Women's Hoops: Ashley McElhiney update

Senior point guard Ashley McElhiney watched practice from the sidelines today as the Vanderbilt Commodores prepared to host the #9 Arkansas Lady Razorbacks Thursday night in Memorial Gym.

McElhiney, who suffered a high ankle sprain in Sunday's victory over the Kentucky Wildcats, began rehabilitation on Monday morning. All her lateral ligaments are stretched, and the high one is also involved. However, there's already one positive sign in that the swelling in the ankle has already decreased.

"You always want the swelling to decrease," said trainer Kris Mack after Tuesday's practice. "It's painful and reduces the range of motion, so obviously as the swelling decreases her range of motion increases and the pain decreases.'

That's the first step in the evolving process of rehabilitation. "You want to increase her range of motion, decrease her pain, then increase her strength and increase her functional ability," said Mack. "She's not weight-bearing yet, so we want to increase weight bearing. Then from there she can start functional activities as well. Then her time on the court will increase gradually also."

How long it will be before McElhiney to resume her role as floor leader for the Commodores?

"I would say right now if she keeps progressing like she is, hopefully she'd be back anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks," said Mack. "But it really is day-to-day, and it depends on how she responds to treatment each day. So optimistically, say 1 to 2 weeks and hope she's back then."

In the meantime, the Commodores are preparing to play with freshman Erica Grimaldi at the point. Grimaldi, who had seen only limited action this season, dished out nine assists with only four turnovers through 38 minutes of play on Sunday.

Despite the obvious adversity of losing the veteran McElhiney, Coach Melanie Balcomb has seen a silver lining. "Mac is such a strong leader that everybody feels like they don't have to lead," she said after Sunday's game. When McElhiney went down, the team's chief communicator was no longer on the court.

"What happened was now you saw leading and talking and especially being there for Erica. I can't tell you how many players were talking to her constantly in her ear, helping her, that I haven't seen all year. But they knew they had to now that Mac wasn't out there."

The Commodores' next chance to rise to the occasion comes on Thursday night when the #9-ranked Arkansas Lady Razorbacks visit Memorial Gym. In the last meeting between the two teams, the Commodores barely staved off a furious second-half comeback by the LadyBacks in the semi-finals of the SEC tournament. Gametime is 7 p.m., and tickets are still available.

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