BY MICHAEL KELLY
Nine months ago, Kayla Treanor dodged to free herself from a defender, shot and landed awkwardly on her right leg.
The shot, of course, had been good — but there was no time to celebrate.
“I just knew something was wrong,” Treanor said.
The onset of pain was immediate for the lacrosse star, a Niskayuna native who later produced perhaps the greatest career in the history of the Syracuse University women’s lacrosse program. That college career, which included three finalist nominations for the Tewaaraton Award and a program-best 260 goals, never included any serious injuries — and this one was coming at exactly the wrong time. Treanor hurt herself during an October training session designed to slim the pool of players trying out for the U.S. women’s national team that competes in this summer’s 2017 Federation of International Lacrosse Women’s World Cup in Guildford, England.
For years, competing in a World Cup on a senior national team had been a dream for Treanor.
Tearing the meniscus and posterior cruciate ligament in her right knee a few months before that team’s selection? Yeah, pretty much a nightmare.
“All I could think about was that I was going to get cut and that would be it,” Treanor said. “To say the least, I was freaking out.”
But, now, the U.S. women are overseas — and Treanor is there, ready to compete when the tournament gets underway Wednesday for the USA with a game against Scotland. Surgery came swiftly for Treanor to repair her meniscus, while it was determined her PCL would be able to recover on its own. During her rehabilitation period, Treanor survived a cut which saw the team’s pool of prospective players go from 36 to 25.
“I was really fortunate [the coaches] pushed me through,” said Treanor, who needed three months away from the field to recover. “It was hard because the coaches really value your fitness and your ability to withstand playing so often because the World Cup is nine games in 11 days. Any injury, while it doesn’t definitely leave you off the team, it impacts your chances.”
The day before the program’s January training session started, Treanor was cleared to return to lacrosse activities. Still working her way back, she competed well enough to earn her spot on the team’s 18-woman roster when it was announced days later.
“Really, I’m just lucky,” Treanor said. “A lot of things worked out for me.”
Treanor continued strengthening her leg during the spring, when the 2016 Syracuse graduate worked as an assistant coach at Harvard. Recently, Treanor left Harvard to take a position as an assistant coach with Boston College, this season’s national runner-up.
“I had an awesome experience at Harvard,” Treanor said. “I learned a lot and the best part was the girls were awesome.”
But when Boston College offered her an opportunity to work with a different team and further bolster her coaching resume, the 23-year-old Treanor said it was a “no-brainer” to make the move. Eventually, she said, she’d like to be a head coach.
“This is exactly what I want to be doing,” Treanor said.
For now, though, her playing career is still her top focus. After playing last summer in the start-up United Women’s Lacrosse League, Treanor is taking this year off from professional lacrosse because of her spot on the national team. Next year, she said she plans to play in the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League, which will conduct its first season in 2018.
Also since graduating from Syracuse, Treanor’s become a sponsored Nike athlete and is the face of the company’s women’s lacrosse division.
“It’s pretty crazy to think I get to represent the Nike brand. I just feel really lucky and fortunate to have so many opportunities,” Treanor said. “Women’s sports are really changing and it’s going to keep growing and growing — especially the sport of lacrosse. Every year, it gets bigger and bigger. I feel lucky to get to be a part of that process.”
Getting to this year’s World Cup has been its own process for Treanor. Her injury last fall nearly derailed a goal of hers since she was a teenager to represent the United States in this year’s tournament. Now that the competition is here, Treanor said she’s excited to help the national team in its quest to win its third consecutive world title.
“It’s special. Sometimes, I can’t believe it’s really happening,” Treanor said. “You have to take a step back and think about how lucky you are.”