Injured Ohio State Trio Making Most of Down Time
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State women’s soccer team has been playing without three key members of the squad throughout the first half of the 2014. Jillian McVicker, Nichelle Prince and Morgan Wolcott all have watched the first nine matches of the season from the bench as the Buckeyes have been hit hard by the injury bug in head coach Lori Walker’s 18th season at the helm.
The injuries, along with a tough non-conference slate, have made it a challenge for Walker and the rest of the Ohio State staff.
“It’s a challenge any time a 90-minute player goes down before the season even begins, let alone three,” Walker said. “You just can’t replace what Nichelle, Morgan and Jillian bring to our program on short notice. There is a calmness and level of confidence their collective experience brings to our squad along with the ability to create competition in training and to hold players to higher standards. Several players have stepped up and are learning and growing but they don’t have the same experience and we don’t have the same depth.”
Along with the leadership that has been lost, the on-field talent that went down is virtually irreplaceable. McVicker posted a 0.90 goals-against average while making 99 saves in 39 games played over her first two seasons. Prince was named second team All-Big Ten as a freshman last year after ranking fifth in the conference with 13 goals and 32 points. Wolcott, who suffered the second season-ending injury of her career, started 18 matches a year ago, played the full match 12 times and figured to be one of the Buckeyes’ defensive stalwarts this season.
McVicker and Wolcott each went down with season-ending knee injuries – McVicker in Ottawa Fury FC’s conference title-clinching win in July and Wolcott in the Buckeyes’ spring season match at West Virginia in April. Then, less than a week before the Buckeyes opened the season against Duke in Chapel Hill, N.C., Prince suffered a leg injury 16 minutes into the Canadian U-20 Women’s National Team’s World Cup quarterfinal match against Germany.
The injury was the first serious setback of McVicker’s career but the goalkeeper has learned from her time on the sideline.
“It was definitely hard in the beginning but I have figured out my role and realized I can’t change anything at this point,” McVicker said. “I’m there for my team in any way I can be and right now it is as a mentor. I’ve never had a serious injury like this before and never even been out for longer than a couple weeks so it has made me look at things from a different perspective. When you’re on the field, you’re so caught up in the moment and sometimes don’t see a lot of the details you do from the sidelines or watching online or on TV. I always watch the games and see things from a different perspective. I see the entire field and I’m learning so much about the game that I didn’t when I was on the field.”
For Wolcott, this marks the second time the Milford, Ohio, native has had to work her way back from a serious knee injury.
“The first time I hurt my knee, I was young and maybe not as willing to be as vocal about the things I saw on the field,” Wolcott said. “Now, I’m trying to coach as much as possible from the bench. I understand things much better now and see a lot of things that our defense can be doing differently and can let my teammates know some of the things I may be seeing that they aren’t.”
Prince has taken the time off the field to not only learn as much as possible but also become a more vocal leader.
“It’s disappointing not being able to play when you see practices and games and want to be out there,” the sophomore said. “I’ve been a bit of a cheerleader and have tried to be as positive as I can be. You see things in a different light when you’re not playing. I’ve been on the sidelines watching for a while now so hopefully when I get back I can help the team make some of those improvements.”
Despite not contributing the way they thought they might in 2014, the group of injured Buckeyes has done everything possible to help a team that returned just six starters from a year ago compete in one of the most difficult schedules in program history.
Ohio State opens its Big Ten home slate against Illinois at 7 p.m. Friday and Northwestern at 2 p.m. Sunday.
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