ORONO – That unmistakeable smile was back on Cindy Blodgett’s face Tuesday afternoon.
Blodgett sported the same triumphant grin one might expect to see right after the senior guard buries a 3-pointer providing the coup de grace in a Black Bear victory.
Blodgett was reacclimating herself to the rigors of practice Tuesday as she worked out with the University of Maine women’s basketball team at Memorial Gym. Her smile reflected her happiness at getting another chance to play for coach Joanne Palombo-McCallie’s Bears.
“It was good to be out there,” Blodgett said of Monday’s practice, her first full session since aggravating an injury to her left foot in Maine’s Jan. 2 victory over Boston University in Orono.
“It was also kind of a struggle because I felt like I was a step behind,” admitted Blodgett, the nation’s leading seasons.
“I was a little bit tentative and worried about making certain movements,” she said. “My foot wasn’t really sore, it was just tired from not being used.”
Blodgett is expected to be ready to play Thursday night when Maine travels to Philadelphia to face America East rival Drexel.
There were no visible signs of injury Tuesday as Blodgett went through her second straight day of full workouts. She ran the floor during drills, making hard cuts on the foot and jumping for rebounds with no apparent ill effects.
Blodgett, who is averaging 27.9 points and six assists through nine games, did sit out one sprint, doing pushups instead.
“It was like night and day,” Blodgett said of the improvement over Monday. “I can’t tell you how much progress it makes in a day.”
Blodgett suffers from plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot from the heel to the base of the toes. She was forced out of action when she experienced a painful snapping sensation in her left heel that turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“I think because it snapped, it should be fine from here on out,” explained Blodgett, who praised the efforts of UMaine trainer Sherrie Weeks in helping her make a speedy recovery.
“I haven’t had any pain at all in the mornings when I wake up, and I don’t have any pain just walking around, and that’s so new,” she said.
Blodgett must treat the foot with care, making sure to ice it down, stretch extensively, and wear a night cast that keeps the tissue in the bottom of her foot from tightening up.
“There’s a looseness about it ,” Blodgett said. “Before, when I would bend my toes back, you’d see the thing pop right out. Now, nothing’s there. It’s all nice and soft.”
During her rest and rehabiliation the past two weeks, Blodgett tried to stay in shape by riding a stationary bicycle, lifting weights, and taking an occasional swim.
Maine has won four games in a row without its floor leader, none by blowout proportions. Being relegated to the bench was agonizing for Blodgett, who had never missed a game in her life prior to sustaining the injury.
“You don’t really know how much something’s a part of your life until it is taken away from you, even for a little bit,” said Blodgett, who tried to remain in the background.
“It was uncomfortable,” she said. “I didn’t want to be a distraction to the team. There were things they had to take care of. I just didn’t want to be like a sideshow.”
Blodgett felt helpless, because she was unable to contribute.
“It’s very painful to see the team struggle at different points in games when you know that you have no effect on it,” Blodgett said.
However, the experience did provide Blodgett with another perspective on the game.
“There are little things that coach [Palombo] harps on in practice and you hear her saying over and over, but when you’re on the bench actually watching, you see how important those little things are,” Blodgett said.
In retrospect, Blodgett is grateful for the support she has received during her recovery.
“A lot of people were concerned, asking about how [the foot] was, hoping I get back soon,” she said. “Everyone was real nice.”