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Provo • Haley Steed was done, finished with a college career that had not really begun.

In 2009, for the third consecutive season, the distraught member of the BYU women's basketball team was down, pain ripping through her from yet another torn ACL, a vital ligament in the knee.

To come back from one such injury is hard enough. To do it three times, well, "Initially, I thought I was done," said the 5-foot-4 guard. "For a month or so, I thought I was not going to play again.

"I never thought I'd have three healthy years."

Not only has Steed, a senior who technically has one year of eligibility remaining, come all the way back, she has been a key component in the Cougars' (26-6) drive to their first NCAA Tournament since 2007, a 10th seed playing DePaul on Saturday in Chicago.

Steed was a freshman when BYU was knocked out of its last tournament, by Louisville at USC. She was also nursing the first ACL tear and not available to play.

"I haven't met a kid in all my coaching and playing days who has the heart and determination Haley has," BYU coach Jeff Judkins said. "To go through one ACL is hard, and she went through three.

"And to not be able to play your game because of injury. This is the first year she's been able to play the way she thought she'd play at BYU."

Coming out of Clearfield High, Steed, known as Haley Hall before her marriage to Bo Steed, was a three-time 5A scoring leader and looked to be a vital cog in BYU's growing women's program. A handful of games into her freshman year, Steed collapsed coming off a pick. Her season was finished.

A year later, she didn't make it through the first week of practice before re-injuring herself. The third injury came in the first game of the 2009. She wasn't touched and the knee blew out for the third time.

"After the third one, I told her, 'This is it. You've given it your best shot,' " remembered Judkins.

Yet, a few days later, after speaking with Steed's father, Dorne, Judkins believed Steed should come back.

"One thing, she said, 'Coach, I don't want you to pamper me,' " Judkins said.

Each season, tentatively at first, Steed regained her health and confidence. This season, the All-West Coast Conference performer finished fourth nationally in assists while averaging nearly 10 points.

Steed's leadership and poise under pressure have not been lost on her teammates.

"I can't imagine the perseverance it takes to come back from that," teammate Kristen Riley said. "She's a really determined, positive-minded woman. She's fearless."

Steed, however, is forever positive.

"It's been an absolute blast at BYU," she said. "I wouldn't trade it for the world. It's been especially super rewarding and gratifying for me to look back and think back to where I was with the injuries a couple of years ago. To think there was a point where I didn't think I'd play basketball again, so to have these last three years, it's been a blessing."

Women's NCAA Tournament

P BYU vs. DePaul

At Rosemont, Ill.Saturday, 4:30 p.m.