August 31, 2018 11:18:14 AM
Samantha Vogel thought she was done.
When you have had as many "knocks" as Vogel has had in her soccer career, you're bound to think someone is trying to tell you something if you're spending more time off the field than on it.
That's the position Vogel was in after having two shoulder surgeries, tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, and then tearing the ACL and suffering other damage in her right knee.
"I thought it was God telling me to quit the sport," said Vogel, a former standout at New Hope High School.
The finality of a soccer career that began when she was 4 or 5 years old even led her not to finish her rehabilitation after the second ACL injury.
But Vogel's thinking changed after a conversation with her father, Bryan, who suffered a heart attack right around the same time as she hurt her right knee.
"He was like, 'I am really shocked you didn't try to play again,' " Vogel said, recalling a talk they had in May. "It wasn't until about a month later I was driving to my friend's house and I started crying. I was like, 'I can play if I want to.'"
After not thinking about soccer and trying to focus on her father, Vogel said she changed her outlook and contacted Gray Massey, the women's soccer coach at the Mississippi University for Women. Vogel wasn't sure if a coach of a first-year program would want someone who had suffered so many injuries in her career, but Massey, the former women's soccer coach at East Central Community College in Decatur, reassured her she was welcome to give it a try. He said he remembered Vogel from her time at Jones County Junior College and at Meridian C.C. and recalled her being a good player.
"Those are the kids you want, the ones who have those injuries that continue to play because they love it and they want to get better and they want to do it all," Massey said.
Vogel is working back to 90-minute fitness with The W, which will play its regular-season opener at 3 p.m. Saturday against Delta State. The W will play host to East Texas Baptist in its home opener at 1 p.m. Monday at the downtown Columbus Soccer Complex. The matches come on the heels of a 2-1 victory against Division I Alcorn State and a 4-0 loss to West Alabama in exhibitions in the last week.
"She enjoys to play," Massey said. "It is just dedication. For a 21-year-old girl to want to keep playing it is because they love to play. Usually they would have quit a long time ago if they didn't love it or enjoy it.
"To have the desire to come out there with all of her injuries and to get through is a testament to how much she wants to get better."
Massey said Vogel played about 40 minutes in the scrimmage against Alcorn State. He said she still has work to do physically and mentally to put the knee injuries out of her mind. He said he has talked to Vogel about the possibilities of getting hit every time she steps on the field. So far, he said he has seen her display a willingness to keep coming back for more.
Vogel said it best when she referred to herself as a "little cockroach" who keep coming back to soccer, even though her career has had plenty of stops and starts.
As a junior at New Hope High, Vogel was second in scoring (12 goals, eight assists, 32 points) for a team that went 11-3-1 and lost to West Jones in the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 5A State title game. The title game appearance was the first in program history. In 2015, New Hope overcame injuries, personnel losses, and lineup changes to get back to the Class 5A North State title match, where it lost to Germantown 1-0.
Vogel's prep career led to a scholarship offer at JCJC in Ellisville. Unfortunately, the injuries played a big role in the next two years. Vogel, who is studying physical therapy, recalls the first ACL rehabilitation as being "intense" and that she did a lot of working on cutting to get back into shape. After the second one, Vogel said she had the mind-set she wasn't an athlete anymore, which is why she didn't finish her rehabilitation. She also tore meniscus in her right knee, so she had six weeks where she couldn't put any weight on that leg.
"I would want to cry every time I thought about it because I didn't get to finish it how I wanted to," Vogel said.
But it's tough to sever ties with a sport when all of your friends play it. The desire to craft a different ending ultimately motivated Vogel to re-commit to soccer. She said she knew she wasn't going to school and The W was close to home, so she could keep her job and save money. Plus, she would get to play soccer again.
"I wanted to be on a team more than anything else because it is a great feeling being on a team and having all of these sisters who will have your back," Vogel said. "It is also pretty cool to be a part of a first-year program."
Vogel, who plays in the midfield, acknowledged she has had her share of anxiety in the first scrimmage and exhibition matches. Still, she can relax a little bit when she thinks she must look intimidating wearing a knee brace and missing one of her front teeth. Vogel currently has a tooth attached to a retainer that she wears to complete her smile. She said she plans to get a permanent tooth.
Until then, Vogel is back in her element. Instead of crutches, she is kicking soccer balls and enjoying a return to the sport she loves.
"I am excited. I really think I can overcome it again," Vogel said.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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