It is the text no college coach wants to receive. It left Katie Meier in tears, and deep in prayer.
Meier, the University of Miami women’s basketball coach, was in Colorado Springs, Colo., in early July preparing to lead the U.S. Under-19 national team in the world championships in Lithuania when her cellphone buzzed and on the screen was the shocking news.
Four Hurricane players — Suriya McGuire, Michelle Woods, Krystal Saunders and Necole Sterling – were in the emergency room, banged up after a serious car accident.
The teammates were on their way to visit Saunders’ house in Fort Lauderdale when another car spun out of control, and McGuire, who was driving, swung out to avoid the car and wound up crashing.
Saunders sustained a concussion. Sterling bit her tongue. McGuire had minor injuries to her ankle, knee and shoulder.
Woods, who was sitting in the back seat, sustained the most serious injuries. She got a severe burn from the seat belt and broke her sternum.
Woods underwent chest surgery to have a plate inserted and is out indefinitely. It was six weeks before she could lift her arms to shoulder level.
“Chelly [Woods’ nickname] is alive, and that’s the most important thing,” Meier said Monday after practice. “Getting that text was so hard. I was so far away from my kids, felt terrible. I was like, ‘Do I need to go back?’ But they told me, ‘No, they’re OK. Nothing life threatening. But still … I wanted to be with my kids. I just prayed hard.”
Knowing Meier was worried sick about her injured players, and probably overcome with guilt for being far away, the Hurricanes team and staff decided to make her a good-luck video. The players danced and sang patriotic USA songs, and the video also featured UM president Donna Shalala, athletic director Blake James, men’s basketball coach Jim Larrañaga, and the men’s basketball team.
“There I was, all the way in Lithuania, on Day One of the world championships, nervous, feeling so bad, and I receive this email on my iPad that says, ‘Coach, we made this for you,’” Meier recalled, her eyes brimming with tears. “It was about 10 days after the accident. I was in my hotel room, getting ready to leave for the game. I was crying so hard. I went out in the hall and told the players, ‘Come watch this with me.’
“It was so sweet. It was the first time I saw the four players, and I cried. I’m going to cry again now just thinking about it.”
Although the accident set the team back in its summer workouts, and the loss of Woods is a big one, Meier is not complaining. She’s just happy the injuries weren’t more serious and that she is back in Coral Gables, close to her players, getting them ready for the upcoming season that begins Nov. 8 with a game against North Florida.