Soccer: Rodgers welcomes back Feeney for stretch run

Erin Feeney has become an important player for the Ohio Bobcats during her time in Athens. She is a fantastic passer of the ball, understands the game as well as anyone on the team and has a high tactical awareness.

Feeney, a midfielder, was an integral part of Ohio coach Aaron Rodgers’ plans for MAC play last season. A day before MAC play started for Ohio, Feeney fell down on the ground during practice and didn’t get up. As she was down on the ground, Feeney didn’t think the injury was anything serious. In fact, she tore her ACL in her right leg back in high school, so she would’ve known if the injury was severe or not.

“I was just hoping to get back up and play the next day,” Feeney said.

When Feeney met with the doctor to determine what the injury was, the worst was confirmed: Feeney had torn her ACL in right leg again.

“It was hard to believe,” she said. “It was a replay of what happened previously. Because it happened right before the season started to get serious, the games were hard to miss.”

Besides tearing her ACL in high school, Feeney also tore her meniscus last season, which caused her to miss Ohio’s spring season last year. So, she had a strong idea of what it was going to take for her to come back to the team at full strength.

Despite having that knowledge, Feeney’s rehabilitation to get back into playing shape was anything but simple. She was participating in physical therapy every day to build up her mobility and stamina. She met with a trainer who helped her try to get her mobility back, which would allow her to get into game shape.

Feeney admits that getting back into game shape was the hardest part of the rehabilitation process.

“When there are people around you who are in game shape, it’s hard to get back to where you were before the injury,” Feeney said.

For Feeney, a native of Milton, Massachusetts, one of the biggest reasons she got through the tough rehabilitation process was the support of her teammates.

“That support was huge for me,” she said. “There were days when I felt like I couldn’t get through the physical therapy sessions, but my teammates were there to pick me up.”

Although she did receive support from her teammates, Feeney did have thoughts of almost quitting the rehab process and putting an end to her soccer career. Some people close to her told her to forget trying to make a comeback to the soccer team and focus on her future, but she decided that she wasn’t going to give up on soccer that easily.

“It was hard for me to do that because that’s what I’ve been doing all of my life,” Feeney said. “I wanted to play my last season and play as hard as I can.”

During the team’s run for a MAC championship, Feeney watched all of the games from the sideline. While she cheered her teammates on to victory, she was still disappointed that she couldn’t help her team on the field.

“It was hard to watch the games even though I did the best I could to support the team,” she said.

On Friday, Feeney was finally able to get on the field and play the game she loves with her teammates. She played 27 minutes in Ohio’s 3-1 victory against Akron.

“It hurt us tremendously when she was out last season,” Rodgers said. “I’m hoping for the opposite this season. She’ll provide depth in the midfield, help keep possession of the ball and put other teams under pressure.”

Rodgers said that Feeney is one of the quiet leaders of the team, and the biggest attribute Feeney brings into the team for this season is her ability to connect passes and keep hold of the ball.

Throughout the whole process, Feeney has learned a valuable life lesson.

Ohio midfielder Erin Feeney goes up for header against Buffalo on Sunday. Photo by Calvin Mattheis.

Feeney goes up for a header against Buffalo on Sunday. Photo by Calvin Mattheis.

“You can’t take anything for granted,” she said. “You have to do what you can every day because you never know when you’ll get another chance. Even if it means that I’ll get injured again, I want to give everything I have.”

With the team still having to play at least nine more MAC games, Rodgers is expecting Feeney to make the most of her time left as a collegiate soccer player.

“This is her senior year, so this could be the last time she plays against a high level of competition,” he said.

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