The Franklin & Marshall scholar-athlete profile features one Diplomat per month who personifies what it means to be an NCAA student-athlete. The F&M campus is filled with dedicated, passionate, and talented student-athletes who have interesting stories to tell – and it's our goal to let those stories be heard. To be chosen as a scholar-athlete of the month, F&M student-athletes must demonstrate academic excellence, leadership, and community service, or have a noteworthy story that stretches beyond the realm of athletic competition.
To view previous scholar-athletes, click here.
Two All-American attackers stepped foot on Tylus Field at Franklin & Marshall College in mid-May, expecting to dominate the offensive end, just as they had all season long. The pair entered the regional round of the 2015 NCAA Women's Lacrosse Championship with a combined 118 goals and 163 points.
Each had registered a point in every contest for their top-20 squad and each likely expected to be matched up with one of F&M's own All-American defenders.
However, on a nationally ranked defense featuring two of the most decorated performers in the country, it is easy to overlook Caroline Doran. That's perfectly fine for the junior matchup-specialist from Ardmore, Pa., who was more than willing to accept the difficult assignment.
Being underestimated comes with the territory for Doran, but not for a lack of talent. Easily one of the strongest and quickest players to don the Diplomat blue and guard the backline, she played a pivotal role in guiding F&M to its first Final Four since 2010, face guarding the pair of aforementioned All-American attackers and holding them to a combined total of two goals, zero assists and just two shots in a pair of dominating wins.
When two of the country's top offensive threats exited Lancaster following a 17-8 loss for No. 9 Tufts and a 16-9 defeat for No. 17 Fredonia, there's a good chance they no longer underestimated Doran's skills on the lacrosse field. What the two were likely not aware of is the impairment that she refuses to let define her.
Caroline Doran is deaf.
"A lot of people obviously don't understand the severity of my hearing loss, or the need to speak clearly," said Doran, who was not diagnosed until she was 18 months old and now reads lips to fully comprehend what is being said. "There's definitely a list of frustrations, but I think I have just learned to cope with it all. I'm lucky I'm even here and able to play."
Doran's hearing loss can be classified as severe to profound. She wears a hearing aid, which presents its own frustrations for a sport that doesn't stop play due to inclement weather; windy and rainy games can prove to be especially challenging. Her hearing aids are not water proof and need to be affixed with water resistant or athletic tape to prevent them from getting wet. They also pick up all noises, so when the wind is howling, the voices of her coaches and teammates are drowned out.
Even in ideal game conditions, Doran still faces a host of difficulties playing a position where communication holds such a vital role. When her back is to the ball or play, she often will not realize a teammate trying to address her or recognize when instructions are being given verbally.
"I think acceptance is the biggest thing for me," stated Doran. "I often tell myself, 'This is just how it is and there is no other way to correct this.' I feel completely normal and have never truly felt limited on the field because of my hearing loss."
Perseverance alone cannot completely account for Doran's success in competing at a high level for one of Division III's premier women's lacrosse teams. It takes the assistance of coaches and fellow teammates to help her adjust.
"The only major challenge was adapting to how I communicate with her on the field during games," remarked third-year head coach Mike Faith. "She just looks to the sidelines if the whistle is blown and can see what I'm saying. It only took a few games her freshman year to adapt and ever since then I sometimes forget that she is hearing impaired."
Other accommodations are made to help put Doran in a position to succeed and overcome her limitations. Teammates talk louder and make sure to get her attention first, before looking at her directly when communicating. The Diplomats' assistant coaches hold up color signs that serve as play cards so that if Doran is across the field, she can know what defense the team is playing at that stage of the game.
Her effort during competition has to be maximized at all times, which can be exhausting for a defender that has started in 65 of the 67 career games in which she has appeared. However, the concessions those around her have made are not lost on the business and creative writing major.
"I love the accommodations my teammates and coaches make in an attempt to make it all better and easier for me," said Doran. "I am so, so grateful for that. They sympathize and that is the best thing."
Faith went on to say, "I don't think her hearing loss plays that big of a role in our day-to-day activities as a team. She is pretty amazing in that sense. Caroline is super positive with everything she does in her life and is always there for her teammates who respect and look up to her."
Doran's up-beat attitude may be one of her best attributes, however it is her play on the field that has earned the respect of her teammates, who voted her as one of the Diplomats' captains for next season. She started all of F&M's 23 games in 2015, was third on the team with 16 caused turnovers and collected the fifth-most groundballs with 26. Routinely matched up against the other team's top offensive threat, Doran employs her rare combination of skills to shutdown the opposition.
"She can cover anyone we give her in the scouting report, whether it's an attacker who is fast and quick or one that is tall and strong," said Faith. "Caroline did an excellent job in our run to the Final Four. I knew she could do it, so the coaching staff challenged her in the scouting report and she responded."
One of her best games during her junior season came on May 3 in F&M's 8-6 win on the road against Gettysburg that clinched the program's sixth Centennial Conference (CC) Title and its first since 2011, registering a team-high two caused turnovers in the victory.
"The feeling of winning a CC Championship is incomparable," exclaimed Doran. "As soon as the final whistle blew, there was this ambience that surmounted our entire team and we have been completely different, in a good way, since beating Gettysburg. It was a hurdle we needed to overcome and we finally overcame it."
The Diplomats carried over the momentum from the conference-clinching victory with a trio of convincing wins in the NCAA Tournament to earn a spot in the championship semifinals and the experience that comes along with participating in the season's final weekend.
"The treatment, the restrictions, the aura was all really surreal," said Doran of being awarded the opportunity to practice and compete at PP&L Park in Chester, an 18,500-seat stadium, which is home to Major League Soccer's Philadelphia Union.
"I kept thinking how lucky we were. Not many people get to experience what we were able to experience that week."
Just as her hearing loss has not held her back on the lacrosse field, it has neither slowed her down in the classroom or around campus. Small and intimate class sizes at F&M make it easy to see and hear her professors, while accommodations such as preferred seating or closed captions are always made available if necessary.
She is actively involved around the College, serving as the secretary of .08, a club that promotes responsible drinking, provides alcohol education and hosts non-alcoholic events on campus. Doran is also a contributor to the College Reporter, the school's independent student newspaper, and submits editorial pieces such as the one she had published in February detailing her study abroad trip to London.
"Interacting with different sorts of people, different sorts of minds, while being able to utilize my creativity and passion in settings beyond the lacrosse field is what allows me to expand personally and intellectually in ways sports cannot," said Doran.
"I think at a school like F&M it is especially important to take advantage of doing everything you love and are interested in."
The combination of rigorous academics and competitive athletics is the main reason why Doran, who has aspirations of moving to a big city and working in the entertainment or publishing industries following gradation, chose to attend F&M. However, it is the enduring relationships cultivated during her first three years as a Diplomat that she will continue to cherish.
"The friendships created are easily the most invaluable aspect of being a member on the women's lacrosse team," stated Doran. "Our success is not something common to many sports teams and not many people get to experience the frustration and mental toughness required to be a part of it. Learning to endure those pains is something that translates to the real world."
Before facing life after college, Doran returns for her senior year and one more crack at securing the program's third NCAA National Championship after her team fell short of the title game this season with a heartbreaking defeat by Trinity (Conn.) in the Final Four.
With three All-Americans and the CC Rookie of the Year being welcomed back into the fold, it is easy to see Doran adding to her list of memorable experiences before saying goodbye to Lancaster.