High School Sports

One play changed her life 18 months ago. Now she’s making a comeback.


Lisa Bervinchak-Love knew it as soon as her daughter crumpled to the ground.

Taylor Love had the feeling there was something wrong too, but didn’t give in until she got confirmation.

“She’s tough, but she broke down when the doctor checked her,” said Taylor’s father, Steve Love. “He said, ‘Yeah, pretty sure that’s a torn ACL.’ ”

It was a practice in the middle of summer, but it cost her two seasons of her high school career, one each in field hockey and basketball.

“It was a long eight or nine months of not doing much,” Taylor said. “I was still at all the practices and stuff, but I couldn’t do anything.”

Taylor Love’s junior year of high school at State College was about perseverance, about working her way back to the field and court. The senior is now focusing on making that work pay off — in more ways than one.

Taylor Love is an all-around athlete, excelling on both the field hockey and basketball teams, as well as a thrower for the track and field team. Both parents were college athletes, and her mother is the associate head coach for the Penn State field hockey team.

But basketball is Taylor’s top sport, and what she hopes to play in college.

That is what made the injury hurt more — both for her and her mother — because it was during a one-time field hockey practice.

On June 28, 2015, three days before she was to be playing in a major summer AAU basketball tournament, Taylor decided to go to a field hockey practice. She was racing down the sideline when a teammate sent a pass her way, she tried to cut to her right when her life changed.

“Ugh. That’s her ACL,” Lisa thought. “I knew right away.”

Meanwhile, Taylor’s teammates started to laugh.

“They all thought I was just falling,” Taylor said of the incident.

“It kind of looked like she fell down in slow motion,” her sister, Kelsey Love, recalled. “No one knew what to do. Usually she just gets back up and walks it off.”

Instead, she did a “crab-walk” to the sideline.

Her plans for the summer, and her junior year of high school, were suddenly and drastically changed.

“When she tore her ACL, I was mad at field hockey for a while,” Lisa said.

It was a clean tear, and the ligament was the only thing damaged. There was very little swelling, so she got into surgery sooner. She had it repaired a few weeks later, and the next day began her rehab.

The family had already planned a vacation to the New Jersey shore, but instead of fun in the surf, Taylor spent the trip reading books and working out three times a day.

While she was laid up at home, she also got help from her sister.

“I had to be her maid for a little,” Kelsey said, fetching food and drinks.

“I probably took advantage of it a little bit,” Taylor added with a smile.

She toiled through rehab all summer, fall and winter.

“She didn’t have any days where she whined and moaned about rehab,” Steve said. “She whined and moaned about going to practices.”

It also was tough watching her teams play without her. She might have made it back for the very end of the Lady Little Lion basketball season, which stretched into March after they won the District 6 title, but she would not have been in good condition for basketball playoffs.

She also had the voice of experience at home.

Lisa has seen a number of Nittany Lion players work through the same injury, and Steve suffered a torn ACL when he was in high school — and came back too soon. He tore the ligament the first time playing football, then did it again his first day back to practice for basketball.

“As you get further down the road, it’s more about doing the right thing and not doing the wrong thing,” Steve said, noting how tempting it can be to try to do too much. “That’s probably what I did — get back out there too soon.”

When Steve endured his injury, he actually had his leg in a cast for six weeks before starting his recovery. Taylor was doing range-of-motion work the day after surgery.

Sitting out the year, Taylor got a new perspective on her games, seeing the bigger picture on the court of what the coaches see and not just her role.

“She is quick to pick up on new strategies and tactics, and demonstrates a good basketball IQ,” said State College basketball coach Chris Leazier, who has coached both men and women at a number of levels and seen quite a few athletes sit out a full season.

He can see “how much they appreciate the opportunity to play again.”

“That is our hope for Taylor, that she enjoys her senior year and continues to improve as a basketball player,” he said.

She’s also getting to enjoy something else new — her sister as a teammate. They have played so much over the years, but this is the first time they have been on the same organized team. First it was in field hockey setting each other up for goals — “We called it the ‘Love connection,’ ” Kelsey joked — and now in the starting lineup in basketball.

“It’s nice to have her there,” Taylor said.

The injury and recovery have influenced her life in other ways as well. She wrote an essay on a college application about her ordeal, assigned to write about a traumatic incident in her life, and she plans to major in physical therapy. She has her list narrowed to three or four colleges, hoping to play for a Division III program, but hasn’t made a choice yet.

She is averaging 10.5 points per game this season as State College enters the holiday break with a 2-2 record, and is appreciative to have one more season with her school and with her sister.

“It was hard,” Taylor said. “It was a long eight or nine months of not doing much.”

Gordon Brunskill: 814-231-4608, @GordonCDT