first win, and I felt like as a team we could move forward," Reed said. "It was exciting and fun and that's what helped me carry on and be like 'OK, I can do this.'"
As the season progressed and the wins started coming along, so too did Reed's game. She would go on to even earn the Collegiate Water Polo Association's Division III Rookie of the Week honor on March 30.
In a 2-2 weekend at the Connecticut College event that week in New London, Connecticut, during the second-and-final CWPA Division III regular-season tournament, Reed racked up five goals. She helped power Penn State Behrend's attack by posting a hat trick in a victory against Monmouth before chipping in pairs of goals during a defeat of Utica.
That performance helped the Lions move their overall record at the time to 6-12, tying the program's all-time varsity single-season wins mark set in 2003.
Reed also had a hand in program history on April 11, when the Lions defeated Monmouth, in the seventh-place game at the CWPA Division III Championships. Reed posted a goal in the 15-7 decision, the program's seventh on the season and most all-time. The Lions finished with a 7-15 mark (5-9 in Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference).
In 20 games this season, Reed finished with 12 goals, 11 assists, 20 steals, 15 kickouts and four drawn kickouts.
Excelling in classroom: Reed also excelled in the classroom.
She was named to the CWPA's Superior All-Academic Team for achieving a grade-point average between 3.41 and 3.70. Reed also picked up an Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Academic All-Conference honor.
Overcoming obstacles: The injury to her shoulder isn't the first obstacle Reed has had to overcome in her water polo career.
An opportunity to even play was the one of the first.
Reed was a participant with Central York Aquatics when a coach first introduced her to the sport during practice. She was instantly hooked.
But with no girls' team offered, Reed competed on the boys' team at Central through her junior year.
In her senior year, Reed and others had finally recruited enough interest to form a girls' team. But with interest falling on the boys' team, members of the girls' team were often pressed into service to fill the void on the boys' squad.
Further making things difficult was the inability to sharpen skills outside of the pool's availability during practice times.
"There aren't a lot of pools that are open for free for me to go and shoot around, most require a membership," Reed said. "So it's kind of hard for me to get in the pool. But I can practice my ball-handling skills in a net, or off a wall or something."
Swimming background helps: Reed was able to get past that setback by making the most of the time she could get in the pool. She found that there were a few cross benefits to also having once been a competitive swimmer.
"Having to swim and tread and swim again, back and forth (in water polo), it gets tiring really, really fast," Reed said. "With swimming, it helped a lot with my endurance."
But even trying to maximize her time in the water didn't come without the possibility of even more problems.
"Water polo would sometimes mess up my stroke though, because you have to swim with your head up the entire time," Reed said. "It did help with treading though."
With competitive swimming no longer in the way in college, Reed can now focus on treading through the water and her nursing program, which will keep her at the Behrend campus throughout her undergraduate career.
— Reach Elijah Armold at email@example.com; @EADispatch on Twitter