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Now-senior guard and captain Michaela Stanfield during last season's matchup against Yale on Jan. 21. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

Recovering from a major sports injury is never easy. The hours spent in rehab, the days spent in the gym, and the agonizing weeks anticipating a return to action are difficult. For senior guard Michaela Stanfield, the wait is finally over.

As the 2023-24 women’s basketball season ramps up, Stanfield is back from injury and eager to lead the team as a senior captain. Following a 2022-23 campaign that was cut short in January due to a season-ending ACL injury, Stanfield went through a grueling rehab process.

“My goal going into the summer was working on my strength,” Stanfield said. “When I came back after the summer, I was little behind of where I wanted to be in terms of getting back on the court. The resources here were amazing as I was able to get physical therapy, treatment, and then work out with the coaches. I’m really thankful that they all helped me.”

Despite some hurdles, Stanfield credits the immense work of the coaching staff. She remembers the coaches helping her catch up to game speed again and could not be more grateful to be back where she belongs: on the basketball court.

Aside from the injury, Stanfield looks back on all of the memories that have made her time in Red and Blue so special. She notes that many of her favorite moments to look back on have been during away games when the team gets to travel.

“Especially with last year’s seniors, we were a really close group,” Stanfield said. “Being on the bus after a win and going to team dinners is always so fun.”

While being a leader off the court, Stanfield also stands out on the court. Standing at 5-foot-11, Stanfield has displayed her versatility playing both guard and forward due to her tall stature. This year, Stanfield is focusing on improving shooting.

“I’ve tried to expand my shooting ability to kind of pair that with being able to attack people off the drive and finish at the strong,” Stanfield said. “The next thing I’ve really tried to focus on is rebounding. [For] every shot, just rebounding and crashing to get extra possessions and play for the team.”

Senior forward Jordan Obi, another captain on the team, describes Stanfield as a strong leader who leads by example. Getting to play with Stanfield over the years has allowed Obi to develop a strong bond with her that permeates both on and off the court.

“Michaela as a captain is very soft and compassionate,” Obi said. “She is a very understanding person who a lot of players go to if they have problems they want to talk out.”

Additionally, coach Mike McLaughlin believes that Stanfield is a player that anyone would want to be their teammate: someone who looks out for others before themselves.

With Stanfield medically cleared to play, McLaughlin has utilized a methodical approach to slowly integrate her back into his schemes. He believes that she will fit right into the flow of what the team is doing both offensively and defensively, even if she is on a minute restriction to begin.

“I have a lot of conversations with her off the court, and she’s been watching practices for the better part of the year,” McLaughin said. “I’ll throw her in as a quasi-assistant coach to help mature her game. I love her maturity, command, and just how selfless she is. She’s driven and wants to do what’s best to move the program forward."

Because of Stanfield’s versatility and high basketball IQ, McLaughlin notes that he will likely plug Stanfield into multiple different positions depending on the game and situation.

Looking ahead to this season, Stanfield is looking forward to making it back to Ivy Madness, highlighting that their team’s goal every year is to win the Ivy League.

“I think that this year, we have a really good shot at [Ivy Madness],” Stanfield said. “Personally, I want to be able to contribute in any way that I can and just be a leader by fostering a team dynamic.”

Stanfield is particularly excited to play two games this season, one against Harvard and the other against Princeton. Raised in Boston, Stanfield has grown up going to many games in that area. Additionally, Stanfield believes that playing Princeton is a battle every year.

“The energy [at Harvard] gets really loud so I’m super excited to play there,” Stanfield said. “Our games there are always super competitive and we have played [Princeton] so many times, so I’m super excited for that game too.”

After a successful return from injury, Stanfield looks to get right back into the swing of things and lead the team with her calm but confident demeanor one basket at a time.