By Greg Dudek
Megan Boutilette had worked her entire career for this moment.
The senior forward for the Bridgewater State University women’s basketball team finally had her time in the spotlight, averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds through the first eight games of this season.
But it all came crashing down Dec. 12, in a game at Amherst College. Boutilette received a pass and felt her leg extend farther than usual and then heard a popping sound. Boutilette tore her ACL and MCL on the play and also partially tore her PCL to go along with a bone bruise on her tibia and fibula.
The injury ended Boutilette’s senior season, as she is now relegated to the sideline watching her team go on without her.
“It was definitely the worst injury I have ever had,” Boutilette said. “I knew before I hit the ground that it was bad. I felt the snap.”
Having not missed a game in her collegiate career, the injury was a blow not only to Boutilette, but to the Lady Bears as well.
Bridgewater State has played up-and-down since Boutilette’s injury, going 9-7 in her absence. The Bears certainly miss the inside presence she provides on both ends on the court and it hasn’t been easy for Boutillette to see the team lose while she sits on the bench.
“When we lose, it’s the hardest,” Boutilette said. “I hate sitting on the bench knowing that there is nothing I can do because I can’t play.”
The injury is more difficult to take in due to Boutilette’s play before the injury. Boutilette was leading the team in points and rebounds and starting to make an early case for All-Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Player of the Year.
During the past three seasons, Boutilette helped resurrect the Bridgewater State basketball program, being a part of three straight MASCAC championship teams. Last year, Boutilette averaged 12.3 points per game and grabbed 8.4 rebounds per game.
This season, she made it an emphasis to take her game to another level. Boutilette took home MVP honors at the BSU Tip-Off Classic early in the season with a 29-point performance in a 86-46 win over Hunter College in the title game.
Boutilette brought home more hardware on Dec. 7, when she led the Lady Bears to the Hockenbury Classic Title and garnered another MVP honor.
She even became just the third player in Bridgewater State history to record over 700 career rebounds, and is close to another milestone with 931 career points.
She was flying high, until that fateful game against Amherst. It started out like the rest – with Boutilette playing well and scoring 22 points – but it ended much differently.
“During the game, she went down and Meg’s the kind of person that would get right back up,” said junior forward Rachel Kusz. “Nothing really bothers her like that. She’s a tough kid. So, her staying down like that we knew something was wrong from the start. We were still focused on the game, but at the same time we were all real concerned and focused on her more than anything.”
Boutilette, playing her best basketball of her career, now has to sit and watch. Her play has slipped through the cracks the past two seasons with opponents rather focusing on Elisha Homich, Jenna Williamson, or Michaela Cosby.
Boutilette had made it into the forefront for a brief period of time and was no longer a sidekick sitting in the backseat.
“We certainly miss her, how can you not?” said Bridgewater State head coach Bridgett Casey. “It’s 10 rebounds a game, 20 points a game, 30-something minutes a game. She was at a good place at the time she went down so I felt really bad for her. And I think the kids, the air went out of the tires type of thing. They had that look on them like, ‘There goes our season.’”
Since her injury, Boutillette said it has been difficult sitting on the sideline in a position she is unfamiliar with.
Boutilette added that the first week after the injury was the lowest moment during this whole process.
“Deep down I knew that I was done,” Boutilette said. “But, I needed confirmation from doctors. So, I had to get my MRI and once all that was settled and I knew that I was done, that’s when it was like ‘I got to accept that it is over.’
“It was weird watching practices. It was weird not being at practice when I was too hurt to walk over. It hurt a lot to know I couldn’t be with my team because that’s all I want to be is with my team.”
Casey said she can see the toll the injury has taken on Boutilette.
“It’s very difficult for her because she wants to be out there,” Casey said. “And if we are screaming at a certain play, or do this or this, or give it your all, she would die to give it her all right now and she can’t.”
Boutilette had successful knee surgery on Jan. 31, giving her a sign of hope. A hope for Boutilette that this isn’t the end.
Boutilette has filed for a medical redshirt, which would give her one more season on the court at Bridgewater State.
And it seems likely Boutilette will receive clearance, but just barely. To receive a medical redshirt, an athlete must play in only a third of a team’s games for that season.
Boutilette played in eight games this year out of the Lady Bears’ 25, making the cut by one game.
“For her, there is a next year,” Casey said. “It’s going to be a long six to seven to nine months recovery. I think she will come back well from it. It will take her some time, but she knows where she wants to be. It will be an uphill battle. It will be a challenge for her since it’s her first major injury ever.”
Boutilette does not blame anyone or anything for her injury that stopped her from having the best season of her career. For her, the whole situation, from the injury to the medical redshirt, just came down to one thing in sports nobody has control over.
“It was just unlucky,” Boutilette said. “I think that is the only thing I thought about, that it was unlucky. But at the same time, it was lucky that it happened when it did because if it happened a game later then that would have been the end definitely.”
Greg Dudek is The Comment’s Editor-In-Chief. Follow him on Twitter at gdudek10 or email him at email@example.com.