Minutes before their game against Lesley in the Charles River Cup last month, the players of Emerson’s women’s soccer team learned the news of standout Paige Haley’s injury, a torn ACL.
The injury happened in a drill during practice a day earlier on Sept. 25. The drill had two players, a few yards apart facing the same direction, race to a single spot on the field. Sometimes the players have to push through each other to win. When Haley made contact with another player during her turn, her body was pushed one way, but her left foot had caught the dirt and stayed put.
“I heard a pop and totally felt my kneecap move out of place,” Haley said. “I could feel something was totally off. It was so devastating.”
Out for the year since that practice, the junior forward said the first hours afterward were painful. Not as much physically, as mentally.
“I went in and out of being really emotional and crying, and then the next minute I’d be cracking up,” she said. “I was on this roller coaster of emotions.”
Haley will undergo surgery Oct. 23. She has six to nine months of recovery ahead of her, and plans to be back for the start of her senior season.
Weak season start, strong NEWMAC start
Two matches in California and another two against NESCAC schools to start the season proved to be a heavy burden for the Lions, and it showed with an 0-4 record in which they were outscored 14-2.
Head coach David Suvak said he purposely decided to engage his team in tough competition so they would be ready for conference play.
“It was always intended that those were meant to be preparation games for the NEWMAC,” Suvak said. “That was the plan, and I would have liked to come out with one or two wins out of those, but it didn’t happen that way.”
Junior forward Jess Frost said it was tough on the confidence of the squad.
“I don’t think those results reflected how well we were doing,” Frost said. “It was tough to look at our schedule and see all those losses but know we were really building to something that has now turned into something really great.”
Whether or not those opening contests helped, the Lions won their first three NEWMAC games for the first time in program history. On Sept. 23, they edged out Springfield 2-1 in their first meeting since the Pride knocked them out of the postseason last year. Haley and Frost, the self-proclaimed “dream team,” each tallied a goal in the victory.
They also earned wins against Mount Holyoke and Smith before falling 3-0 to WPI for their first NEWMAC loss of the season, and losing 2-1 to Wheaton thereafter.
After learning that their teammate was out for the season, the team ended their nonconference match with Lesley in a 1-1 draw. At the time, results in their nonconference and conference games were mixed. But now, Emerson will finish its schedule having played eight straight NEWMAC contests.
“In that game, we didn’t take that news in a positive way,” Frost said. “After we had a few days to absorb the news, everyone is now playing for Paige, and we’re going to finish the season with her goals in mind and the team’s goals in mind.”
Low goal scoring a result of minimal shot taking
Despite its fifth place standing in the NEWMAC, Emerson has scored the second fewest goals in the conference, averaging one per game. It netted more than one only twice in 11 matches.
Suvak said this is due to a low number of shots on net; his squad is second to last in the conference with 8.5 per game. Rather than taking deep shots and lofting balls directly to the goalkeeper, the Lions are working on quality offensive drives.
“We don’t take a lot of shots because sometimes we don’t have the numbers forward that we need,” Suvak said. “We’re working on that transition from defense to the attack and creating more situations and shooting. Realistic shooting.”
With Haley out, he said he does not want to rely solely on Frost. He mentioned Alex Levin, Liz Noble, and freshman Amanda Benavente as players who need to step up to help fulfill Haley’s role.
“Those kids have to find ways to put the ball in the back of the net,” Suvak said. “We can’t just rely on one or two, it’s got to come from five or six.”
Emerson (3-6-2, 3-2) takes on Wellesley (3-8-2, 2-4) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Rotch Field.