After Knee Injury In Home Opener, Creager Returns To Court
After an off-season of hard work, Lady Trappers sophomore Mattie Creager was poised to expand her role on the team after playing sparingly her freshman year. The Weston, Idaho, native impressed head coach Janis Beal with her work ethic over the summer, and Beal was excited to see how Creager would progress.
But a routine play during the Lady Trappers’ home opener against Williston State on Nov. 10 slammed the brakes on what both were hoping would be a productive season.
“It was just a fast-break,” Beal said. “She went up and came down and landed wrong.”
Creager tore her meniscus and the subsequent surgery “ended up being a little more complicated then some,” the coach said.
Creager knew when she landed that there was a problem, though, according to Beal, she insisted she could still play.
“I heard a pop,” Creager said. “I couldn’t straighten it or walk on it.”
Creager was helped off the court, but Beal said she kept a smile on her face — even as she was making her way to the training room.
“Mattie is just one of the hardest workers,” Beal said. “She’s always asking what she can do to get better. You hate to see anyone get hurt, but in her case, she’s one that came so far from when she got here as a freshman. She didn’t play a ton last year, but her off-season, she worked so hard to develop and be at that place where she could really help us. It was disappointing to see her get hurt, because I’d seen how hard she worked.”
Relegated to the sidelines, Creager became the team’s most vocal supporter, a role she accepted graciously. Creager’s positive attitude came as no surprise to her coach.
“With Creags, we really didn’t have to say a whole lot,” Beal said. “She has such a selfless attitude, the ‘We over me’ team motto we use; she fits that perfectly. Her first question to me was ‘What can I do to help? Even though I’m out, what can I do?’”
After several months of cheering on her teammates as they established themselves as one of the top teams in Region IX, Creager was finally cleared to play last month. She saw her first action of 2018 on Valentine’s Day against Miles Community College, scoring her first points since November in roughly seven minutes of play.
“It was very exciting to see Mattie get back on the court,” Beal said. “All of the rehab and skills drills she had done while she was out helped her to be ready to go when her number was called.”
Creager said it was hard to watch the team at first, but as the season progressed and she was able to practice on a limited basis, it became easier. When she finally got back on the court, the sophomore was more than ready.
“It was fun. I had a smile on my face,” she said. “I got to practice [the day before the MCC game] with about 20 minutes left, put my brace on, and I was just smiling the whole time.”
After seeing limited action in the three games since she’s been cleared to play, Creager emerged as a factor in last week’s 86-64 win at Gillette College — scoring 12 points in 12 minutes.
“She had a great game against Gillette,” Beal said. “It was one of those times where July [Julynne da Silva Sa] had gotten into some foul trouble and Dallas [Petties] was struggling a little. To be able to have Mattie step up and say ‘All right, let’s go,’ she came in and did a great job. She was getting into position, she was scoring. It was fun to have her back in the rotation.”
With the regular season at an end, the Lady Trappers (23-7, 14-4) are looking toward the playoffs. Creager is confident her team will make some noise in the post-season.
“I would really like to see us go to nationals; I think we have the team to do that,” Creager said.
Beal said Creager’s infectious attitude and willingness to serve is what she’ll miss the most.
“She’s such a willing person to help in any way — whether it’s helping to carry something to the bus, or whatever she can do to help her teammates,” Beal said. “She’s always thinking of someone else first, and that’s a trait you don’t always see. I’ll definitely miss her as a person, as well as a player.”
For Creager, the feeling is mutual. She said her coach is “always there when I need her to be.”