MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia women’s forward Kate Schwindel endured a painful time as a junior last season despite the Mountaineers retaining their Big 12 Conference regular-season championship and adding the tournament title.
Schwindel hobbled out of WVU’s opening exhibition game against Rutgers after seven minutes with an ankle knock that left her struggling for fitness when the competitive season began.
Heavy strapping around Schwindel’s right thigh and knee became common sights before she succumbed to a right ACL tear seven minutes into West Virginia’s last regular-season game on Oct. 27.
Schwindel’s long recovery ends this afternoon on familiar turf against a familiar opponent. The Mountaineers’ opening exhibition game is another meeting with Rutgers. This time the venue is Yurcak Field – a place that the Livingston, N.J. native has often visited to watch Sky Blue F.C. and a place that she hopes to play at again when her college career ends.
“We would always go there when I was with my club team, or I would go with my parents,” Schwindel told The Soccer Observer.
“I always wished that I could be out there playing.
“Now that there’s a chance of it becoming a reality, I want to do everything I can to get there.”
Schwindel managed a personal best of 11 goals last year to earn All-Big 12 first team honors despite her injury woes. Former Mountaineer Frances Silva carried the load with 15 goals and 13 assists, conference highs in both categories, to claim the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year award and earn a professional contract with her hometown F.C. Kansas City.
Now Schwindel is aiming to emulate Silva by grabbing a spot in the National Women’s Soccer League.
“Frances and Kate are very talented young women and great leaders,” WVU head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown told The Soccer Observer.
“There were a couple of games early last year where Frances didn’t feel she impacted as well as she could have, but at the end she sure did.
“That’s something I’m hoping Kate stays focused on this year.”
Schwindel underwent knee surgery last November followed by another operation in December to correct a shoulder that kept dislocating. A rigorous rehabilitation program rebuilt her fitness in the spring. She stayed in Morgantown during summer to regain her confidence on the ball via pick-up games with colleagues and friends.
“I’m so excited for pre-season because I can’t wait to get back on the field and play,” Schwindel said.
“Finally I’m feeling in great shape.”
Nov. 16, 2013 — SLIDESHOW: West Virginia Women 0 Rutgers 0 (3-0 on pens)
Nov. 14, 2013 — Freshman Broadwater Steps Up To Lead West Virginia Attack
Sept. 26, 2013 — Canadian Szwed Still Key To WVU Women’s Title Hopes
Sept. 16, 2013 — Kentucky Loss Leaves West Virginia Women With The Blues
Aug. 13, 2013 — WVU Women Impress In Season Opener Against Rutgers