Then imagine tearing your other ACL three years later.
Terrible as it sounds, it happened to Lynnwood High School basketball player Arsenia Ivanov. But what makes her story so remarkable, so compelling, is this -- she put off a second surgery in order to play her senior season for the Royals.
That's right, Ivanov has played this entire season with a torn ACL in her right knee. Her doctor and physical therapists are astonished, to say the least, and her coaches and teammates are a little bit in awe, too.
"She's a tough cookie," Lynnwood coach Everett Edwards said. "She can take the pain."
It seems the only person not completely dumbfounded by all this is Ivanov herself.
"I knew we were going to have a great season," she explained, "and I just couldn't see myself not playing. It's almost like it's against my competitive nature to sit on the bench, so I told my doctor, 'I want to play.'"
Though the medical folks were dubious, Ivanov won them over by scurrying through some running and agility tests.
"One of my therapists was like, 'Are you sure you have a torn ACL?' He'd never seen someone move like that without an ACL," she said with a smile. "He thought I was a freak of nature."
Her injury occurred while she was playing with her summer AAU team. She was shooting a left-handed layin while going off her right foot when a defender crashed into her from the side, buckling Ivanov's right knee and sending her to the floor in agony. She waited two weeks for the swelling to subside before having an MRI, which revealed the severed ligament.
The irony, of course, is that she experienced an identical injury to her left knee three years earlier, and today she has a surgical scar down the center of her patella. That injury occurred in July prior to her freshman year at Lynnwood, and the operation forced her to miss all of the season except two games at the state tournament.
This time Ivanov was unwilling to miss most of her senior year, and she put off surgery until either the spring or summer.
"She's obviously not 100 percent," Edwards said. "But that being said, she's kind of adjusted her game and is doing great things. … I'm really happy with the way she's played, and we would not be where we are without her."
Ivanov, who wears a large brace on her right knee, is one of many weapons for the Royals, who enter tonight's regional game against Kentwood (8 p.m., Jackson High School) with an impressive 22-1 record. Lynnwood's only loss came in Jan. 2 road game at Monroe, and since that 40-36 defeat the Royals have run off 12 straight victories.
The winning streak includes three at the recent district tournament, including a 61-49 decision against Arlington in the title game.
Fourteen of Lynnwood's 22 victories this season have been by 20 or more points, and one was a 55-35 win in a Feb. 6 rematch with Monroe.
Like many top teams, the Royals win with depth and balance. Lynnwood has three scorers averaging in double figures, but no one averaging more than 12 points a game. Junior Jordyn Edwards (the coach's daughter) leads the team in scoring (11.9) and assists (3.7), while freshman Jordyn Edwards (his other daughter) is third in scoring (10. 4) and first in steals (3.2).
Another freshman, Mikayla Pivec, is second in scoring (10.5), and first in rebounds (13.2) and blocked shots (2.5).
Ivanov, who is second in 3-point goals (28), is one of four seniors on the squad. Another is Linda Wilson, the second-leading rebounder (8.1).
With a win against Kentwood, Lynnwood would advance to next week's eight-team Class 4A state tournament in Tacoma, providing a fitting end to Ivanov's high school career. After all, the Tacoma Dome is where she first played for the Royals three years ago.
"This is my quote," she said. "I started my high school journey at the Tacoma Dome, and I'm going to end it this year with a torn ACL at the Tacoma Dome. That's been my motivator this season."
But Lynnwood's ambitions go beyond just showing up in Tacoma. If the Royals can close their season with four more victories, they will be hoisting the championship trophy.
And that, Ivanov said, "would be a perfect way to end all the trials I've faced. Because you can't get any better than that.
"If we were to go to the Tacoma Dome and win the state championship," she said, "that would be the perfect ending."
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