Mount St. Mary's Holly Buckel, a North Carroll grad, bats against Coppin State on March 12. After dealing with a torn ACL and a torn labrum in her shoulder twice in her career, she plays with the nagging injury and refuses to let her pain get the better of her. (Photo Courtesy of Mount St. Mary's University)
Mount St. Mary's Holly Buckel, a North Carroll grad, bats against Coppin State on March 12. After dealing with a torn ACL and a torn labrum in her shoulder twice in her career, she plays with the nagging injury and refuses to let her pain get the better of her. (Photo Courtesy of Mount St. Mary's University) (Ryan Murray /)

Holly Buckel may be the oldest of her Mount St. Mary's teammates, but that's not necessarily why she was dubbed the team grandma.

At 23, the Mountaineers redshirt senior catcher has given everything she's got, literally, to the sport she loves.

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Halfway through her freshman season, she suffered a torn ACL and couldn't return until the following year. She played her sophomore and junior seasons but found out she had a torn labrum in her shoulder going into senior year.

She got a medical waiver to play following her surgery but entering this past fall, she re-tore her labrum again. She plays with the nagging injury, but refuses to let her pain get the better of her.

"I contemplated on not playing," the North Carroll graduate said. "It was a hard decision to make, I could either do more damage to my arm or be content with not playing again. I had a small amount in me that didn't want to give up and that pushed me.

"Whether or not people said they didn't want to see me play again, they truly did so I wasn't ready to let go of the game just yet."

Entering Saturday, Buckel was hitting .333 with six home runs, 21 RBIs and 10 stolen bases this season. In the past 15 games, she was hitting .413 with four homers and 11 RBIs. She ranked 10th in the Northeast Conference in hitting, tied for fifth in home runs and tied for fourth in stolen bases.

The Mount entered Saturday 12-28, 3-8 in NEC play.

She had heard all the what-ifs and the warnings about playing through another injury. She just wasn't listening to them this time. This was her final season suiting up for the Mount and she wanted it to be one to remember.

So far, it has been.

"This season has been the best by far," Buckel said. "I got to sit back and learn a lot more about the game and I umpired last summer too so that gave me another perspective. It matured me more as a player and as a person."

When Buckel switched from shortstop to catcher, Mount coach Anna Nagro watched her fall in love with the game all over again.

She might feel constant pain, but no one would ever notice. That's just Buckel, Nagro said.

"Her injuries frustrate her," Nagro said. "Every kid that comes in wants their college experience to be one way thinking it will be good all the time so when you face that adversity, it molds you into the player you are.

"I have tons of kids that battle injuries but I've never seen one continue to come back like she does and it's so fun to watch her play."

Buckel was a four-year letterwinner at North Carroll and was named to the Times all-county team in all four of her varsity seasons. Her sister, Amanda, also played softball at the Mount and her brother played baseball.

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She is also one of the remaining players from Nagro's first recruiting class six years ago.

"The seniors she's graduating with have changed this program," Nagro said. "The expectations for what it takes to play Mount softball are perseverance, determination and hard work; all of that, plus you get a degree and you make some of the best friends you could ever have."

Injuries may have plagued Buckel's athletic career, and she's been in and out of more doctor's offices than she could probably count. Those setbacks influenced her decision to obtain a career in the medical field and she is in the process of getting a masters degree in health administration.

One day, she wants to coach softball, particularly with small children.

"You can mold them and they don't give you attitudes," she said, smiling. "Coaching college would be nice because it could impact me as well as impact those athletes."

The medical field is up in the air and she still has time to figure that out. One more surgery stands in the way of her being completely healthy, and that's what she's focused on.

"I'm excited to be healthy again," Buckel said. "I came into this year ready to play like it's my last game and there was no going back."

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