Sept. 17, 2013
By CHRIS DICKERSON
Herd Insider Columnist
This article is featured in the Herd Insider, Vol. 16, No. 6. Visit GoHerd.com for more.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Lizzie Kish walked onto Marshall University's campus in the summer of 2011 as the newest member of the Thundering Herd women's soccer team.
Days later, her college soccer career was put on hold because of an ACL injury to her left knee.
Finally, two years later, she saw her first playing time as the Herd's goalkeeper. And she seems to be making up for lost time.
Kish, a 5-foot-11 junior from Boyertown, Pa., already has posted four shutouts on the young 2013 season (4-2-1). The 2012 Herd recorded only two.
"I'm just very grateful and thankful to be playing right now," Kish said of the long road back from injury. "I definitely have worked hard to get here. Coming out of last fall was when I really began to push myself. My teammates have pushed me. The coaching staff and training staff have pushed me, too."
Coach Kevin Long said Kish's dedication has been a key part of the process.
"Her ACL injury happened really early in her career with us," he said. "We brought her in because we had a need. We found her late in the recruiting process. And then, right away, she tore her ACL.
"But she has shown absolute dedication in the weight room. When you watch her today, she looks great. We hadn't really seen her play until this year because of the injury. We have a brand new keeper that we had no idea we had, and it's wonderful."
Kish, an elementary education major, vividly recalls how the injury occurred.
"Coming down here, I was excited to be playing Division I college soccer," she said. "Then, on the fourth day of drills, the last session of the night, one of the last plays of the session ... I stepped and something felt weird in my knee. Something just didn't feel right."
She said the surgery to repair the ACL had her bummed at first. But she quickly got over that and began to focus on the 2012 season. But her knee wasn't where it needed to be for her or the coaching staff, so she sat out another season.
"Last season, I was in my brace after surgery," Kish said. "I was playing it in. But that thing would hold any athlete back. It's hard to do natural movements in that brace. I had to re-learn how to run, re-learn how to dive for a ball. My knee would be all bruised up after I wore it during action. It just wasn't right.
"Those athletes who are able to play in that brace, I give them ample credit. It isn't easy."
But Kish's competitive fire persevered.
"There never was a time when I felt like I was just going to give up, but I admit I did feel like I'd ever get back to where I was," she said. "My teammates and coaches would tell me it's frustrating to get back, but to keep taking little steps and look at how far I had come already.
"It's a slow process, and that was difficult. I'd get down on myself, but my teammates always were there to pick me up."
Now, Kish is reaping the benefits of her recovery.
"I'm back to where I want to be," she said. "I'm still pushing myself, and you always have to work your hardest. You have to play like it's going to be your last game because your spot on the field always is up for grabs."
During her two seasons on the sidelines, Kish said she learned to appreciate the game even more than she did before.
"I had never played at a college level," she said. "I noticed the speed of play was faster than in high school. And, I realized how quick the game goes. You have to play hard every second. And it's true that every game counts. And as a team, you have to be there for one another. While the games go very fast, it's a long season. You have to come together for each other to succeed."
Long backed her up on that sentiment.
"One of the bonuses of college athletics is that we have a new cast of characters every year," he said. "Kish had a bonus in that she has had two years to get used to the situation. Of course, the injury was not a bonus. But now, she knows what I expect from the players, knows the demands for success, knows the fitness requirements. She carries an understanding of all of that.
"To see her prepare for this year was inspiring. A lot of the players were going at what they thought was top speed in weight room. But she was working even harder. You could visibly see her determination to get where she wanted to go.
"I've used her as an example. She shows that -- like a lot of things in life -- you get what you put into something. She has gotten after her recovery and rehab. She's not just gone to the weight room, she's attacked it. And it's the same with her fitness and training.
"She's leading by example. Not just her urgency to get back to playing on the game field, but getting healthy, is an inspiring story. She shows that if you work really hard, you can really compete. Good things come."
Kish, who plans to seek a redshirt season to gain one more year of eligibility, said she thinks that competitiveness has helped her recovery.
"When one person has that edge, it pushes the rest of your team," she said. "The players seem to feed off each other. That's also how you bond. You play hard for each other."
Kish says she thinks this year's Herd team is coming together nicely.
"So far, we're doing really well," she said. "Of course, there are always little things you can fix. But we're a great team, we have a great connection. We have potential.
"I think we're going to reach our goal of making the conference (USA) tournament if we continue to push ourselves and do what we are capable of doing."