Junior centerfielder learns how to play her role this season
Even though she can't contribute on the field, junior center fielder Sara Hansen always finds a way to help her teammates.
The Mount Pleasant native played in nine games this season before she injured her knee leading up to the Hartford game on March 3.
“It happened in practice and it was just a freak accident,” Hansen said. “I was running to the fence to catch a ball and my knee just didn't go with me. The next thing I knew, my season was over.”
This was Hansen's first major injury she has had to deal with.
“It was extremely hard to process at first. I’ve never been injured to the extent of even missing one game, and now I have to miss the whole season,” Hansen said. “Talking to other people helped, coach (Jessica) Brocamante, (Evelyn Lorimer) has gone through it too. It’s been helpful to see what they have been through.”
Lorimer, a senior right fielder, said she is “trying to pay back” Hansen for how she helped out the team when Lorimer was injured a season ago.
“She has really grown since her freshman year, she came (when) I was injured and stepped in when we had very few outfielders,” Lorimer said. “She has improved so much and really encouraged me when coming back from injuries. She has always led by example, so now to come back and lead vocally takes a lot. It's going to make her better for her senior year.”
Before Hansen’s season came to an early close, the junior was the starting center fielder.
She started eight of the first nine games, posting a .208 batting average, with one run batted in and five runs scored. Hansen had a fielding percentage of 1.000 in the outfield.
After the news broke that Hansen would miss the entire season at her well-established position, someone had to take her spot.
Her replacement was sophomore center fielder Allison Curtis, who was playing the corner outfield positions while Hansen was still in the lineup.
Curtis said Hansen's encouragement off the field has been critical to her success.
“Since she isn't on the field, she can see more, so she helps me out there," Curtis said. “Playing up to her standards isn't something that is easy. Those are some big shoes to fill, so I need all the help I can get.”
Head coach Margo Jonker thinks Hansen has matured to see that she can still be a part of this team in her own way.
“Sara has matured tremendously, and is more willing to say things now than before,” Jonker said. “I’m really proud of her for getting out of her comfort zone and learning to lead in that way. She has found a way to be a major part of the team even though she isn't in the lineup.”
Hansen agreed with most of the comments her coach and teammates said about her.
“It’s really different because I’m used to being out there, but I’ll still go out with the outfield and watch them to try and make them better with aspects they may not see,” Hansen said. “It has forced me to talk more, and I’m not a huge talker. It (has) been a big deal for me.”
Nothing quite like home
It didn't take much of an effort for Jonker to get Hansen to the university.
“(Hansen) is from around here, and I think she knew she wanted to be a Chippewa before I even had to ask the question,” Jonker said. “It is an opportunity she has jumped all over and I would've expected nothing less.”
For Hansen, she has enjoyed being a part of this team she grew up around.
“It’s really cool to play here because being from Mount Pleasant catches the interest of people all the time and I’m proud to say I play here,” Hansen said. “Having the support from family and everyone else around here is a big help.”
The 5-foot-5 junior is the only Mount Pleasant native on the squad this season, but she said that doesn't alienate her from anyone else.
“This team has just a family feel in general, everyone is there for each other, and I’ve learned that even more so this season with my injury,” Hansen said. “Everyone feels like they have their own roles on the team and we all support it. This season I’ve had to learn a new one, and I’ve needed their help and they have been their for me.”
Goal-wise, Hansen has a specific vision for the team.
“We just want to win a MAC (Mid-American Conference) championship. It would be pretty awesome and I think that is everyone’s goal,” Hansen said. “I personally want to learn from this injury and find every way possible that it makes me stronger because I’m not really used to it. That would be my biggest take-away.”
The Chippewas (31-13 overall, 13-5 MAC) are currently tied with Ball State (29-21, 13-5) atop the MAC West standings, and have a huge date coming up with the Cardinals for a three-game set this weekend at home.
As far as getting back to play in games and practice, Hansen said she would be back now if she could, but she understands it will take time.
“I want to get back as soon as I can, but I don’t want to rush it because it needs to be fully healed,” Hansen said. “I just don’t want it to happen again. I have a full year left, so I don’t want to push it too fast.”
No specific time table has been set for when Hansen will be cleared to play or practice again, but she knows she will have a role on the team, on or off the field.