In some ways, the end of Caitlin Miller's DeSales University basketball career resembles her departure from Northwestern.
Just like high school, Miller leaves the Lady Bulldog program as one of the top rebounders and overall players the school has seen.
Just like her high school team, she leaves a program in goood shape as DeSales has won two straight conference titles, their first since 2000, and is heading into this year's Middle Atlantic Conference Tournament on a 10-game winning streak.
But in another way, the end of her college career drastically differs from her final high school games.
Because of an ACL injury suffered in early January, Miller won't be on the floor for her team's final games this season. She's been out for over a month and will not return.
"It's every athlete's worst nightmare," she said last week, a few days before her team's final regular season game and her Senior Day. "I had never missed a game in my life. I never really had a bad injury. If it wasn't broken, I played through it."
Miller had played in every game since arriving in Center Valley. She got in all 26 games as a freshman and started all 58 contests over the next two years. Those two years included a pair of Division III NCAA Tournament appearances and a trip to Texas for the 2008 Sweet 16 in 2008, where the Lady Bulldogs lost 69-42 to Howard Payne University.
That game marks the top highlight of her career.
"We played in front of 4,000 people," Miller said. "We got killed, but we still talk about it as if it happened yesterday."
As much as Miller has missed being on the court, she has made the best of it. She's still a leader for her team and she does her best to mask her disappointment from her teammates.
She still enjoys practices and being around her teammates and coach. She's still a part of the team, still a leader for the Lady Bulldogs.
"She has not missed a practice except for the day of her operation," said DeSales head coach Fred Richter.
Miller's injury came during a practice with no one around her. She was merely taking a step to her left.
At the time, 11 games into the season, she was second on the team in scoring at 13 points per game. She was leading the team in rebounding for the third straight season, pulling down 9.2 per game.
Miller finished her career as the program's fifth-leading rebounder of all time at 803 and 26th-leading scorer with 737 points. In high school, Miller scored 1,003 points and grabbed a Northwestern school record 951 rebounds.
She was on her way to milestones in her college career before the injury.
"She was about to be a 1,000-point scorer and 1,000-rebounder had it not been for the injury," said Richter. "She was the heart and soul of our inside game for the past two years. She's tough as nails."
Miller admitted its difficult to accept that an injury could stand in the way of achieving some goals, but she isn't going to dwell on it.
"It's tough to swallow," she said. "I had worked so hard since my freshman year of college.
"But I have absolutely no regrets."
Miller will graduate in spring. An accounting major and a very good student, she already has a job lined up and is ready to embark on the next phase of her life.
She made the most of her college experience.
"Caitlin is the epitome of a Division III athlete," Richter said. "Academics are extremely important to her. She's a Dean's List student. She's always ahead of the curve. She's the best of the best."
Along with all the team memories she's built, including so many big games, so many tough practices, so many long and short bus rides, she's also happy that she got to play her college career not far from where she grew up so her family and friends could share her experience.
"It's been special to play close to home," she said.
She'll certainly be missed at DeSales just like she was at Northwestern, where she helped the Lady Tigers to their first Colonial League and District 11 titles.
She won't only be missed as a player, she be missed as a friend.
"The biggest void," said Richter, "will be Caitlin [no longer] stopping by the office and talking about what's going on in her life."