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Charlotte Corkins finished 2023 with 35 goals, 26 assists, 11 caused turnovers and 59 draw controls.

West Girls' Player of the Year Charlotte Corkins Perseveres After ACL Injury

June 30, 2023
Laurel Pfahler
Colorado Academy.

After Charlotte Corkins suffered a season-ending ACL tear in a game last April, she struggled with the idea of sitting on the sideline and just watching her Colorado Academy (Colo.) team play without her.

A fierce competitor, Corkins couldn’t wait to get back on the field following a roughly nine-month recovery. Once she did, it felt a bit different playing on a reconstructed knee, but outsiders wouldn’t have known the junior midfielder wasn’t quite her normal self.

Corkins contributed multiple points in all but one game and played a crucial role in both the offense and defense, as the Mustangs rolled through a perfect season, capping it off with an eighth straight state title.

The two-way midfielder finished with 35 goals, 26 assists, 11 caused turnovers and 59 draw controls, including her biggest performances in the semifinals. Corkins is the USA Lacrosse West Girls’ Player of the Year.

“She’s such a competitive person, it was devastating,” Colorado Academy coach Sonorah Hunter said. “She was limited a bit at the beginning of the season as she was getting stronger and figuring out who she was as a player coming off ACL surgery. But I think being on the sideline the end of last year helped her get a different perspective of how she saw the game and made her more of a coach on the field this year. She honed in on her recovery, and she’s much stronger based on the [physical therapy] she’s done.”

Corkins tore her ACL in the first 10 minutes of a much-anticipated matchup against St. Ignatius Prep (Calif.) on April 16, 2022. Colorado Academy still went on to win that game and eventually the state title.

But Corkins had a hard time not being a bigger part of that. She continued supporting her team throughout and stayed diligent in her rehab with the goal of coming back stronger, but the process was more difficult than she imagined.

“It was super hard not playing, and the recovery process is just really tough, and it goes on past when you get cleared,” Corkins said. “I was naïve to think it would be a nine-month process and then I would be done, but the effects carried with me.”

Sitting out made her realize some things about herself and her team that she made sure not to take for granted upon her return.

“Watching the team from the sideline makes you so hungry to play but more just because I wanted to help my team,” Corkins said. “It speaks to the culture of CA lacrosse. It’s so incredible; I look forward to it every day. It was tough to watch but made me realize how much I love lacrosse, not just lacrosse, but competing and being on the field with my team.”

Corkins missed an important time in the recruiting process, so not being able to compete in tournaments and showcases going into her junior year made her nervous she would be overlooked by the colleges that previously had shown interest.

Fortunately, a lot of coaches had seen her with M&D club lacrosse, including North Carolina coach Jenny Levy, whose daughter was on Corkins’ team, and they recognized her potential. Most recruiting her didn’t hold back in their offers because of the injury, and Corkins committed to North Carolina in September.

Hunter said it’s easy to see why Corkins is headed to a program that won a national title in 2022. She has all the tools coaches want in a midfielder.

“She’s so dynamic,” Hunter said. “She’s not only one of the most athletic players. She contributed all over. Being a lefty, she can drive to the cage hard, and she has an incredible shot, but she’s always looking to be that playmaker on the offensive end. She draws so much attention off others, being that high driver she’s able to find open players. Defensively, her athleticism allows her to find those open players, cause turnovers, be a force to be reckoned with.”

Corkins was cleared to resume lacrosse activities in the winter, but at the beginning of the season, she was on time restrictions and had to ease back into playing a full game.

On top of having to adjust to a surgically repaired knee, Corkins and her teammates were settling in with a new coach. Hunter replaced Laura Sandbloom, who left the program after seven seasons to be closer to relatives in Ohio, landing a new job at her alma mater, Upper Arlington.

“I was used to my routine, so to face new challenges and having to communicate them with a new coach, it wasn’t easy, but it kind of was because of how open of a communicator Sonorah was,” Corkins said. “My first few games back, it was an adjustment lacrosse-wise because there’s nothing to prepare you for a live game again. You can do all the recovery and rehab, but it took a while to find my groove.”

Hunter said Corkins embraced the chance to play again and didn’t seem hesitant, but she did notice Corkins getting more comfortable as the season progressed. Full confidence was clearly restored once she was able to stop wearing her brace.

Corkins’ doctor had told her to wear it through her first season back on the field, so as soon as the regular season ended, she decided she had had enough. She ditched the brace, and something clicked.

“She was not sensitive or soft with her injury whatsoever,” Hunter said. “She’s so fixated on being competitive and wanting it so badly, it was a scare for us coaches because we worried if she fell or something. It took her some time to figure out how to move appropriately and to fall in a way that was productive, but one of the biggest changes at the end was just losing her brace. She got more comfortable with it during the season but was so much more agile once she lost it. She played the state semifinal and final without it, and she was so much more confident and that big impact player we knew she was.”

In the semifinal against Cherry Creek (Colo.), she tallied four goals, one assist, one caused turnover and two draw controls, and in the final against Regis Jesuit (Colo.), an 11-6 win, she had two goals, one assist, one caused turnover and four draw controls.

“I don’t know how physical versus mental it was, but that semifinal against Creek was a good switch for me and a mark in the progression I made,” Corkins said. “A lot of the games, I came in pretty anxious. It was nothing about my injury or re-injuring myself; I just wasn’t sure of myself, and I just made the choice to do that that game and definitely saw results.”

Now she looks forward to a full season feeling that way next year when she will be looking to cap her high school career with another state title.

“I’m super excited,” Corkins said. “I’m glad I got this first season over and under my belt because I continued to grow and gain confidence every game. I’m excited to be a senior leader next year and continue to grow my confidence and help my team to the best of my ability.”