DAVENPORT, Iowa — Macey Rogers still remembers the feeling of sitting on the sidelines, unable to do anything for the Muscatine girls basketball team in a season-ending loss to Burlington last February.
Scheduled for surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) the next morning, Rogers could do nothing but watch as the Muskies dropped a heartbreaking, double-overtime game to end the season.
“That was a huge motivator for me,” Rogers said. “The hardest thing was sitting on the sidelines knowing I couldn’t help them out there.
“That propelled me to get back.”
Rogers, who was the second leading scorer for the 9-13 Muskies last season at 9.9 points per game, is three weeks removed from being fully cleared and just went through week one of practice with her teammates.
“Oh my gosh it feels great,” Rogers said. “I’ve been waiting for a long time. Finally being able to be back to full basketball stuff has been great.”
Prior to her ACL tear, the senior had never missed more than a few weeks at a time due to injury. Simple tasks such as going up stairs became impossible for a couple months.
Even so, coach Susan Orvis praised the way Rogers attacked the rehab process at Friday’s Mississippi Athletic Conference Girls Basketball Luncheon at the RiverCenter in Davenport.
“I can’t say enough about how that young lady approached the ACL recovery process,” Orvis said of Rogers.
“Her attitude was phenomenal. There was not one day where it witnessed, ‘Woe is me, why me?’ There were no tears. It was ‘Coach, how can I become a better leader?’”
That’s turned out to be one bright spot in what Rogers called a “pretty devastating,” situation. She spent time watching from the sidelines, seeing what Orvis sees and as a result becoming a better leader. That will be needed for a young but talented Muscatine girls basketball team that lost Paige Miller and Tessa Kerr off last year’s squad.
“When you’ve got a young team and a large part of your population is watching an upperclassman behave that way,” Orvis said, “that’s just tremendous leadership through a hard set of circumstances.”
Muscatine returns 69 percent of its scoring from a season ago led by Alicia Garcia, who verbally committed to Northern Iowa last month. Garcia averaged a team-high 10.2 points per game last season as a freshman.
Even with so many returners, Orvis knows improvement won’t happen “just because the calendar flipped.” But the Muscatine coach feels her team put the necessary work in during the offseason to come back a better team in 2018-19.
“You can’t underestimate the time they put in and spent together this summer,” Orvis said. “Practice reps and repetition, that’s what breeds confidence. On top of them being a strong, tightly knit group, they’re comfortable in being themselves.”
The rest of the sophomore class gives Orvis plenty of reason for optimism. Zoey Long played big minutes as a freshman while averaging 4.1 points per game. The Muskies also expect sophomores Madi Petersen, Emma Zillig and Rylie Moss to make an impact this season.
There’s a solid core of upperclassmen too, led by Rogers and fellow seniors Kayla Scholz and Kendra Eller. The Muskies also have a few new voices in the gym, as Orvis announced the addition of two former players, Emily Nietzel and Alex Rauenbeuhler, to the coaching staff for the upcoming season.
“I really like the work ethic, there’s great positive energy in the gym,” Orvis said. “We turn over a very similar group from last year. I think there’s a confidence level that’s different just simply from being in the program for a year.”
Because of that, Rogers feels the Muskies are well ahead of where they were a year ago at this time.
“It feels like all the puzzle pieces are fitting together for us this year,” Rogers said. “What we needed was that year of experience with all the newcomers. Everyone is kind of just working together this year.”