Return of injured players helps North girls reach semistate

For at least five Columbus North seniors, the 2016 girls soccer season likely will be their most memorable, and not just because the Bull Dogs have made their deepest postseason run since 2011.

It’s been a matter of staying healthy.

Addy Lang, Katlin Meek, Claire Risley, Charlotte Verbanic and Reagan Ward all have had various major injuries that have kept them off the field for parts of their high school careers. But all have remained healthy this season and have played key roles for Class 2A No. 20 North, which will play 2A No. 4 Brebeuf Jesuit in today’s semistate at Evansville Central.

“It’s exciting,” Meek said. “It’s like family with camaraderie. With other people having the same injury, we’re able to share experiences.”

Meek twice tore her right ACL and missed most of her freshman and sophomore years.

Verbanic was the Bull Dogs starting goalkeeper as a freshman, but broke her foot and missed most of her sophomore season. She returned to the keeper spot last season and part of this season, and now plays in the field. She has committed to play collegiately at Hanover.

Risley tore her ACL during club season in the spring of 2015 and missed the majority of last high school season.

“I worked hard to be able to get back to be able to play last year,” Risley said. “Just having a full season, where I’m injury free is nice. I’m able to share my last year with my team.”

Lang also tore her ACL in club season last spring, and she missed all of her junior year. She had scored 25 goals and was The Republic Girls Soccer Player of the Year as a sophomore.

This year, Lang has returned to put up another 25 goals.

“It’s really motivating whenever you’re sidelined for a year because you really want to play,” Lang said. “Once you get back, you have more determination and motivation than you ever had before because you want to be better than what you were before you got injured.”

Ward started last year’s season opener at center back. But then she broke her right ankle in practice and missed the rest of the season.

Ward also had missed most of her freshman season with a cracked left ankle.

“It was mentally and physically tough,” Ward said. “I’m glad I got to finish (my career) off in a good way with no injuries.”

Another senior, Chloe Chambers, underwent surgery this spring for a nerve entrapment in her left ankle. That didn’t keep her out of action, but she did miss two games early this season with mono and two more with a concussion.

Since then, Chambers, who has committed to Franklin College, has been healthy.

“It’s a really good feeling,” Chambers said. “I love being able to help out my teammates and make everyone better, as well as myself.”

With Lang out all of last season and Ward and Risley missing most of it, the Bull Dogs struggled to a 5-9-3 record and lost to Columbus East in the sectional. This year, they’re 13-2-4 and won a regional for the first time since 2011.

North coach Derek Stewart realizes the difference from last year to this year hasn’t been a coincidence.

“It’s really nice to have the girls back off injury,” Stewart said. “We have a lot of good players, and them being out of the lineup for a year or even two years has obviously impacted our play to a certain extent. Having everybody pretty much healthy now has given us a lot of depth all year, and it’s really encouraging for the team to see all the players back.”

If you go

Evansville Semistate

9 a.m. CST (10 a.m. EST): Columbus North (13-2-4) vs. Brebeuf Jesuit (20-1-1)

11 a.m. CST (noon EST): Franklin Central (12-4-2) vs. Terre Haute North (18-2-1)

6 p.m. CST (7 p.m. EST): Championship

Author photo
Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.