By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
During preseason basketball practice last fall, North Laurel’s Mikaela Prichard saw her senior season taken away in an instant when she tore her ACL. Not only would she miss the basketball season, but also the tennis season in the spring.
To say she was devastated would be an understatement.
“I was immediately terrified,” Prichard said. She thought for sure any dreams of playing sports in college had went down the drain.
But sometimes dreams do come true, as Thursday morning Prichard signed to play tennis for the University of the Cumberlands.
“This is a dream come true,” Prichard said. “I always wanted to play sports in college.”
Two weeks after her surgery, she was at Cumberlands with the North Laurel basketball team as they were practicing for an upcoming tournament. Even though she couldn’t play, Prichard still wanted to be with her team. Then a chance meeting gave her a whole new outlook on life.
“I talked to Lauren Wombles,” Prichard said. Wombles, who played at South Laurel, torn her ACL at the end of Cumberlands’ season last year and came back this season to become the all-time leading scorer and rebounder in the school’s history. “She told me life goes on and to use this to come back stronger and mentally tougher.”
“This is a good day for the University of the Cumberlands,” said Patriots head coach Chin Tan, who has guided the program for 23 years. “We like signing local players. We let one get loose (referring to Prichard’s older sister, Mackenzie) but we got a good one in Mikaela. I feel like I just won the Oscar. I really like her and she jives with me a little bit more. Maybe it is because we are both lefties. She’s mentally tough and loves the game.”
“She can be a great attacking player,” North Laurel coach Bobby Smith said. “She made two trips to the state tournament (one with her sister, Mackenzie, and last year with Caroline Moore) and the way her and Caroline finished last year I felt like they would have been favorites in the region this year in doubles.”
Smith said Prichard being a lefty has its advantages in doubles.
“Doubles is her strong point,” Smith said. “I told her she needs to model her game after (tennis great) Martina Navratilova. Be more of an attacking player. I would like to see her do that.”
Prichard has also played soccer and basketball, but said that tennis came the easiest to her. She plans on majoring in elementary education, and said that she will need to learn how to keep her cool better on the court and get mentally ready.