Family ties have always been important to junior Kaleigh Phillips. The Bend, Ore., resident has basketball in her blood.
Her mother, Beth, played the game in college, and carried on her love of basketball beyond her days on the court.
"My mom has been coaching since I can remember. I grew up with the sport and started playing in middle school,” the junior center says.
And her mom isn't the only one who plans to carry on the athletic tradition, though Phillips wants to leave her options open.
"My major is athletic training. I either want to go ahead and work at a high school or continue on in school to get my master's".
Though she has always known athletics was her passion, the road to success was a bumpy one.
Initially pursuing a college basketball career at Shoreline Community College, a missed sense of belonging caused Phillips to move away from the big city life of Seattle. Following a tip from her brother Austin, a veteran of the Linfield football summer camps, she decided to give Linfield a try.
Just when the road to her dreams seemed clear, an injury threw a wrench in it all.
"I tore my left lateral meniscus and had it repaired. I was out for all of pre-season and the start of the (2012-13) regular season. Then, just as I was getting in the swing of things, I re-tore my meniscus in January, which ended my season," Phillips remembers.
The lateral meniscus is a complicated structure to heal, especially because just the slightest pivot or a step that lands just in the right way can tear it all over again. Adding to that, the recovery process is long and can be painful.
That was the case for Phillips. Nothing came easy.
“When I was rehabbing from my second surgery, it took almost all of the summer for my knee to feel just right again. I had to force myself to keep going to physical therapy and believe that this was not just how my knee was going to feel for the rest of my life.”
But Phillips has always known she is tough.
"I played high school football and really enjoyed it," the junior says.
Phillips went through a painful injury – twice – with no fear and with her head held high.
The guidance of James Johnson, her coach at Shoreline, helped her get through it all as well.
If not bodily harm, what then, does she fear?
"I am terrified of ducks. I got attacked by them as a little girl."
Looking for a new, duck-free challenge, Phillips decided to give lacrosse a try, a sport that's been steadily gaining in popularity in California and the Northwest.
"While I was living in California, everyone was starting to play lacrosse, so I gave it a go. It's a spring sport so I was able to use it as a way to stay in shape during the basketball offseason. The defensive element in lacrosse is very similar to basketball, so I was able to pick it up quickly."
Phillips took advantage of the opportunity that competing in lacrosse at Linfield provided and honed her skills last spring. It's no surprise people are taking notice.
“We're very encouraged by Kaleigh's development. She's suffered a serious knee injury before the season started last year. She's been working very hard in practice and has committed herself to working on her post moves and rebounding,” comments Coach Robin Potera-Haskins.
Basketball teammate Catie Mets is equally impressed with her dedication to recovery and is grateful to have Phillips, and her 6-foot-1 height advantage, back on the court.
“K Phil is an amazing player. She's one of our only ‘bigs' on the team, so we all really rely on her. She's fantastic on the inside and on the boards. She has the best attitude, is so reliable, and has a fantastic sense of humor”
Potera-Haskins also appreciates her dynamic personality.
“Kaleigh is extremely coachable and has great team chemistry with all the girls on the team. She's an extremely selfless individual.”
A great friend, athlete, student and all around person, Phillips has a fantastic, and hopefully healthy, life ahead of her.
-- Kelsey McGarry '16