Girls Soccer: Central Crossing duo battle back from injuries
Running sprints for conditioning or the banality of agility drills can sap the fun out of soccer, but Emma Malkowski and Emily Smits are more than happy to be able to participate in such workouts.
The seniors, who play midfielder and forward for the Central Crossing girls program, have missed significant time because of having ACL injuries to both of their knees. Such an ordeal makes every small bit of the game something to treasure.
Malkowski injured her left knee during club season before the eighth grade and then injured her right knee last year during a preseason scrimmage against Ready.
“That made me realize that we have so little time left (in high school soccer),” said Malkowski, who has eight goals and three assists in her career. “Sometimes soccer is hard and you have to do a lot of physical things like all of the running at practices, but you have to make everything positive.
“I think since both are reconstructed and they’re like new knees that I feel better about it. I feel like nothing else can happen to them.”
Smits had her injuries in the same calendar year. She tore her left ACL in February 2018 and then her right that October.
“I feel like I don’t take practices and games for granted since I only have a little bit left,” said Smits, who has 10 goals and eight assists in her career. “Being out two seasons in a row made me realize how much I have left and that I’m not ready for it to be over.
“I guess it means I’m giving it my all when I’m on the field. I’m not having any regrets when I look back.”
Coach Amy Williams said the two play hard because of their enjoyment of the game.
“They have learned how to roll with the punches and not take anything for granted,” said Williams, whose team is 2-5-1 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Buckeye Division. “They are positive and lighthearted and happy to be out there.”
Malkowski and Smits were faced with the dilemma of missing yet another season, this time because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. However, that hadn’t had an effect on the season as of last week.
“When something is out of your control you just have to get it done with,” Malkowski said. “There isn’t much time to sulk over it, you just have to do what you have to do to get over it and continue and get on with life.”
Williams said Malkowski and Smits did every workout that was prepared for the Comets during the pandemic and even asked for more.
“They were really upset because they had high hopes of playing club ball and working on their games in order to get better,” Williams said. “They did their at-home workouts April through July, and they asked me for extra workouts.
“They came out for the season ready. They learned how to work out on their own. They worked to make themselves better. Like the saying goes, ‘Champions are built when no one is watching.’ That quote really matches them.”
Smits said her experience with injuries has helped her become a better leader, and Williams’ emphasis on staying positive also has been a factor.
“We have some newer girls that haven’t necessarily played the sport before, so we have to stay positive and understand that they haven’t done some of this before,” Smits said. “They’re new to it and even though they're not doing what we think they should, they are still learning. We have to show them how to enjoy the game the way we do.”