And the Comeback Athlete of the Year Goes to…


By: Shana Levine
Associate Athletic Director

No matter how many times I hear the story, it still makes me cringe.  Our men’s tennis team was playing a match away at Christopher Newport on March 26, 2011.  Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate and the match was moved inside to the tennis facility at William and Mary.  The tennis facility at William and Mary was built in 1995 and includes six tennis courts in two enclosures. When you walk into the facility, the lobby is a bit lower than court level so you can see players’ feet and the ball at about head level through small windows when you walk into the facility.  See photo for a great shot of the courts.

The teams were playing doubles and Mac Davis and Will Hall were partnered for W&L.  While I was not at the match, I have heard the story told many times – The Generals were up 6-4 in the set tiebreaker with two match points. Mac Davis was rallying down the line with the Christopher Newport player and Will trying to poach and win the match. As Coach Detwiler recalls, “I saw Will take off in a full sprint to intercept the ball with a winning volley.  Will was a little late and the ball went off the end of his racket.  His momentum carried him into the concrete block wall next to the court.  As Will turned his body his left shoulder and left hip hit the wall.  I knew exactly what he was trying to do.  I have seen many athletes in indoor sports hit a wall and then push off with their legs in order to land flat on their feet.”  What happened next, no one saw coming.  Will and Mac were playing on the court closest to the lobby, so while the wall was concrete block at the top, the bottom of it had the glass viewing panels.

So, when Will went to push off on the wall, his foot actually hit the glass and went right through it – all the way to his lower hamstring.  Not good!  Now, let’s be clear – Will is not an overly large person that the glass just couldn’t hold.  Nope, Will is the size of a good Division III tennis player.

Right as the accident happened David remembers thinking, “As he pulled his leg out, I knew we were in big trouble-his right calf was literally hanging in mid air.”  At this point, so many people snapped into action and really made a difference – David, our assistant wrestling coach Mike Bennett who had traveled with the team, and two doctors and a nurse who happened to be there watching the match.  They all worked quickly to slow the bleeding.  The EMS showed up quickly and Will was on his way to the hospital within 15 minutes – and still conscious – a tribute to the many people that helped on the scene.  At this point, the medics in the ambulance were worried he was going to lose his lower leg. They used artery clamps to stop the bleeding.  As Will was being wheeled of the court by EMS, he yelled “GO GENERALS!”

David pulled the team together and asked them if they wanted to go to the hospital with Will or play the match. To a person, the team was convinced that Will would want them to play (and win) the match first.  “We asked for 30 minutes and I have never seen a team so inspired in my life,” David remembers.  All six singles players won! Hayden White beat the #4 player in the nation and Jeremy Becht beat the #6 player in the region.  After the match, the team headed to the hospital and waited for Will to get out of the surgery recovery area and into his own room.  When they were finally allowed to see Will, the first question that he wanted to know was who won.  The team told him that W&L had won all 6 singles and he immediate responded, “that’s what I am talking about!”

When Will made it back to campus on Sunday, he met with our athletic trainer that works with the tennis team, Matt Phillips.  Matt’s recollection of the injury – “I met Will and his mother 72 hours after the injury.  Will was in a knee immobilizer and a walking boot.  His leg looked like it had been attacked by a shark.  He had over 100 stitches in addition to staples from his hamstring down to his calf.  His calf was completely torn from the bone.”  At this point, everyone was thrilled that Will was okay and no permanent damage had been done.  The operative from the doctor stated that Will was to remain in his immobilizer and walking boot for 4 weeks and no running or jumping for the next two months.  Clearly, there was very little talk of tennis.

It would’ve been easy – and probably what most of us would’ve done – to pout, mope and be miserable because of what happened.  Especially given that it was Will’s senior year and he and his partner were nationally ranked in doubles at the time of the accident.  Instead Will was ready to go – didn’t even miss a class that Monday.  If this was me, I definitely would’ve milked it for at least a day or two of laying on the couch and watching lifetime moves or HGTV – c’mon, its senior year!

Hall returned to win at No. 2 doubles in W&L's NCAA match with North Carolina Wesleyan

But that’s not Will.  Will was captain of the team and made the amazing effort to go to class and get his rehab done so he could go and watch practice every day.  As he gained a bit more mobility, he even served as a student-assistant coach with David for a few matches.  David loved remembering this part!  “Will realized how hard it is to coach,” David said with a smile.  Apparently, 18 to 22 year old males are not always willing to take advice or coaching and Will got to see that firsthand.

Will also checked in with our Athletic Director because he wanted to make sure he would be eligible to travel with the team to NCAAs during spring term.  As a result, he signed up for and took a spring term course just so he would be eligible to travel with the team and help coach and serve as team captain.  Will was on the court coaching and cheering his team onto a 2nd-straight ODAC championship late in April and graciously accepted the ODAC championship plaque as team captain.  But, Will was not willing to accept just attending and helping to coach matches.  He wanted to play.  Matt recalls, “Will had the heart, dedication, and desire to play again.  He worked every day, and sometimes twice a day, to build up his strength again.”

Just two weeks later, Will was able to show everyone his hard work and dedication.  On May 14, 2011 (just 7 weeks post injury), Will took the court for W&L’s NCAA match against North Carolina Wesleyan.  He played #2 doubles with Jeremy Becht and the duo were down the whole match, but were able to come came back and win the match 8-6. Unbelievable!

W&L ended up falling in the match against NC Wesleyan 5-1, but it was fitting that our one point came from Will and Jeremy at #2 doubles.  While he never stopped contributing to the team when he was out of the lineup due to his injury, it was great to see him be able to motivate the team and contribute one last time on the court for the Generals.

So, in case it’s not already obvious, the W&L Comeback Athlete of the Year Award goes to…Will Hall.


2 Responses to “And the Comeback Athlete of the Year Goes to…”

  1. Quite a Comeback « Washington and Lee University News Says:

    […] But, as Shana Levine, associate athletic director, explains in her compelling description on the Athletic Department’s “From the Sidelines” blog, Will had other ideas. For all the details about both the injury and Will’s battle back, we highly recommend Shana’s blog post: And the Comeback Athlete of the Year Goes to…. […]

  2. Quite a Comeback :: Washington and Lee University News Says:

    […] But, as Shana Levine, associate athletic director, explains in her compelling description on the Athletic Department's "From the Sidelines" blog, Will had other ideas. For all the details about both the injury and Will's battle back, we highly recommend Shana's blog post: And the Comeback Athlete of the Year Goes to…. […]

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