Kerner springs back from injury

By on December 5, 2007

Typically, when a player suffers a season-ending injury, the road to recovery and aftermath can generate anxiety.

A myriad of top-flight players–the Miami Heat’s Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, the Pheonix Suns’ Grant Hill, and Sam Bowie, the injury-prone stiff who was actually selected before a guy named Michael Jordan in the NBA Draft gaffe of a lifetime –to name a few, have seen their careers see-saw or go sledding downhill due to injury.

When Erin Kerner, Quinnipiac’s standout point guard, suffered a season-ending injury with a torn anterior cruciate ligament last year, a program and fan base was collectively foiled.

Kerner’s injury morphed her into a lynchpin on the Quinnipiac bench down the stretch of the 2006-2007 campaign, and it allowed the skeptics to surface.

They said with an injury of this magnitude, Kerner might not be the same player once she’s thrust back into the fold.

Nine games into 2007-2008 campaign, it appears Kerner is not the same player who emerged as the leading Northeast Conference Player of the Year candidate before the injury.

She’s better.

With an arsenal of mid-range jumpers and quick slashes to the cup, Kerner gave an efficient account of herself on Dec.22. The sublime showing helped shoot Quinnipiac’s record to 8-1, as the Bobcats scored a 70-60 victory over neighboring rival Yale before a strongly bi-partisan crowd of 854.

Kerner led all scorers with 25 points. The combo guard shot a whopping 11-for-14 from the floor and handed out three assists in 36 minutes. The Bobcats shot a sizzling 28-for-50 (54 percent) from the field.

“She hasn’t missed a beat,” said Quinnipiac coach Tricia Sacca-Fabbri. “She is so poised and calm. When the ball is in her hands, I don’t have to worry. She just does everything so well for us.”

Sacca-Fabbri also added that Kerner, a junior, has improved by leaps and bounds.

It’s more than the longtime Bobcats coach could have asked from her stud guard, who was flushed into a leadership role this season.

Kerner spent nearly her entire summer on Quinnipiac’s quaint campus, working with trainers five days a week and refining elements of her game. The gem of a revitalized 2005 recruiting class that laid the foundation for future success, Kerner explained that the hard work helped streamline the recovery process. She admitted, however, that being cocked in Connecticut didn’t make for the most exhilarating summer.

The Erie, Pa. native and gymrat did get a chance to spend a week at home before the burdens of the first semester materialized.

Some vacation.

Kerner and the Bobcats will look forward to a more enlivening vacation on Dec. 28, as they fly out to sunny California for the prestigious San Diego Slam Jam.

Sacca-Fabbri sees the event as a chance for the Hamden school to register its presence on the West Coast.

“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime for this program,” she said.

In her first game back from the injury, Kerner cooked Brown University to the tune of 21 points in 18 minutes of an 85-41 wash-out. She shot 8-for-12 from the floor, letting the entire conference know that she’s re-surfaced into the landscape.

The Bobcats controlled the tempo early and often Saturday, snapping a two-game win streak for Yale (2-6), whose youth was evident in the loss.

It must feel good to avenge an ugly loss, especially when it’s the cross-town rival.

“Absolutely,” Kerner said.

“We went into their gym last year and played terrible. We came out today much more fired up and focused.”

It wasn’t the most memorable of homecomings for Queen Smith, a first-year Yale assistant coach who established herself as a surefire Hall of Fame selection during an outstanding career at Quinnipiac.

The Bulldogs simply had no answer for Kerner, whose fast break lay-in pumped the vaulted the Bobcats to an 18-5 lead they wouldn’t squander early in the first half.

Lights-out shooting from guards Kathleen Neyens (11 points) and Mandy Pennewell (15 points) was paramount to success throughout.

Senior stalwart Monique Lee bulldozed the Bulldogs for 11 points and six boards in 27 minutes. Lee and classmate Nicole Dupperon (game-high nine rebounds) sealed the basket shut down low, forcing Yale to take nearly one-third of their shots from beyond the arc. The Bulldogs shot 7-of-19 from three-point land, balancing their abysmal shooting from the field (where they went an Alaska-cold 14-for-41).

Out of the gates, Quinnipiac capped a 13-2 spurt with a Neyens trey from the left-corner. This bucket ballooned the lead to 18 with a thread under five minutes remaining.

But Yale rapidly broke out of their funk, ripping off a 9-0 run in three minutes.

Pennewell thwarted the run with a three-pointer of her own, making it 30-18 with 1:38 left.

Yale fought valiantly in a second half that the Bobcats opened up on an 11-0 run.

But in the end, it was too little, too late for the youth-laden Ivy League club.

“I’m very pleased to be 8-1 leading into Christmas,” explained Sacca-Fabbri.

“We had control of the game.”

For Kerner, it’s just another page in the stellar career she’s authored in not even two full seasons.

When all is said and done, will the WNBA scouts-who gave Sacred Heart’s Amanda Pape considerable looks last year-come calling for the blink-quick, 5-foot-8 guard?

It’s not for certain, but something else is: It’s going to take more than an ACL injury to rattle her.


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