When Sarah Cash tore her ACL during an AAU basketball game in May 2013, her senior season at Lordstown was in jeopardy, and questions arose over how well the Red Devils' season could go if Cash were to miss significant time.
Less than seven months after suffering that injury, Cash proved the doubters wrong by not only coming back sooner than expected, but also by almost reaching her offensive output from previous seasons as a Red Devil. Through 11 appearances, Cash has recorded 14.5 points per game, and she's also helped lead the team to an 11-3 record and an unblemished Northeastern Athletic Conference mark.
Despite all of the progress in her recovery, Cash still hasn't reached 100 percent, according to her coach, Dave Smith.
"I think everybody was doubting if Sarah would be coming back or how she would come back," Smith said. "She's definitely not 100 percent fully (back) yet, but she's definitely pretty close. She's been playing really hard."
As shocking as her quick return was, Cash tried everything in her power to be ready for the start of the 2013-2014 season, but she missed the first two weeks, which included an opening loss to Newton Falls on Nov. 22, 53-31, and a Dec. 2 setback to Brookfield, 32-30.
"I was hoping for the first game, but my therapist said I wasn't allowed," Cash said. "Then, I didn't get back for the first two weeks and I had to take it slow. But, it was fast enough for me."
Cash followed her therapist's instructions perfectly, which Smith said is why the 6-foot-3 senior managed to come back so quickly. That meant going to physical therapy sessions three times per week and not extending beyond the parameters set by the therapist.
"She was hitting therapy pretty hard," Smith said. "She really did what the doctor asked, and when she came here, she worked hard at what she was allowed to do."
Cash made her return in the Red Devils' 60-40 win over Bristol on Dec. 9, when she made an 8-minute cameo and recorded five points. Cash said it felt great to get back out on the court in game action again.
"It's amazing because I was really bored when I wasn't playing," Cash said. "I didn't like coming to practice and having to watch (my teammates) when I couldn't do anything."
While the return of Cash has certainly helped the Red Devils, her absence also played a major role in the team's success. Smith preached throughout the preseason that someone needed to step up and carry the offensive load, and the Red Devils heard it. Cash is not the team's only scoring threat, as Marlena Liming contributes 9.7 points per game, followed by Talia Tobin with 8.6 and Allie Hajnosz with 8.3. In all, the Red Devils are averaging 49.1 points per game.
"We learned that if we want to be successful this season, we're going to have to learn to play without her (Cash) and step up and make our shots," Hajnosz said. "It's taught us to be a better team because now, we don't just rely on her. We can play without her, and if she does get hurt or is in foul trouble, we know that we can win without her."
Still, Hajnosz admitted it's nice having back a teammate she's played with since the two were in fifth grade. With Cash in the lineup, the Red Devils could be looking at making a run through the district tournament and perhaps winning the district crown.
"It was a great feeling having Sarah back because Sarah is not only a really talented basketball player, but she's very smart," Hajnosz said. "She sees things sometimes that we don't see, and even during the games, she'll grab us and be like, 'Hey, next look for this,' or 'This is open,' or 'Try this next time.' "
"Having her back on the floor really makes us feel more comfortable because we're back together again and we can gel and be successful."