For Brooke Jenkins, tri-captain of the Penn women's lacrosse team, leadership and strength go hand in hand. One of three seniors on a young Quakers squad and probably the only athlete in Penn history to successfully return from three -- count 'em, three -- torn ACLs, Jenkins leads by example. A second team All-Ivy selection last spring who mentors her younger teammates on Franklin Field, Jenkins also works time into her busy schedule to teach young girls at a local school off the field. "We definitely need Brooke's leadership out there," Quakers lacrosse coach Karin Brower said. "She has the most experience on our team, and I think the kids look to her in a lot of ways. She's definitely one person we need to get out on the field fully as soon as we can." The Alexandria, Va., native became involved in athletics at a young age and never looked back. The captain of her field hockey, lacrosse and basketball teams in high school, Jenkins has moved on to captain both the field hockey and lacrosse squads at Penn. "Brooke's really fun, and she's talented, too -- I don't know how to explain it," Penn tri-captain Lee Ann Sechovicz said. "She's a great player, fun to play with and always cracking jokes. She's great in that sense -- she makes practice fun. "She's determined and such an incredible player that I feel like we'd be lost without her." Too often in the past three years, Penn teams have indeed been without Jenkins. After tallying 19 goals in her freshman campaign with Penn lacrosse, the future looked bright for Jenkins and the Quakers program. But in the season opener of her sophomore year, Jenkins went down with a torn right ACL. With their pivotal midfielder on the sidelines for the remainder of the year, the Quakers struggled to a 4-7 record. Jenkins underwent extensive rehab, though, and made a triumphant return to Franklin Field the following fall -- earning the field hockey team's Most Improved Player award. Then it happened again. Last spring, Jenkins was off to a fast start, netting six goals in the first two games. Jenkins' on-field success did not matter to her right ACL, though, as it blew out for a second time. But after an MRI turned up inconclusive, the feisty blonde midfielder was hesitantly cleared to play and returned to the field with a bulging knee brace in tow. Not even the brace hindered Jenkins -- the determined two-sport star led Penn with 16 goals on only one good leg. "It's amazing -- last year she played in half the games, and she's our leading scorer," Sechovicz said. "That shows something in itself, that she can come back after three ACLs. It's incredible." Bad things are said to come in threes -- and the third ACL tear that Sechovicz refers to happened just months after the second. Last October 15, Jenkins' field hockey career at Penn came to an abrupt halt, this time because of a faulty left knee. Offseason surgery and months of rehab could have convinced many an athlete to call it quits. But not Jenkins. Described by field hockey teammates as an "inspiration," Jenkins cannot contemplate life without her sports. "I just really enjoy playing sports, and with all that free time, I don't know what I'd do with it," Jenkins said. "For me, everyone was kind of like, 'Why do you play both? -- since you've hurt your knee so many times.' "[But] I just like to be out playing. I love team sports and being with the team and everything about it." Having been through it before, Jenkins put her recovery in perspective. "It's actually not been as tough as I thought it would be this time," Jenkins said. Though she did add, "I'm still not back to playing 100 percent." Brower, in her first year coaching at Penn, realizes the importance Jenkins has to this team. Yet Brower is taking steps to ensure the Quakers can both utilize Jenkins and keep her healthy. "Brooke's had a hard time -- I can't believe three knee surgeries," Brower said. "She's playing a lot of attack in practice right now, and we're keeping her out of defense because you kind of have to react a lot, whereas attack you kind of determine what you're doing." This is a bit of a change for Jenkins, who had played more of a midfield position than an attacking role in her first three years at Penn. But the senior has learned to take everything in stride. Jenkins realizes that more will be expected of her than simply putting the ball in the net. Imparting her on-field knowledge and experience to her new teammates is just as important. "Definitely I think coach Brower is expecting me to step up," Jenkins said. "Lead the attack, be more vocal and help the freshmen out, because it's going to be new for them, a different game from high school to college." Jenkins is no stranger to helping younger girls out, though. Though playing both field hockey and lacrosse at Penn prevented her from completing the student teaching element needed for an Education major, the Psychology major still goes out of her way to teach. "I like to work with children, that's one of my real passions," Jenkins said. "I tutor and I'm taking this class called "Girl Talk," and I go to Edison High School and teach a classroom of girls." For the next two months, however, her sole pursuit is a successful senior season with the Penn lacrosse team. "I'm optimistic," Jenkins said. "I think it'll go well."Comments powered by Disqus
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