Two injuries and two surgeries later, Nicole Daniggelis ’16 sees progress in her game on the lacrosse field.
In the summer of 2014, Daniggelis experienced two separate pains in her left knee and left shoulder. However, Daniggelis was no stranger to injury — she had torn her left anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in her sophomore year of high school. But the pain did not cease, and upon arrival at the doctor’s office, Daniggelis was again diagnosed with some serious injuries: She had torn her left meniscus and the labrum in her left shoulder.
“Nicole is one of the top players in the league, and without her at 100 percent this year, it has had a rather large impact on our team in two key areas: draw control and scoring,” said head coach Anne Phillips. “When you take 104 draw controls and 39 points out of a team’s offense, you have a completely different offense.”
During her freshman and sophomore years as a Bulldog, Daniggelis was ranked sixth and fourth in the country in draw controls per game, set and broke draw control records within Yale, received All-Ivy First Team recognition, led the team in goals, and received second team IWLCA All-Northeast Region recognition.
The first half of Daniggelis’ division one career proves to be exemplary and shows only a positive trajectory for the remainder of her time as an athlete at Yale. However, the setback caused by the two injuries has limited her during her third season as a Bulldog.
She had injured her knee on an offensive attack going toward the goal in last spring’s game against Harvard and her shoulder was long overdue for repair.
Daniggelis said her shoulder feels much better after the surgery. Her knee, however, caused her more worry — this is the second time that she tore the same meniscus.
“They weren’t sure if the repair was successful,” said Daniggelis. “But recently, it has been feeling great.”
Generally, it takes four to five months for a meniscus tear to heal after surgery, which is about the same amount of time for a torn labrum to heal.
Lacrosse depends heavily on quick cuts and strong pivots. Daniggelis is using physical training and modified playing strategies in order to slowly get back into the game.
“Throughout her injury, and currently, Nicole is always looking for ways to get better,” said defender Ashley Perselay ’17. “If her knees are bothering her, she is doing stationary wall-ball and shooting. When her knees feel a little better, she is biking and doing ladders and sprints to help her get back into shape.”
According to assistant coach Ashley Casiano, making sure Daniggelis remained patient for her comeback was critical. When draw controls were all that Daniggelis could do, her teammates came together to help her with those repetitions.
Phillips stated that the coaching staff works with Daniggelis and her injury by limiting her play in games throughout this season, as the team continues to challenge for a spot in the Ivy League tournament.
“Although Nicole hasn’t been playing as much in the past due to her injuries, whenever she steps onto the field in games or in practice, that transition is seamless,” said Perselay.
Even with minimal time on the field, each week Daniggelis has seen progress in her game. According to Casiano, Daniggelis is the type of player that goes hard every time she steps on the field.
Appearance-wise, Daniggelis may make it seem like her injuries have not phased her mentally or physically, but she admits that the injuries have had an impact on her as a player.
“These injuries have affected my game, but I don’t think they have in a negative way,” Daniggelis said. “This year has been a slow progress of getting back to where I was.”
With only two games remaining in the season, not only is Daniggelis hoping for her team to get a spot in the Ivy League tournament, but she is also preparing for her healing time to subside in time for her final season as a Yale Bulldog next year.
Phillips said she can see Daniggelis breaking her own records once she is healthy.
“The only goals I have for Nicole is to become better than she ever thought she could be,” Casiano said. “Beating her own records, beating her own best.”
High hopes and aspirations ride on Daniggelis for her comeback in the 2015–16 season.
“These injuries have made me realize that you are lucky if you get to play four years of college athletics and that anything can be taken away from you at any time,” Daniggelis said. “This has really made me appreciate every opportunity that I get to go out and wear Yale across my chest and have fun with my teammates.”