Torn ACL behind her, Chartiers Valley grad Morgan Henderson set to go full speed for Dayton soccer
Morgan Henderson never got onto the field during her final season with the Chartiers Valley girls soccer team.
Well, that’s not entirely true. She dragged her surgically repaired right knee onto the pitch so she could be recognized during the Colts’ senior night in 2016.
Henderson suffered a torn ACL that summer while playing in the national championship tournament with her Beadling club team. It happened in the final 10 minutes of a semifinal match.
“You hear about people who tear their ACLs,” she said, “and you so hope it’s not you.”
Not only did the injury deprive her of her senior season, it also posed a challenge for the following year. She faced the double whammy of adapting to the speed and physicality of the college game — she committed to Dayton as a sophomore — while knocking off the rust after months away from competition.
To hasten the process, Henderson graduated from Chartiers Valley a semester early. She completed her high school requirements Jan. 14, 2017, and was in class at Dayton the next day.
She worked with the Flyers training staff to rehab her knee, and less than six months after the injury, she was able to run and begin soccer activities. But the rehab was not without its frustrations.
“I got mentally distracted with, ‘I’m doing well. Why can’t I do what I was doing a couple months ago?’ ” Henderson said. “No one talks about the years you have to go through mentally to get back to where you were.”
Said Dayton coach Eric Golz: “Obviously, a freshman comes in, and the natural acclimation has to take place. The speed of the game, the preparation and the details on the field … she was working through that combined with coming off an ACL injury. Her transition was probably more difficult than most.”
Though she said she still was catching up, Henderson was ready by the time the regular season began. She appeared in 12 games, playing a total of 158 minutes.
The limited playing time was something foreign to her. But Henderson said she kept her freshman-year experience in perspective.
“Everyone wants to make the biggest difference,” she said. “But sometimes your difference is in practice or on the bench.
“Even if you’re not playing, your role on the team is important. And the moment you feel like you’re not important, that’s when you start bringing people down.”
With the injury nearly two years in the past and a year of college playing experience, Henderson is ready to attack her sophomore season head-on. Golz expects Henderson, like all his players, to take a step forward.
“From here, it’s all about performance,” he said. “She’s a great teammate and genuinely cares about the team and the program. On the field, she’s growing in terms of her technique … and adjusting to the speed with which she has to make decisions. We’re hoping her impact can grow.”
Henderson, too, is hoping to make a bigger contribution. Regardless, she is relieved to be able to focus on helping the team rather than on her injury.
“I am happy that I feel healthy and much better,” she said. “I want to be on the field, and I can’t wait to prove myself. And even if I don’t make it onto the pitch, I know by working hard I am making myself and the players around me better.”