Though Tegeler acquires scar, her game remains unmarked

Soccer: Unintimidated by a surgically repaired knee, the quick McDonogh striker is picking up where she left off.

High Schools

September 05, 2004|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Watching McDonogh striker Brittany Tegeler slice through a defense, accelerate into an opening and rip a shot at the net, it's obvious how she scored 72 goals in her first three years with the Eagles' girls soccer team.

The skill, the speed, the quickness and the confidence - all are evident whether she takes the shot or creates an opportunity for a teammate.

Going completely unnoticed in the rush to goal is the small scar on Tegeler's right knee, the only sign of a December operation for a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Now, the 1 1/2 -inch line is nothing more than a badge signifying months of grueling rehabilitation.

"She hasn't lost a step," said McDonogh coach Maurice Boylan Jr. During a team scrimmage on the second day of training, "She was electric as ever. She was bursting into space. She had good acceleration. She had good endurance. She wasn't limping. She didn't favor her leg. That's a tribute to her. She's just a real driven kid."

Tegeler, a 17-year-old Baldwin resident, brought the same determination to rehab that she used to score 35 goals last season in the fiercely competitive Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference.

She missed most of her Bethesda Excel team's club season after tearing the ACL during the U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program interregional event in Boca Raton, Fla., on Thanksgiving week.

"It felt like a rubber band snap. It wasn't that much pain, but it was loud," Tegeler said. "I was just in shock, because I knew what it was."

Tegeler credits her parents and teammates with helping her stay positive from the moment she was injured. Her parents convinced her everything would be all right, and some of her friends' horror stories about the pain of rehab turned into less dramatic depictions.

As the days passed, however, all the motivation she needed came from within.

"When I was sitting on the sideline, I really realized how much I missed it," Tegeler said. "When that four months hit, I was so ready to play."

Four months after surgery, she could play a little non-contact soccer. A month later, in mid-May, she was back to full contact and back with the Under-17 Excel.

"It was the best thing when she scored a goal in the final in [club] regionals," said Excel teammate Meagan Holmes, a U.S. Under-19 team member who plays for Dulaney.

"Brittany was just coming back from her knee injury and it was a 0-0 game, and she scored. It was good for her to see that she was coming back strong, and that she hadn't lost anything from when she was hurt."

Tegeler, who relies on bursts of speed to dash past defenders in the penalty area, has recovered every bit of her speed and quickness.

"She's probably got the quickest first step of anybody that's playing right now," said John Carroll coach Gary Lynch, who saw Tegeler play with the Excel in early July.

Kenwood coach Derek Woodward saw her skills in a preseason scrimmage last week.

"I like how she's very quick in small spaces," he said. "Her body language shows she's going to rip a shot, but she's going to get that one extra touch and buy herself a little more space. Only the top-level players do that."

Tegeler, who has played soccer since she was 5, is a top college prospect, planning official visits this fall to Connecticut, Florida State and North Carolina, with unofficial trips to Virginia Tech and maybe Virginia.

She has worked her way up through the ODP system to become one of the top players in the Northeast region for five straight years and in the nation for the past three.

If she can retain her regional spot with a good showing for the Excel in the Washington Area Girls Soccer tournament in October, she'll have another shot at making the national pool.

That would be a good bet, not just because Tegeler is perhaps more physically strong than before her injury, but also because she is just as mentally tough. Some players are tentative about going all-out for fear of tearing the ligament again, but Tegeler returned with all the intensity that Lynch said sets her apart from others with similar natural talent.

She doesn't wear a knee brace because, she said, she doesn't need one - physically or mentally.

"The doctor said there's no evidence the brace helps prevent an injury. It's just for the mental aspect," Tegeler said. "I felt my leg was so strong, I didn't need it. I always just think, I can't prevent it if it is going to happen again, so I just have to forget about it."

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