COLUMBUS, Ohio – It was bittersweet for Mackenzie Loesing. But mostly sweet, she quickly adds.
It could have been her on the floor with the University at Buffalo women’s basketball team, enjoying the program’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament. In some respects she should have been on the floor.
Last season as a junior she was the Mid-American Conference Sixth Player of the Year, helping the Bulls to their first WNIT appearance.
But the guard gave up her senior season with the Bulls after three years of chronic ankle injuries. Surgery failed to stabilize her ankle. So she decided to leave the roster, focusing on her studies in biomedical science and psychology.
While part of her wishes she was on the court, she can’t stop beaming with pride about her former teammates, what they’ve accomplished and the attitude they’ve brought to every game.
“It’s been amazing,” Loesing said at St. John Arena, where she came to watch the Bulls play Ohio State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. “Obviously this is a really young team and so everyone underestimated them. Going into the MAC Tournament ranked eighth and ending that tournament on top – no one expected that from this team. But being a part of it and being around this team, you knew they were capable of that. You can see the drive, you can see the passion.”
There’s still passion from Loesing as well. Her Twitter feed is usually active during Buffalo’s games, peppered with wit and joy, even when the Bulls are struggling.
The Bulls honored her scholarship for her senior year and she remains connected to the team. She traveled to Cleveland for the MAC title game, taking the floor after the win and joining in the celebration.
“It was such an emotional moment for me because a year ago on that date I had made the decision to end my career early in hopes I could have a normal, healthy life,” Loesing said. “So I thought my shot at getting to experience something like that was over. I was giving up that dream to pursue my other dreams but just to have them embrace me the way they did and when they won that title to bring me down on the floor, let me walk out, they fulfilled this dream I thought I had given up completely. It was really special to have that closing the final chapter, just this special moment.”
Loesing will graduate from Buffalo in May and then apply to medical schools in June. She’s currently working in the emergency department at Mercy Hospital and she will spend her gap year between undergrad and medical school at the South Buffalo hospital.
“It’s kind of like the silver lining on missing out on the season,” Loesing said of working at Mercy. “Biomedical science is obviously a very intense major, and I haven’t been able to get the clinical experience that a lot of people in my major have gotten. I had to balance basketball but now not having to be at the gym every single day opened up a lot of opportunities for me. So as devastating as it is not to be able to experience my senior season, I’ve taken a lot of steps forward in other aspects of my career.”