Dawson, Suman among Westmoreland girls basketball players battling back from injury

Wednesday, December 22, 2021 | 6:41 PM

Jenna Dawson takes the basketball court with a giant piece of battle armor on her left leg, a constant reminder of a grueling offseason and the toughness she holds within.

The junior guard from Belle Vernon missed last season with a torn ACL and MCL and underwent reconstructive surgeries on both ligaments, wiping out her sophomore season.

But she is back this year contributing to a deep rotation while trying to regain her form.

“Having her back has really added to our depth,” Belle Vernon coach Kaitlyn Slagus said. “We were really looking forward to getting her back, and it’s good to see her back out there.”

Other local players also are working their way back from injuries.

Penn-Trafford senior guard Maura Suman suffered a torn labrum in her shoulder in the final regular season game last year. She had surgery in March and returned to play volleyball in the fall and now, basketball in the winter.

Norwin senior guard Alyssa Laukus broke her ankle in a scrimmage right before the WPIAL playoffs last year and missed all three of the Lady Knights’ playoff games.

But she, too, is back to form, even leading Norwin in scoring several times this season.

“Physical therapy was tough, especially at the beginning,” Dawson said. “The first month is usually the hardest to get through, at least in my case. Rehab is all about setting goals. Each week I would achieve something small like trying to bend my knee to a certain degree. But the long term goal was ultimately returning to play.”

Dawson said there is much more to a comeback from a long-term injury than the physical part.

“As much as returning is a physical challenge, it is a mental battle more than anything,” she said. “Keeping a positive mindset and staying focused on your goals are key.”

With Dawson, Belle Vernon has a shooter and ball-handler who can produce in the flow of the game.

“My biggest struggle is with my confidence,” Dawson said. “I am learning to play on a new knee, which comes with a lot of trust. I have to block the thought of getting hurt again out of my mind and just play. I am starting over trying to prove my spot on the team again and regaining the trust of my teammates but also learning how to play my game again.”

Suman is a spot-on 3-point threat and key ball-handler for Penn-Trafford, which again is set to go through the rigors of Class 6A basketball.

“It’s good to be back,” Suman said. “It was a long journey both mentally and physically, but knowing that the game was waiting at the finish line was what kept me going.”

Coming into the season, Suman ranked in the top five in program history in assists and steals.

“Basketball is usually year round for me, so stepping back onto the court for the first time since my surgery was a feeling that I had been waiting and working for,” she said.

Laukus had 14 points in a 55-20 win over Unity Reed (Va.) in the She Got Game Classic in Alexandria (Va.) and added 13 when Norwin downed Shaler, 39-28.

Norwin has been trying to get healthy for months. Junior guard/forward Savannah Schneck missed time last year with a torn ACL. She re-injured the knee before the start of this season and likely will miss the season.

The 5-foot-10 Laukus can play on the wing or provide size on the low block. With Schneck out, she and her teammates have to pick up the slack.

“Alyssa brings a unique skill set of size and athleticism,” Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said, “along with big-game experience.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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