Will, a starter since ninth grade in three sports at her school, injured her ACL early last summer. What followed was eight months of supporting her teammates from the sidelines, a time that changed how she looks at sports and at life. While missing an entire volleyball and basketball season, she also learned to turn regret over what might have been into an appreciation for the opportunities she does have.
“I am just so thankful [to play now] because everything that’s happened has made me realize you never know when the last time you play is,” she said. “I just try to play every game and every practice as hard as I can ... so I don’t regret anything.”
Her ACL injury came during a scrimmage basketball game against Pepperell.
“It was our first game of the summer with the basketball team,” Will recalled. “I was backpedaling and the ball was thrown over my head and I jumped. When I landed, my knee twisted. It felt like it came out of place and went right back in. I walked it off and it was like I was fine, but I couldn’t straighten it all the way.”
Soon afterward she learned she had been injured.
“My junior year I had my ankle [injured] and I was out two or three weeks,” she said, “but this is the first time I have had to have surgery and the first time I missed a whole season.”
The injury ended her attempts to win a soccer scholarship and at first she felt she had let others down.
She also felt she had unfinished business in volleyball and basketball.
“I’ve been playing with the same people since middle school,” she said. “It was hard knowing I wasn’t going to get to play with them my last year.”
Now she is more accepting of what happened.
“I think that was what was supposed to happen,” Will said. “Looking back on it now, I’m glad I didn’t get that scholarship. I’m ready to go to a big school and not try to do sports.”
Still, not playing basketball was tough because she felt she and her teammates were close and had a chance to leave their marks in basketball lore at Cartersville.
That almost happened anyway because her body had healed just as the roundball season was wrapping up.
“I got cleared to play basketball a couple of days before our first state game, but I couldn’t because my brace didn’t come in until the next Monday. I was planning on playing but I didn’t get my brace.”
She said that gave her something to think about.
“At first I was really upset,” she said, “but I wasn’t necessarily upset that I didn’t get to play because I know everybody has to go to that point. Everyone graduates. It was just every game and every practice watching the people I’m supposed to be playing with and still have a positive attitude.”
Will said by that point Cartersville had already compensated for her loss.
“I think the girls who were freshmen were able to fill my spot well enough,” she said. “I think no one shot like I did, but they brought other things that I can’t do as well and they did better than I did. I feel like I didn’t do anything, like I wasn’t able to help the team like I wanted to.”
But Will is getting to play her senior season in soccer.
For this sport, there was no mystery after she received her OK to play sports again.
“I knew I’d have my brace before soccer started,” she said.
Still, she’s already had an interesting season.
Her first game was against Cass High, one of Cartersville’s biggest rivals.
“I played 20 minutes and I went in for a slide tackle and broke my brace so I was out for the rest of the game,” she said. “That was hard, to not be able to finish the Cass game.”
Cass was a good game to get back into the swing of competition because of the rivalry and because she has missed playing the Lady Colonels in the past.
“I’ve always been at basketball when we played Cass,” she said. “This was the first season I get to play them, and I broke my brace before halftime. That was kind of hard.”
Will admits she had things to think about when she returned to the playing field.
“I was kind of nervous about reinjuring myself,” she said. “but then I got out there and everything came back. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t afraid to do anything.”
Will has hit her sport running, so to speak, already turning a hat trick for Cartersville, scoring three goals in one game, and she has returned to her role as an offensive force.
It is a role she relishes and is looking for ways to help her team leave a mark in the postseason.
And she is just enjoying being on the field, whether it’s in a game or practice.
“Oh my gosh, I’m so excited,” Will added. “I feel like I’ve waited. I’m playing for eight months of sitting on the bench and I feel like this is the sport where I’m going to take those leadership skills I would have used for basketball and use them for this team.”