More than 30 percent of athletes who have sustained an ACL injury never return to the same level of play, so just stepping on the field to play Division I lacrosse again is an incredible feat for senior captain Ida Farinholt.
However, even after the misfortune and devastation of tearing her ACL a second time — an injury with only a 4.3 percent chance of recurrence — the midfielder was able to go beyond just returning to play to tally a whopping 31 points, 13 ground balls, seven caused turnovers and 34 draw controls over her junior season to reestablish herself as a lethal all-around force for the Red.
A talented field hockey, indoor track and lacrosse athlete in high school, Farinholt garnered regional, state and national lacrosse accolades.
She was able to successfully translate her athletic prowess to the collegiate level, making an immediate impact as a freshman by starting three of the five games she played and averaging over a point per game.
“[Ida] came in as a phenomenal freshman,” said strength and conditioning coach Erika Rogan. “Movement-wise, her athleticism was outstanding.”
Even when a torn ACL cut her freshman campaign short, Farinholt remained optimistic about her return to play.
“I thought, ‘It’s my freshman year. It’s fine. I’ll bounce back from this,’” she said. “I didn’t think much of it. I just really wanted to play again.”
However, when she tore the same ligament in the same knee less than a year after the original injury in her first scrimmage back as a sophomore, the optimism was soon replaced with fear.
“[Tearing my ACL in my first game back] was the hardest thing for me,” Farinholt said. “I think that mentally screwed me up a little bit. I would’ve felt better about it if it was my other knee, but because it was the same one I was just thinking ‘Is my knee going to fail me again?’”
The Road to Recovery
Casting all fears aside and having just gone through the tedious rehab process, Farinholt made the tough decision to dive back into the process a second time, which was grueling both physically and mentally.
“[Getting over the fear of reinjury] was really hard,” Farinholt said. “But my parents were so supportive — they never told me to quit after tearing [my ACL] twice. They were supportive of whatever I wanted to do.”
As someone who had played lacrosse her whole life, being sidelined by injuries in back-to-back seasons only strengthened Farinholt’s resolve to return to the field.
“[Being injured] gave me a good perspective of how important every player is, even if they’re not playing,” she said. “I realized I wasn’t going to quit even if I was going to be injured all four years.”
Fortunately, Farinholt has not been injured all four years and her diligence to her rehab has paid off for her and her team in her junior and senior seasons.
“She did an awesome job [with the rehab process],” Rogan said. “Everything I told her to do she would at least try it and give me good feedback. She has pushed herself — she’s regained her speed, her strength, her power. Overall, her dedication to get back on the field has been tremendous.”
With the team’s back against the wall, Farinholt really stepped her game up in the 2017 NCAA tournament, recording two goals and an assist in the first round against Notre Dame and three goals and a school record-breaking six draw controls against Princeton in the second round.
“In the beginning, it wasn’t easy because it was hard for me mentally to get back into it,” Farinholt said. “I wasn’t as aggressive of a player, but I think once I had five games under my belt I was fine.”
The pressure of the tournament allowed Farinholt to think less about her devastating injuries.
“I truly found myself at the very end [of the season] during the NCAA tournament,” she said. “It was so much easier for me not to focus on my knee because we had to win every game to move forward.”
Inspiration Through Perspiration
Farinholt’s perseverance and commitment to herself and her team did not go unnoticed, as she was awarded the team’s “Brick” award in 2017, given to the player “whose daily hard work and effort contributed most to the team.”
“The Brick award in our program is perhaps the highest honor a player in our program can achieve,” said head coach Jenny Graap ’86. “An athlete who earns the Brick is truly committed, heart and soul, to Cornell women’s lacrosse.”
Farinholt was also selected as a captain for her senior year.
“She’s a lead-by-example kind of athlete,” Rogan said. “She’s always the first one in sprints and she’s always trying to push herself in the weight room — jump higher, squat more and do more pull-ups.
Farinholt’s success inspires her young teammates.
“The younger athletes are able to see her succeed despite the traumatic injuries she has had to overcome — [that] is the way she leads the team,” Rogan said.
“Ida’s work ethic and commitment to her rehab was inspiring to witness,” added Graap. “She remained diligent and optimistic after both surgeries.”
One of Farinholt’s young teammates, freshman Hanna Tadie, had a second ACL tear almost identical to Farinholt’s prior to coming to Cornell and credits Farinholt with helping her through her recovery process.
“Seeing [Farinholt] out on the field and playing really helps to keep me motivated during some of the low points in my recovery process,” Tadie said. “It has also been so helpful hearing she went through similar experiences as me and faced the same fears as she was trying to get back to playing.”
Farinholt helps her teammates with the mental game at least as much as with the physical aspects of lacrosse.
“Coming in injured as a freshman was difficult mentally, so having Ida helping me out definitely helped me to feel much more comfortable and acclimate to the team despite not being able to be out playing alongside them,” Tadie said. “When I’m having a rough week with pain or progression, seeing her doing so well gives me a lot of hope and reminds me that coming back is doable with hard work and effort.”
Whether it’s on the field, on the sidelines or in the weight room, one thing is certain — Farinholt’s resilience and perseverance serve as the glue for an already determined team.
“Ida is a genuinely caring individual and her teammates know that she will always be there,” Graap said. “Her priorities are in order and she sets a strong example with her generosity of spirit and selfless attitude.”