The Maroon

Nolan not afraid to get physical

Senior star survives injuries to lead ’Pack


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Women’s basketball forward and biology major Rachael Nolan is playing her final year with the Wolfpack.

As the only senior on the team, Nolan has survived a season of ups and downs.

While stretching before practice in late January, Nolan turned to speak to a teammate when her face and mouth went numb. By the time she arrived at the hospital, she had lost her peripheral vision. Nolan experienced a small stroke due to an undiscovered heart defect.

“After about a week and a half of testing, they found a hole in my heart the size of a dime,” said Nolan.

Although unable to play, Nolan supported her teammates by getting creative with foam poster board, glitter, markers and glue. She made small plaques to place on each of her teammates’ lockers. The plaques included one word that summed up the player’s best skill in relation to the team.

Head women’s basketball coach Kellie Kennedy described Nolan as a “team-oriented young lady.”

 “She’s very interested in the success of this team and this program,” said Kennedy, “and it shows in how hard she works.”

Nolan underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair her heart defect on a Tuesday. She was cleared to play that Saturday, where she aided in the Wolfpack’s win against Faulkner.

Nolan remained positive in her outlook for the rest of the season. She felt confident in her abilities as a player and in her team’s ability to win conference, but after the team’s recent loss to Belhaven, Nolan said that she had to accept that it was a rough season. 

Her goal was to win conference during her senior year. It was her last shot at victory after 18 years of dedication to her favorite sport. Nolan said she was heartbroken at first, but a pep talk from her coach motivated her to push on with the rest of the season and prepare for the conference tournament and nationals.

“I’m just thankful that I have the ability to play after going through everything,” said Nolan.

Nolan started playing competitively in the first grade. In addition to regular season games, she has spent every summer since she was eight years old traveling for basketball.

A self-described aggressive player, Nolan prides herself in her assertive style of play. “When I’m going full speed and another person’s going full speed and we connect, someone’s going to lose. Most of the time, it’s not me, but sometimes it is,” said Nolan.

Nolan’s aggressiveness on the court has led to many injuries. In the past, she’s broken all of her fingers, her nose and twice broken both of her ankles. She attributed her injuries to “contact sports.” “It’s part of the game,” said Nolan.

Now, toward the end of her athletic career, she said she can’t believe it’s all coming to an end.

Nolan described her last season with the Wolfpack as “absolutely amazing.”

“I don’t want it to be over,” said Nolan. “I’m not ready for it to be over.”

Nolan is pursuing a career in zoology. Her passion for conservation programs is equally as strong as her passion for basketball. “I would love to go into conservation research for exotic species,” she said.

Lindsay Werntz, assistant women’s basketball coach, said that Nolan has “a fight in her” that Werntz hasn’t seen in a long time. “She has been a true joy to coach,” said Werntz, “and will be greatly missed, not only next year, but in the years to come.”

Scott O’Brien can be reached at

[email protected]

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Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola
Nolan not afraid to get physical