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Sasha Ruiz-Lopez, a 5’8” guard from Fort Myers, Fla., looks to bounce back from injury in 2013-2014 for the Lady Patriots women’s basketball program. Ruiz-Lopez averaged two points per game and one rebound per game in her limited playing time during her four game stint for the Patriots has spent nearly four months rehabbing the injury that cut her freshman season short.
“I will never forget the hopeless feeling of not knowing what I did to my knee until I stood up. Once I stood, I knew” Ruiz-Lopez said.
At that point the long journey to return began. Fortunately for Ruiz-Lopez, the National Intercollegiate Athletic Association (NAIA) allows for a five game grace period in order to apply for a hardship request. In other words, since Ruiz-Lopez participated in only four games prior to her season ending injury she was able to qualify for the hardship request and regain her freshman year of eligibility.
It is commonplace in today’s society to see athletes return from surgery at the highest level in a short period of time, but for athletes at the NAIA level it can be more difficult at times.
In fact, Ruiz-Lopez spent a great deal of time on her own working on regaining the strength needed to perform her sport.
“Sometimes I just had to be creative. Once I learned what I needed to do and realized that the equipment wasn’t always there, I just worked harder in other ways to improve,” Ruiz-Lopez said.
In fact, it is not a rare sight to see the Patriot freshman working on her own in the gym, in order to improve all of the skills that she is cleared to perform.
“It’s hard to sit on the side line and watch your team compete for a national title knowing that you can help on the floor” said Ruiz-Lopez about the women’s basketball team that lost in the first round of their first ever appearance in the NAIA national tournament. “My goal is to help my team back to nationals, compete for the title, and make a run at freshman of the year in the Mid-South Conference. I finally feel like I’m getting back to where I need to be both mentally and physically.”
The Lady Patriots will return to the floor in early October, only this time, with Sasha Ruiz-Lopez in the lineup.