Soreness around her right hip had bothered Madison Carter for a while before she collapsed in pain two years ago during a late winter workout with her South River lacrosse teammates. Already signed to play at Penn State, she couldn't help but wonder whether her lacrosse-playing days might be over.

A fractured pelvis can make you think like that.


Carter doesn't know how she did it, but she got up and drove home from practice. She already had a doctor's appointment scheduled for the next day to find out what was causing the pain. That night, not knowing what was wrong, she said she briefly wondered about her lacrosse future.

An X-ray revealed the break, which she said was in the growth plate. While the diagnosis shocked her, the prognosis excited her.

"The doctor was like, 'You're going to be on crutches for two months and you're going to have to rehab it for a month,'" Carter said. "And I just sat there and I was like, 'Whoa, there goes my senior lacrosse season.' I was real upset about it ... but the physical therapist was like, 'If you rehab it, you'll be able to come back at the beginning of May.'

"When I heard that, I was like, 'Oh my God, the beginning of May. I'll be able to come back for the end of the season and play with my friends.'"

Carter returned for South River's final few games and then, last spring, almost seamlessly transitioned into a starting role in a veteran attack at Penn State. The Nittany Lions reached the NCAA final four and Carter was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

Today, she shows no signs of the injury. As the No. 5 Nittany Lions (9-1) prepare for Saturday's 4:30 p.m. Big Ten game against No. 17 Johns Hopkins at Homewood Field, she leads them in goals with 34 and draw controls with 59.

"I think she's kind of the epitome of a dynamic player," Blue Jays coach Janine Tucker said. "She's leading their team in draw controls, she handles the ball a tremendous amount, she shoots very, very well and a lot goes through her and for a younger player, I think that she's pretty darn good. Obviously if she's come back from such a serious injury, she has a lot of resolve and a lot of resiliency just in how she's wired and she's able to translate that onto the field."

Carter, 19, still thinks about the injury, but not because it affected her physical performance after completing rehab.

"It was definitely a speed bump, but it was a great experience to have," she said, "because I had to face some adversity and deal with something that was not going my way. I had to bounce back from that and that gave me something to work toward. It made me stronger."

She was making a cut to the goal when the pain that had come on gradually knocked her down that February day, but that's still her bread-and-butter move. At 5 feet 8, she's a tall target with a sure stick when she slices through the arc.

Penn State coach Missy Doherty, who also grew up in Anne Arundel County, pegged Carter as a potential recruit while she was playing for the Maryland United club team. Even then, she stood out on the draw and in the 8-meter arc.

"She's just a very smart, game-sense kind of attacker," Doherty said. "Her teammates are always trying to throw her the ball in the middle. Sometimes she bails their passes out because she's a good catcher in the middle. From the beginning, she worked well with whoever is around. People have graduated, new people have come in and she's just kind of a seamless person to work with."

Carter said she never expected to crack the starting lineup as a freshman, but when she did, she was grateful to have a lot of veterans to help her acclimate to the college game.

"The upperclassmen really took me under their wing and it was great to have their leadership to help guide me through," she said. "At first I was a little nervous, but then I was kind of like, 'OK, Madison roll with it,' and I didn't really think about it ... and everything just kind of fell into place."


Extremely focused and hard working in practice and in games, Carter has been a fun teammate, said her roommate and Nittany Lions midfielder Kayla Brisolari, an Archbishop Spalding graduate.

"When people see Madison play, they're, 'Oh, she's so focused,' which she is, of course, but when you take her off the field, that's when you really get to see who she is," Brisolari said. "She's just so outgoing, so fun, really optimistic. When I'm having a bad day and she's coming up doing the weirdest, funniest things, it can really elevate your mood."

Carter laughed at that description, but said it's true. She enjoys herself although it doesn't often show through on the field. She said Doherty tells her it's OK to smile after scoring a goal when she's already concentrating on the next draw.

"I am kind of calm on the field and kind of serious. In life, I'm really a bull in a china shop," Carter said with a laugh. "I don't know why that is. I'm just really more Type B and fun loving."

That combination surely helped Carter rebound from her injury to play a pivotal role on a team with a legitimate chance to win its first national championship since 1989. Now, that would be fun.