Graduating senior Cassidy Creighton received several offers to play lacrosse at the collegiate level before she decided she would spend the next four years at Elon University.
Creighton has now walked across the stage in Schar Center, but the path to get there wasn’t easy.
Creighton went through multiple injuries, playing in only eight games with the Phoenix over four seasons. But fighting through these injuries is what Creighton said will help propel her in her future.
“There’s a lot of things that can’t be fixed in life and a lot of things that can,” Creighton said. “It’s totally out of your control, but the one thing that you can do is fix what’s in front of you.”
From the beginning, Creighton’s path to Elon was special. Her high school coaches told Elon lacrosse head coach Josh Hexter that with her offers from other schools, Elon had no shot at getting her, but he still took his chances.
“We asked, ‘Will you please just let her know we’re interested?’ and they did that,” Hexter said. “I think when Cassidy learned what Elon had to offer and came on campus, the rest was history.”
Creighton was amazed by what she saw at Elon when she visited during her sophomore year of high school.
“I just loved Elon,” Creighton said. “I loved the vibe. The team seemed so happy and the campus was so pretty so my sophomore year in January, I committed.”
Creighton became a defensive force for the team when she started in all four games she played in during her 2020 freshman season. She ranked third on the team with 10 draw controls and four caused turnovers and was named as the Colonial Athletic Association rookie of the week Feb. 11, 2020.
But now, Creighton’s time as a lacrosse player is over, and not only because she graduated. Her time as a Division I athlete ended earlier in her senior season, due to an ACL injury – the second of two major injuries that combined to suspend her career.
In her sophomore year and being on the field, Creighton was playing kickball and suffered a minor bone bruise in her leg but was still allowed to play. Days later, she participated in a typical drill at her lacrosse practice.
“I just jumped and I felt a pop, but I honestly just kind of blacked out and I don't really remember what happened,” Creighton said. “I tore my ACL, MCL and meniscus. I dislocated my kneecap – I did the whole shebang. I destroyed my knee.”
Even off the field, Creighton was able to bond with her teammates – just in a new role. In the 2021 season, the Elon lacrosse team was plagued with injuries. Creighton credits what she calls her “ACL crew” as her support system during her time recovering from injury.
During the summer going into her junior year, Creighton worked as a waitress while completing physical therapy. Creighton had wanted to get back onto the field and play the sport she loves with the Phoenix again. Once she got the OK to play, she said things still didn’t feel back to normal with her knee.
“I had worked for two years at this point to get back,” Creighton said. “I was basically saving myself and I was saving my leg for lack of better words for my senior year. Everything I was doing was honestly just, ‘I want a senior season.’”
Creighton continued with even more physical therapy to prepare for her senior year after missing every game in her junior season. With the issue in her knee persisting, she met with her doctor for an MRI. Although the MRI scan came back normal, Creighton said she still knew something was wrong, and begged the doctors to take another look.
The procedure revealed a large build up of scar tissue that needed to be removed. This meant Creighton was back to physical therapy. After the procedure and another five month recovery period, Creighton was preparing to play in her final year at Elon University.
“I was perfect,” Creighton said. “My knee felt amazing. I was returning and I was like ‘This is the best I've ever felt.’”
Creighton was then hit with the unfortunate news that she was not being cleared to play. She said she had to work to continue building back the strength and muscle in her knee after suffering these major injuries. Creighton said she developed a program where she was working out three to four times a week, trying to do anything to be back onto the field with her teammates one final time. Finally, she was cleared and ready to play in her senior season.
Creighton took to the field against Queens University of Charlotte for her first game since 2020, her freshman year. After playing in one more game, five weeks later, she was back to square one.
“I stepped funny at practice,” Creighton said. “I had my brace but you heard the infamous pop and down she went.”
Creighton knew that sound all too well, as this wasn’t her first rodeo with an ACL injury. But this one was different, as it took away the opportunity for Creighton to be on the field for her senior season.
Creighton said she always knew the risk of being back out on the field, but felt numb when she heard the news.
“I wasn't as upset as I thought I was gonna be just because I always had it in the back of my head that this is a huge risk, there's always a risk of re-tear,” Creighton said. “It's either that or I don't play.”
After seeing firsthand the work she was putting in to be on the field her senior year, Hexter said he was upset for Creighton when the realization hit that she would not get to play lacrosse again.
“I wanted to cry,” Hexter said. “A lot of times with injuries, it's OK in that moment, you're just moving the field to get the rest of your team to the other side. You continue to practice, but I was really sad in that moment. That was really hard for me.”
Although she was not able to play, Creighton was honored on the team’s annual Senior Day. Hexter said he wished she could have finished her career on the field, not just because of her playing ability, but because of her work ethic and dedication to the team.
“To see her come out on Senior Day, while I was incredibly proud of her, you know, it still made me sad,” Hexter said. “I had some emotions about that, wishing she could have finished it in a different way.”
Hexter describes Creighton as a “bright light” for the Phoenix. The coach said he loves her positive attitude, even when she is hit with immense challenges. He has seen Creighton use her injuries and recoveries as learning experiences.
“I think there was some comfort in that for her but then when you identify with that leadership being in place almost because of how good you are at your particular sport, I think it's really difficult to then have to find other ways when you're not on the field to exhibit that kind of leadership,” Hexter said. “And Cassidy never complained. Like ever, not once.”
Although she won’t be picking up her stick again, Creighton is ready to be back and active after she recovers.
“It’s pretty obvious I’m never going to play lacrosse or anything like that again,” Creighton said. “When I can get back to hiking and running, I will be a content girl. So taking it easy, but definitely no more side to side for me.”
After graduating with a degree in policy studies with minors in environmental studies and psychology, Creighton plans to be a bartender and waitress in Ocean City, Maryland while she continues her job search with the goal to go into nonprofit work. While she said she was excited to graduate, she will take her Elon experience into her life moving forward.
“Everything is temporary,” Creighton said. “In the moment, it's rough, but then looking ahead, like these are all injuries that can be fixed. It's going to be okay.”