East Hamilton junior Nicole Ford was stripped of her 2013 soccer season after tearing the ACL in her left knee in a preseason scrimmage against Notre Dame. It was the first time in her life that she had been unable to play the sport she loved.
She didn't like the feeling but does appreciate the result that has come from it.
Ford played this past week in a high school game for the first time since a 1-0 Class A/AA state-sectional loss to Chattanooga Christian on Oct. 27, 2012. She was a second-team Best of Preps member during her freshman season after scoring 17 goals.
The Lady Hurricanes played in the Baylor tournament this weekend, tying Arlington and Christ Presbyterian Academy and dropping a 2-1 decision to Briarcrest. They had to sit through a 30-minute rain delay before their season opener last Monday against Chattanooga Christian -- a match they won 1-0.
"I've never been in a position where I couldn't play before, so to go from always being out there to not being able to play was really bad," Ford said Monday. "It brought me down a lot and took a lot to get going off of that."
East Hamilton coach Carrie Hill said the biggest difference she has seen in Ford has been her move into a "big leadership role" on a young team.
"She's been more focused mentally this year," Hill said. "She's prepared herself mentally, and that's helped her."
Ford did everything she could to stay around the sport. She became a manager for the boys' soccer team and always tried to find a way to help the East Hamilton coaching staff.
"Soccer is the only thing I do besides school," she said. "I can't not go to the games, and sitting around would be boring for me, so it was hard to keep me away."
Her club coach would not allow her to participate in the club season, feeling that the recuperation time from her injury and surgery hadn't been long enough. Ford spent a lot of time training on her own and trying to get better, realizing along the way that the injured knee was stronger after the surgery than it was before.
"Over the summer and during preseason conditioning, I saw a change where I felt more confident on the ball," she said. "I'm better all over the pitch now. I don't know where it came from, to be honest, but it helped me a lot."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.