Injuries fail to knock Solter off center

March 24, 1994|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Sun Staff Writer

After 2 1/2 months of therapy and two operations to stabilize a leg injury that ended his high school football career, St. Paul's senior John Solter was eager to show why many consider him to be the area's top returning center midfielder.

A week before the Crusaders' lacrosse season-opener against St. Mary's, however, the All-Baltimore County pick dislocated his left shoulder after a routine check of a teammate during a scrimmage.

"My initial thought was, 'this is getting ridiculous,' " said Solter, who never had suffered a sports-related injury before last fall.

"The trainer rushed over, told me to relax, and the shoulder slipped back into place. The pain wasn't much, and it turns out that wasn't bad. The doctors say I can play Friday, but I'll have to wear a shoulder brace that keeps my arm from going past a certain height."

In anticipation that the shoulder harness -- along with the heavy gobs of tape on his still recovering left leg -- will somewhat restrict Solter's movement, coach Mitch Whiteley has replaced him with Chris Berrier and moved Solter to the attack.

"What's amazing is that he still wants to play his original position when most kids -- after what he's been through -- would quit," said Whiteley.

"He's a four-year starter and at 100 percent, he's absolutely dominant."

Solter (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) has 23 goals and 26 assists for his career after scoring 15 and 18, respectively, last season while winning nearly 80 percent of his faceoffs.

Tomorrow's game carries a special symbolism for Solter, who missed the Crusaders' final game of last season -- a tournament semifinal loss to St. Mary's -- after being suspended for chewing tobacco.

"He's always telling me, 'these are the tests you have to learn from in life,' " said Solter's mother, Beverly. "You feel so badly for him, but he's always finding positive ways to look at his situation."

Solter appears undaunted by the recent injury because of the painful lesson he learned last fall.

Solter (802 yards) led area rushers and was within striking distance of St. Paul's all-time record (906) with five games left before suffering a bone-crunching blow during an 42-0 victory at Northeast on Oct. 1.

St. Paul's led, 21-0, to start the second half as Solter -- already having rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns in the game -- began what amounted to the final kickoff return of his high school career.

After being struck down at midfield by two Northeast defenders, Solter was rushed by ambulance to North Arundel Hospital where X-rays revealed his tibia (the inner and thicker of the two bones between the knee and ankle) was shattered in seven places, and his fibula (the long, thin outer bone) was dislocated.

An hour and a half operation was required to, as Solter's father, Richie, said, "put all those pieces back together like a jigsaw puzzle." A 4-inch steel splint was implanted as a stabilizer.

Just 10 days after that operation, however, Dr. Richard Little discovered a problem with the way in which Solter's foot was set -- requiring yet another operation.

Little had to realign Solter's ankle to prevent complications in the the fusion process, securing it with a screw. A third operation will be required this summer.

"The injury became a motivational force in me, and I'd go work out three days a week for two hours a day," said Solter, who began therapy for his leg in December at the Bennett Institute at Children's Hospital.

Solter progressed so quickly his cast was removed in early February.

"I started out in the whirlpool, then I'd get taped up and run about a mile, followed by workouts on leg machines or the speed-skating simulator," Solter said. "I still go, but it's more random since lacrosse started."

Solter considers it a stroke of luck and a result of his hard work that -- despite a noticeable limp -- North Carolina offered him a partial scholarship during a college visit.

Solter, who also was considering Virginia, Duke and Syracuse, signed with North Carolina late last month.

"It was reassuring that the hard work paid off," Solter said.

"After what I had been through, it was a great feeling to know that someone still has faith in you and in your ability to play at the Division I level."

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