The return to play this spring marked the end of a long recovery process for sophomore forward Maddy Lemery. Six games into the 2019 season, the Eastern Kentucky University soccer player suffered a fracture in both fibulas, ending her promising first year with the EKU soccer team.
Fractures in both fibulas is not how Lemery envisioned her freshman season at EKU. After just six games, the forward from Lake Mary, FL. went from showing offensive promise to being sidelined in two walking boots.
“I was quite upset because it was my first college season,” Lemery said. “It was a big stressor for me.”
The recovery process began with the walking boots and transitioned into conditioning and strengthening muscles to prepare for a return to the field. When COVID-19 hit in March 2020, Lemery adapted her rehab to reflect the available equipment given the circumstances. She began running outside a lot and doing body weight lifts.
The hardest part of recovery wasn’t getting into shape or regaining muscle; it was the mental side.
“The mental battle was the toughest because physically your body bounces back because it kind of knows where you need to be, so that can adjust pretty quickly at times, but mentally you have to stay locked in and focused on ‘I am coming back from this, it’s just a matter of time’,” Lemery said. “Sometimes the process is going a lot slower than you think it’s going to so that can be draining.”
Luckily, Lemery did not have to face recovery alone. Her teammates and coaches served as a source of encouragement and support along the way.
“I had my teammates backing me the whole time so that really helped...They always made me feel included. They were always there for me during rehab, celebrating my little victories in coming back,” said Lemery.
With the Ohio Valley Conference announcing the move of the season from the fall to the spring, Lemery had extra time to prepare for her return to action.
In true 2020 fashion, Lemery suffered a torn meniscus in October, prompting a surgery and another round of rehabilitation. Instead of approaching a second recovery with dread and disappointment, Lemery chose to focus on the positives of the situation.
“Getting hurt at that time was probably the best time to get hurt if we want to think of a positive because I had the time to get back for this season, so moving kind of helped so I didn’t have to miss this season with that,” said Lemery.
Now, Lemery has returned to the field, picking up where she left off as a freshman. In her shortened first season, Lemery had eight shots, including a season-high three shots versus Oakland University on August 29, 2019. Through six games in 2021, she has 12 shots. Half of her season total for shots came on March 16 versus Jacksonville State, where she notched a career-high six shots. As a team and individually, finishing on scoring chances is one thing Lemery wants to continue to work on as the season progresses.
“We’re getting a lot of opportunities and individually I’m getting a lot of opportunities, just being able to finish and try to get the win is what’s my main goal,” Lemery said.
Looking back, undergoing two recoveries within a span of 13 months was challenging, but Lemery kept herself motivated by thinking of her ability to help her team upon return.
“Just knowing that I can come back and play for this team because I love it here so much. So being able to produce for them and get back on the field to help us win,” Lemery said.