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South River's Griffin brings the 'happy' to Terps women's lacrosse

Maryland TerrapinsCollege SportsBoston College EaglesField HockeyNorth Carolina Tar HeelsAtlantic Coast Conference

For Brooke Griffin, every moment on the lacrosse field is a joy. The Maryland attacker revels in each slick dodge to goal, each pinpoint pass that finds a teammate's stick, each little celebration of a Terps score.

For Brooke Griffin, every moment on the lacrosse field is a joy.

The Maryland attacker revels in each slick dodge to goal, each pinpoint pass that finds a teammate's stick, each little celebration of a Terps score. She loves all the scrimmages, all the drills and all the wall ball that have helped put her on the Tewaaraton Award watch list as one of the top players in the college women's game.

She's spent too much of the last 31/2 years hobbled on the sideline not to appreciate every play.

Griffin's Terps career has been interrupted by surgeries to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee and to insert a screw in her broken right foot. She redshirted her freshman season in 2011 after the ACL tear and missed the 2012 fall season after the foot operation.

Last season in the playoffs, she suffered a cut requiring six stitches. She hyperextended her left knee a month ago in the Duke game and thought her season was over, but the injury turned out to be a minor cartilage tear. She missed only one game, but she's a fixture in the training room.

"My coaches laugh. They're always like, 'Brooke's in the training room for life,' " Griffin said with a laugh. "I get treatment before practice, after practice, on weekends. That's just what my body needs, and I kind of just accept it."

Although she left Maryland's Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex strapped with ice bags after a 10-9 win over Boston College on Saturday, Griffin said she feels better than she has in years. A trip to a chiropractor last week helped work some of the kinks out of her sore feet and legs.

Griffin acknowledges struggling at times with all the physical setbacks, but she has maintained a surprisingly sunny outlook as she's pushed through every break, tear, strain, scrape and bruise.

"I just try to wake up happy," she said. "My teammates laugh sometimes because I'm all like, 'Good morning! How are you guys?' I try to get everyone happy and being positive. I think that's just how I am. I try to enjoy life because I know anything can happen. My body is prone to injury now, but [the chiropractor] kind of straightened some things out and I'm actually feeling so good."

Griffin had never been sidelined with an injury until she arrived in College Park. The Baltimore Sun's Female Athlete of the Year her senior year at South River as well as All-Metro Player of the Year in lacrosse and field hockey, she never missed a game in high school — even playing through her mother's illness and death from breast cancer during the fall of her junior year.

Her oldest sister Brittany, 25, said the surgeries and time away from the field were tough for Brooke to deal with, but that it was no surprise that she buckled down and drove right through them.

"With anyone else, you would think an injury like that ACL right off the bat would affect them in such a negative way and take them more time to get back, but Brooke is such a positive person. She's always been like that. In her mind, every injury is just something she has to overcome. It's just another obstacle. Her first question to all the doctors was, 'When will I be back?' " said Brittany Griffin.

It's a great time for Griffin to be feeling good. The No. 2 Terps (13-0) rely on her to lead their attack as they head to Chapel Hill on Saturday for a rematch of last year's national championship with No. 1 North Carolina. The Tar Heels beat Maryland, 13-12 in triple overtime, in the title game, but the Terps catch Carolina coming off a 7-5 loss at No. 7 Northwestern on Monday, its first setback since falling to the Terps in last year's Atlantic Coast Conference final.

Griffin's numbers rank third in a balanced Terps attack that averaging 15.32 goals per game. She has 32 goals and 11 assists with her share of big games, most notably seven goals and an assist in a 14-7 win over then-No. 7 Penn State on Feb. 22 and four goals and four assists in a 16-10 win over then-No. 6 Notre Dame on March 15.

"She's just a smart player," said Penn State coach Missy Doherty (Maryland, St. Mary's). "She's hard to mark because she's threatening in a couple different ways, whether she's feeding or coming in for a cut or working hard around the crease. She's not just a one-trick pony. You never really know what she's going to do."

More naturally a leader by example than a vocal leader, Griffin was voted captain by her teammates and has grown into the prime playmaker role after a season as understudy to All-American Alex Aust.

"She's our one attacker who's on the field the whole time," Maryland coach Cathy Reese said. "We're an attack that's looking to generate a lot of offense, and I need someone to take control out there. Brooke has great field sense, one of the best I've seen. She can read what defenders are doing, she can find her open teammates and when she talks, people listen."

The Terps sure listened Saturday. Griffin spoke up as they went into a bit of a second-half tailspin, watching their 6-3 halftime lead turn into an 8-6 deficit as No. 4 Boston College won all the draws. Even her pep talk was all positive, trying to get her teammates to focus on one draw at a time and not the possibility of losing.

Teammate Taylor Cummings (McDonogh) said Griffin is often the one to raise her teammates' spirits.

"If you just met her, you wouldn't know that her mom died or that she had so many injuries," Cummings said. "She's so positive about everything, which I think is really awesome because it rubs off on us and Brooke's the kind of person you go to when you have a bad day. She's there for you. Just being around her makes you happy. She's so positive and she's a great listener."

Griffin has a perspective gained through experiences she wouldn't wish on anyone, but she would suggest sometimes taking a step back from the highly-competitive world of Division I lacrosse to think about how much fun it is just to play.

"With my mom passing, I realized lacrosse is just a game, at the end of the day. Losing lacrosse with my ACL was something so little compared to losing my mom," Griffin said. "I just tried to be positive throughout the whole thing. I just feel like you have to take it day by day and not take anything for granted, realizing that anything can be taken from you at any moment. You have to experience the joy and live in the moment."

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

twitter.com/kdunnsun

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