Becca Edwards, junior attack for the Penn women's lacrosse team, couldn't tie her shoes. Or reach, in time, her ringing cell phone.

Not with her knee immobilized in a straight-leg brace, standard fare after a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Edwards lay on a hotel-room bed in California determined yet unable to execute simple tasks.

The Quakers (16-1), who this week are prepping for Friday night's NCAA Division I semifinal against Duke at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium at 8:30, were on an early-season West Coast swing when Edwards injured her knee in a 10-8 loss to Stanford.

Her roommate on that trip was senior Allison Ambrozy.

A perfect match, said Penn athletic trainer Kate Weaver, because Ambrozy, from Grosse Pointe, Mich., was barely five months removed from her own torn ACL.

Those five days in California, Edwards kept saying: "I don't need help. I can do it."

But she couldn't. And Ambrozy, the memories of stubbornness fresh from her own struggle, understood.

"She knew it was hard for me to ask for help," said Edwards, who is now two weeks into post-surgical physical therapy. "I couldn't have asked for a better roommate."

The source of Ambrozy's empathy? One wrong step on Franklin Field's turf.

It was Oct. 2, a Tuesday night. A simple ground-ball drill is all it was. Ambrozy went to scoop the ball. She planted her right foot. There was no pop, no sound, just a "really sudden, intense pain," that lasted no more than a second.

During that practice, Edwards was in a different drill. She heard the news: Allison's down. They think it might be her ACL.

Sophomore Barb Seaman ran to get Weaver.

"It's a humbling experience," said Ambrozy, who's sixth on the team with 14 goals. "To be able to do whatever you want, especially as an athlete, and then be completely dependent."

Ambrozy had an MRI exam. She held out hope that it was only a torn meniscus, a much more minor knee injury.

Brian Sennett, director of sports medicine for the University of Pennsylvania Health System, delivered the results - torn ACL

and

torn meniscus - to a small contingent including Ambrozy and her mom, Sandy.

Ambrozy had surgery nine days after the injury.

"She told us all, right away, that she would be back for us," Edwards said. "Of course, she's still struggling with her knee, but her being on the field, even at all, has made a huge difference."

And even Ambrozy will tell you: She may not be the lacrosse player she was, not yet, but she's darn happy, thankful even, to be tying her own shoes.

Contact staff writer Kate Fagan

at 856-779-3844 or kfagan@phillynews.com.