The University of Arizona Wildcats soccer team began the 2014 campaign on Wednesday, one face that was happier than most for the start of the season and for the daily two-a-day sessions was sophomore Paige Crouch.
Crouch, a sophomore from Roseville High School in Roseville, Calif., played two games at the beginning of the 2013 season. She registered one shot on goal in the two games she played. Prior to the first home game of the season, disaster struck for the second time in her soccer career.
“My junior year of high school I tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament),” Crouch said. “But, here at Arizona, I was able to make it through all of camp, I travelled to Florida with the team for those two games. Then before UC Riverside, I was super excited and then I tore my ACL again at practice. It was so devastating but the training staff at Arizona is amazing.”
Crouch was obviously out for the rest of the season, but she wasted no time beginning the recovery process. She got the surgery as soon as possible and began rehabilitation immediately. Her approach to the injury certainly impressed her coach.
“She was injured in high school as well, “head coach Tony Amato said. “It was basically back-to-back injuries and that can really be deflating. But, she was always optimistic and before you know it she was back working out again. She hit rehab pretty hard and it showed.”
Although being injured is never a good thing, Crouch attacked her rehabilitation the second time because she had supreme confidence that she would return to 100% health.
“It helped that I had been through it before,” Crouch said. “Knowing the process allowed it to be a little bit quicker, I believe. The first time I was very conservative because I didn’t want to do anything, but the second time around, I knew I could do it, I believed in myself and I had more confidence.”
People often dislike practicing, one athlete’s scrutiny of practice has become incredibly famous. Despite the saying, “practice makes perfect,” most would rather just play games all the time. On the contrary, Crouch is ecstatic about practice.
“It feels amazing to be practicing again,” Crouch said. “It makes me not take anything for granted. Every practice, I look at it as my last practice. I just want to give it 100% and work hard. It just makes me happy. I love being on the soccer field.”
Not only is she excited about practicing; it is translating into good practices. She is in good form and is very anxious to take the next step and play in a game for the Wildcats.
“Practice has been going well for me,” Crouch said. “It’s been really great, I feel very stable and sturdy and it’s been awesome. I can’t even sleep at night; I’m just so excited for the season. I just want to play. I’ve been looking forward to this, playing collegiate soccer, my whole life, it’s a dream come true and I’m excited.”
Amato thinks that a healthy Crouch will be able to contribute to this Wildcat team as a quick forward who can bring many things to the table.
“She’s gotten all of her pace back in terms of her pure speed,” Amato said. “She can strike a ball with both feet, she has a very good long throw-in, which is advantageous for us and what we like to do as a team. She can help us in a lot of ways. The thing for Paige is that she has to work through the speed of the college game, because of her injury; she hasn’t really had a chance to do that. But, she’s looked good so far in training.”
Crouch has not been the only Wildcat to impress Amato; the whole team has had great energy and enthusiasm thus far.
“It’s been really impressive,” Amato said. “The girls have played hard and have been impressive all week, we have had double sessions almost every day. There hasn’t been one session where they have lacked energy, they have been great.”
For a chance to see Crouch and the rest of the Wildcats in action, head to Mulcahy Stadium on August 16 for an exhibition against New Mexico at 7 p.m. MST.
For continued coverage of Arizona Wildcat soccer, visit ArizonaWildcats.com and follow @ArizonaWSoccer on Twitter.