The Road to Recovery
Going off to college is supposed to be a challenge. Arriving in a new town and being expected to make new friends and live on your own isn’t always easy. But it’s supposed to teach you a lot. Granted, for some, the challenges can be overwhelming.
For women’s soccer player Carly Black, arriving in Morgantown came with a lot of lofty expectations. A highly sought-after recruit from Pennsylvania, Black fielded many offers from colleges throughout the country. West Virginia was her last visit throughout the stressful process, and it turned out to be her best.
Black felt immediately at home after meeting head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown and her future teammates.
“The coaching staff is awesome, and I immediately fell in love with the group of girls,” recalled Black. “You spend so much time together, and if you don’t get along, you can tell. I loved that I didn’t have to worry about that here.”
West Virginia had a lot to offer Black, with an exciting season ahead as the Mountaineers transitioned into their inaugural season as members of the Big 12 Conference.
“Coming in, I had never been more prepared. I did everything to make sure that I could come in and help the team out. I was so excited to come in for the first year we’d be in the Big 12,” noted Black.
Her anticipation took an unexpected turn during preseason training, as Black suffered a devastating injury. She had torn her ACL, an injury that would undoubtedly keep her out for her rookie season.
Still being relatively new to Morgantown, and to her team, she wasn’t sure to expect. Her comfort level increased, however, when arriving back at her dorm after a long day of doctor’s appointments. Black walked into quite the surprise as a card, and her favorite snack – a giant package of Oreos, and a gallon of milk were awaiting her arrival. It was at that moment she knew her teammates were there to support her, and she could start her road to recovery in high spirits.
Riding such a rollercoaster of emotions, one of Black’s biggest concerns was still feeling intertwined with the team. She wasn’t able to travel all season, which was something she was most looking forward to. Being stuck in a dorm room on crutches and in pain wasn’t an easy adjustment, but luckily Black had the best group of friends surrounding her that she could ever imagine.
“The girls did everything they could to make me still feel like a part of the team; I honestly didn’t feel left out of anything,” smiled Black.
It took a total team effort to keep Black in the game both mentally and physically. Her bond with her teammates became even stronger throughout her rehab, which was further aided with the help of teammate Caroline Szwed, also rehabbing from a knee injury. When her teammates would travel, which was nearly every weekend, it was Black and Szwed who would have sleepovers so they didn’t have to be alone.
“She was awesome. We were able to lean on each other, and she was one of the best people I could’ve ever had, we became really close,” smiled Black of her bonding experience.
It wasn’t just the players, though, that kept Black in the game. There is a much larger soccer family behind the scenes, and one person who often doesn’t receive much credit for a player’s comeback – athletic trainer Amy Hile.
“Amy was amazing throughout the whole thing,” gushed Black. “I often times would see her two to three times a day for rehab. She was instrumental in getting me back on my feet.”
Black took a medical redshirt, offering her the opportunity to have four fresh years ahead of her. This would also make it possible for her to learn all that she could about Izzo-Brown’s system, in order to come back stronger and more prepared. Her father encouraged her to use her injury as a learning opportunity.
“My dad said ‘well, it happened. You’ve got to use it to get better and the way you can do that is to look for things that you can work on,’ and honestly, just practices and seeing what Nikki’s looking for and expects out of me… it’s almost like this past year didn’t happen. I’m coming in fresh, but I know exactly what to expect, what is expected, what I need to do. I feel like I’m that much more prepared now,” said Black.
Throughout what has undoubtedly been a challenging year, Black has remained strong and excited for her years to come at WVU. Despite the distance from her family, she feels like nothing has changed. She remains extremely close to them and sees them on every game weekend – home or away.
In fact, she recently competed with her dad in a tough mudder competition in the Poconos Mountains. The competition is an absolutely grueling 10-12 mile obstacle course, designed to push you to your physical and mental limits. With only 78 percent of competitors actually finishing the course, Black knew it would be a great bonding experience with her dad, as well as a great way to test her knee.
“It was pretty fun. It was 12 miles and 25 obstacles. I didn’t know what to expect, but I definitely want to do it again, it was a really fun experience,” joked Black.
This never-say-never attitude is what’s gotten Black as far as she is. She’s not willing to quit, and she knows she has four years ahead of her to leave her mark on this program. There is, however, one event she’s most looking forward to.
Being from Pennsylvania, Black has a lot of friends that go to Penn State, and it just so happens, the Mountaineers take on the Nittany Lions on Aug. 23, in their first regular-season game. Black’s goal?
“I am so psyched for this game… all my friends are coming, so definitely, I want to be playing in that game.”
Black is definitely closer to her goal than she may even realize, but no matter her role this fall, she knows that her soccer career is just beginning. And for that, she couldn’t be more excited.
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