HS GIRLS LACROSSE: Abington Heights senior Yankow makes triumphant return

Caly Yankow started her senior lacrosse season excited and eager for one final run with her closest friends and teammates.

A dedicated and fiercely competitive athlete with a pleasant, upbeat personality, she has fueled the Abington Heights program’s evolution into a contender in the Wyoming Valley Conference and District 2 Class 2A.

Something, however, didn’t seem right physically.

When Yankow ran, it caused excruciating pain in her shins. She tried to work through it, until finally, in the second game of the season against Wyoming Area, it became too intense.

In the days that followed, last year’s Times-Tribune Player of the Year coped with a setback and injury, and also worked through the fear that her final season with the Lady Comets was in jeopardy.

Patience, rest and a commitment to a rehabilitation program served Yankow well. She returned to lead the Lady Comets, who are headed down the home stretch and prepared for the district playoffs.

“I was in a good amount of pain, and at that Wyoming Area game, I remember feeling like I couldn’t run. I realized that I needed to stop and get treatment. The pain is much better, and I am excited about playing again.”

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Throughout her career, Yankow developed and became an impact player for the girls lacrosse program.

Her quickness and athleticism put a charge into the Lady Comets, who have become a strong contender for championships. In her sophomore year, Yankow made a stir with a three-game stretch where she scored 17 goals, reached 50 for her career and had a total of 54 for the season. Her performance resulted in an All-Region selection.

A year later, Yankow continued as an explosive offensive force.

She scored 73 goals and had 15 assists. More importantly to her, though, the Lady Comets reached the District 2 Class 2A final against powerhouse Crestwood and finished with the best record in school history.

In addition, Yankow committed to Division I St. Francis University.

Abington Heights players and coaches were excited because the team returned several key players and starters for this spring’s season. Yankow couldn’t wait.

Soon after it started, however, Yankow needed to deal with waiting.

“When we started practicing, I had some shin pain, and it started getting worse and worse,” Yankow said. “I told my family and we went to the doctor, and he said I needed to take a break.

“It was very tough. Obviously, I trained all winter for this season, and I knew I would miss a few of our big games, so that was really tough on me. I was really nervous about not being able to play again at all in my senior year. It is also the last time I might get to play with my sister (Rylee). It was very hard, and we didn’t know how many games I would miss.”

During her time away from the field, Yankow maintained her role as leader. She spent time observing the coaches, encouraging and supporting her teammates and remaining optimistic as her pain subsided.

“It wasn’t easy,” Yankow said. “It was mentally challenging. But it gave me a whole new perspective on the importance of helping and leading from the sidelines. My role changed, but I knew I had to be there for my friends and teammates.”

She returned, and while the road to recovery is always a daunting one, she is starting to feel at her best again.

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Last week, Yankow flashed that offensive brilliance with four goals in a 14-5 win over North Pocono. Abington Heights improved to 11-2 overall and has three games remaining, including a showdown at rival Scranton Prep on Wednesday.

That game will impact the District 2 Class 2A power rating standings, where the Lady Comets are in third place behind Crestwood and Wyoming Seminary, and the Classics are in fourth.

Her season is saved.

“I was thrilled to come back,” Yankow, 18, said. “My teammates have been so supportive. It has been physically tough; I am not in the condition I was at the beginning of the season, but I am working my way back. I had to prepare myself mentally for that, but I just know I want to do more.

“Now that I’m able to play again, I don’t take anything for granted. I enjoy every single practice, every minute of the games, and every team event. My teammates are my best friends. Knowing that eventually I am not going to play with them as a team will be very hard. So I am going to enjoy this time together very much.”