UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Your 2012, unless you are Barack Obama, Jeremy Lin or someone who read too much Mayan scripture, probably was not as thrilling as Penn State soccer player Taylor Schram's, the Dapper Dan Sportswoman of the Year.
Her 2012 began in a dark room, scary thoughts that her career could end creeping into her mind, then transitioned into competing for the United States' U-20 soccer team and then the NCAA Final Four.
"It just kept going up," said Schram, a junior and Canon-McMillan High graduate.
But before it gets good, the beginning: Last January, Schram thought she would be able to return to soccer. She thought the concussion she suffered in the 2011 NCAA tournament after taking a hit from Army's goalkeeper would have healed.
The doctors cleared her to start running again. When she did, dizziness and pain and the fog of concussion symptoms returned. They affected her everywhere. A thriving psychology student, Schram couldn't study like she used to. Everything took much longer. She had to drop four credits for the spring semester and considered taking the semester off all together.
Sometimes, she would call her mother and ask her a question. Five minutes later, she would call again and ask the same question. When her parents came to visit, they saw a glaze covering their daughter's eyes.
For a few days in January, Schram couldn't leave her room because of the concussion. She couldn't watch TV, use a computer or a phone and had to keep the lights off. She slept a lot, and her teammates stopped by to comfort her.
In truth, the temporary isolation wasn't the toughest part for her. It was the prolonged separation from her team. For a while, Schram couldn't even watch soccer practice because of the lights and noise that inevitably would cause pain.
"I just didn't even feel like myself anymore," she said, "with my brain feeling all funny and not being able to see my teammates and see practice and be involved."
In late April, doctors cleared her to play. Schram had been practicing without any contact for about two months when the coach of the U.S. Under-20 national team called and said he still wanted her to try out.
She showed up in Florida for the two-week camp significantly far from optimal shape. Her attitude was to try her best but not flip out if she didn't make it, given the rough year thus far. On the last day, Schram found out she made the team.
In August and September, Schram, along with Penn State teammate Maya Hayes, played in Japan for the Under-20 team, winning the world championship. Schram returned to Penn State afterward. In her first practice back, she went up for a header and just didn't feel right. Doctors held her out, made her retake the concussion tests.
Penn State gave Schram and her family the choice to redshirt. It was in their hands.
"Nobody really wanted to make the decision and nobody wanted to make the wrong decision," said her mother, Kristen Schram. "I remember having the conversation. She was like, 'Mom, this is our year. I know if I take it off, I'm going to miss it. I just want to be a part of it.' And I told her, 'You just have to go for it.' "
A midfielder/forward, Schram scored both goals in a 2-1 October victory against Iowa. She finished the year with five goals and one assist. The last goal came in San Diego.
Schram's sense of importance about this year was dead-on. Penn State advanced to the College Cup, soccer's version of the Final Four, in San Diego. Her team defeated Florida State in overtime in the semifinal and lost to North Carolina, 4-1, in the final, Schram scoring her team's lone goal.
What she'll remember, though, is that Florida State game. At about the 65-minute mark, Schram looked up and saw 6,000 fans and lights illuminating the darkness, and she realized how cool it was to be there.
"Nothing compares to your college team and the college environment," she said. "The girls on my team are my best friends in the whole world. Just to have so much fun competing at the highest level is something that I'll never forget."
The list of previous winners Taylor Schram will join:
1999 Suzie McConnell-Serio
2000 Dori Anderson
2001 Carol Semple Thompson
2002 Swin Cash
2003 Kelly Mazzante
2004 Lauryn Williams
2005 Agnus Berenato
2006 Swin Cash
2007 Agnus Berenato
2008 Shavonte Zellous
2009 Penn State Volleyball
2010 Agnus Berenato
2011 Pittsburgh Passionmobilehome - psusports
Mark Dent: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @mdent05.