HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The campus of William Carey was calm as the clock struck midnight and the date turned to January 21, 2017.
Then-freshman soccer player Taylor Gautreaux turned in at about 1 a.m. She would be awoken two hours later to the sounds of a violent tornado just outside her dorm room wall.
"It just sounded like whistling," Gautreaux said. "It sounded dangerous. I knew that I needed to get out of the room 'cause I looked out the window and I saw that the rain was going sideways. And I'm like, 'That's not good.'"
As Gautreaux rushed to shut her bedroom door, a gush of wind slammed it shut onto her right hand, severing her last three fingers.
"I was closing it and as soon as I was closing it, the wind and the pressure from the tornado blew out the window and the wind came in and slammed the door shut," Gautreaux said.
Several nursing students helped stop the bleeding as Gautreaux waited to be taken to the hospital. She would later undergo successful surgery in Jackson. However, doctors would not be able to save her fingers.
Just a few weeks later, Gautreaux was back playing soccer with the Lady Crusaders. While the 19-year-old has faced challenges, she's learned to adjust.
"She never really missed a beat," said William Carey women's soccer coach Danny Owens. "When she got back into being released, she never missed a beat and she never used her injury as an excuse."
"Now, I'm just right back where I was," Gautreaux said. "Because it is soccer, I don't have to use my hands that much."
Rising above adversity, Gautreaux and the Lady Crusaders would go on to an historical run to the semifinals of the NAIA national championships – the best finish school history.
"Anything that came in their way throughout the year, they just got on with it and there were no complaints," Owens said. "I really think going through what they went in the spring – we were training off campus, everything we did was off campus and they never complained. I think that had a lot to do with just their mentality going into the season."
While the January tornado damaged nearly every building on the William Carey campus, the spirit of its people would not be tarnished.
Carey still rebuilds a year later, but that recovery is made easier by the school's strong foundation and unshakable resolve.
"If I go walk around right now somewhere on this campus, I bet you I can still find glass somewhere on the ground from all the windows being shattered," Gautreaux said.
"There's recovery going on every day but, again, I haven't heard one complaint or one negative thing," Owens said. "It's all about how great Carey's gonna be moving forward. We'll be better and stronger – and I truly think we will."