Darcy Dorton making an impact with College of Charleston
It was a routine drill for College of Charleston junior outside hitter Darcy Dorton — one she’d probably done 10,000 times during her volleyball career.
It happened 800 miles away at Penn State University and what now seems like a lifetime ago. It was the in the spring of 2010 during an offseason conditioning workout when she was the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year and had helped lead the Nittany Lions to an undefeated season and an NCAA title the previous fall.
Dorton went up to spike the ball during a simple hitting drill. She smacked the ball, hearing that satisfying sound any hitter knows when you’ve hit the ball just right. But as Dorton came back down to the floor she landed awkwardly, twisting her knee, and in the process tearing her ACL.
The moment it happened, Dorton knew it was bad. “I’d torn the ACL in my other knee, so I knew how it felt,” she said.
It was the start of a long, soul-searching two-year journey that eventually landed Dorton in the Lowcountry and at the College of Charleston. Dorton and the Cougars open up the Southern Conference tournament at Davidson today against Chattanooga.
The Cougars (23-7) have won the SoCon tournament title six times since 2001, but have not been to the NCAAs since 2009.
After redshirting in 2010 rehabbing her knee injury, Dorton slowly worked her way back into shape. When she finally returned to form and was ready to get back into the lineup, there wasn’t a spot for her. Her old position had been taken over by All-American Deja McClendon, one of the top outside hitters at the collegiate level.
“Penn State recruits the top players in the country, so nothing is ever guaranteed from season to season,” Dorton said. “Getting hurt made it even more difficult for me to get back into the lineup.”
After talking with her family, Dorton decided it was time to leave. She has no bitterness or anger toward Penn State.
“I had a storybook season my freshman year and I achieved everything I could, and it was because of the Penn State program and the players I played with,” Dorton said.
Dorton wanted a change of scenery and went searching for a school and a program that was different than Penn State. College of Charleston coach Jason Kepner had played at Penn State and sophomore setter Sloane White had played with Dorton on the same club team.
She came down for a visit and was hooked almost immediately.
“What’s not to like about Charleston?” Dorton said. “They play at a very high level here. They expect to win. I get pushed every day I’m here.”
This season, Dorton leads the team in kills, averaging 4.25 a set. She is averaging 2.85 digs a set as well.
“Darcy is a highly competitive person,” Kepner said. “She has competitive edge she had when she was playing in high school and at the club level and even at Penn State.”
Dorton is planning on playing for the Cougars’ sand volleyball team in the spring.
“I am extremely excited to try my hand at beach volleyball,” Dorton said. “It’s exciting to try something new. You really have to be a well-rounded player to succeed in the sand and it’ll be a good test of my abilities.”
“I think it’ll be better for my body as well. It’s not as jarring on my body, especially my knees, which is great for me. I can play pain free.”