The soccer team welcomed five freshmen this year including defender Shay Johnson from Coppell High School in Coppell, Texas. Johnson was a four-year varsity starter for the 2015 6A state champions, a three-time first-team all-district player and team captain while also playing for the Dallas Texans soccer club.
Johnson said that between the huge jump in competition from the high school to collegiate level she felt nervous and was unsure of what to expect.
“Coming into it, honestly I thought I was going to sit the bench,” Johnson said. “But I was expecting myself to work hard and it really paid off. I’ve had good playing time and it’s been really fun meeting the girls, they’ve been really supportive of freshmen starting and freshmen playing.”
The support of the upperclassmen and the feeling of family the whole team creates for each other Johnson said has helped boost the confidence she and the other incomers now feel on and off of the field.
As a freshman Johnson has had an impressive start, scoring twice for the Wildcats already this fall season against the University of Texas-San Antonio and the University of North Texas. However, this past weekend right before playing against Oklahoma State University and Southern Methodist University, Johnson suffered a sprained ankle and probable ligament tear which put her in a boot, on crutches, and off of the field.
Despite the setback, Johnson isn’t going to let her injury keep her down.
“My initial thoughts when I first got hurt were very negative, and I was very mad and frustrated, not necessarily because of the pain I was experiencing, but just because the thought of not playing really upset me,” Johnson said. “But the mentality that the girls have poured onto me about it, just comes down to faith in God and knowing that it’s all in His hands.”
Getting injured so early on is difficult and at times disheartening for any athlete, but Johnson is thankful for her teammates and the mentorship of the older girls who have helped shape her attitude about the whole thing.
“Here at ACU I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who constantly remind me that this is a part of God’s greater plan for me,” Johnson said.
She is leaning back on that faith and that optimism and tackling rehab head on. Working with the trainer every day, twice-a-day, Johnson is approaching her recovery with the same determined and whole-hearted mindset that fueled her success on the field up to this point.
“Taking care of rehab to get back on the field should be easy for her,” head soccer coach Casey Wilson said of Johnson’s efforts. “Shay is a great girl and already a mature college soccer player in terms of what she can do on the field and knowing what is expected of her.”
Wilson has full confidence in Johnson’s ability to make it back to where she left off as a strong contributor to the team. With about a month and a half left, the hope is to be fully recovered before the end of the season.
Johnson said that her main goals now are to support the girls, watch film, and get as good of rehab as possible.
“I’ll be out, so it’ll be fun getting to cheer them on because it’s a different perspective,” Johnson said.
She is confident in the team’s ability to compete with those they will face in the future as she said the tough teams that they’ve faced so far have prepared them well for what’s to come. Johnson, along with the league’s head coaches and sports information directors who picked the Wildcats to finish second in preseason polling, expect the team to have a strong showing and successful conference season.
This weekend, the soccer team travels south to face Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in their first conference game of the season in Corpus Christi, Texas.