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ND Women’s Soccer

Yu looks to contribute in return to the field

| Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The anterior cruciate ligament, better known as the ACL, is one of four ligaments that controls the knee’s movement and, along with the posterior cruciate ligament, ensures that the tibia stays behind the femur when walking or running.

While few understand the anatomy of a torn ACL, sports fans everywhere know the duration: out for the season, done, no questions asked.

Once upon a time there were precious few athletes who could successfully come back from an ACL injury; however, thanks to more advanced facilities and rehabilitation programs, many athletes have successfully managed to return from ACL injuries — Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson and Derrick Rose are a few. And now, entering her junior year, Irish midfielder Sandra Yu hopes to join those ranks.

Coming into college, Yu was a highly touted recruit. As a two-time Gatorade Ohio High School Player of the Year, she led her high school, Walsh Jesuit, to a pair of state championships and an ESPN RISE national championship in 2010 and was invited to camp with the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team in April 2013.

With her impressive resume entering the college scene, success might have seemed assured for Yu.

However, those plans were soon derailed before her freshman season properly got underway, when Yu tore her ACL in an exhibition against Baylor.

“When I [injured my ACL] in the first scrimmage against Baylor, I knew right away,” Yu said. “I felt it, and the first thing that went through my mind was ‘ACL.’ And then they called me down on the sideline, and it kind of got me thinking maybe it wasn’t [an ACL tear], but then we got it checked out. My first thought was, ‘There’s nothing I can do about it.’”

Known for her quick thinking on the field, Yu’s first instinct in regards to her injury was wrong; there was something she could do about it.

It certainly wasn’t easy — ACL injuries never are — and Yu spoke to the difficulties of dealing with the mental side of a recovery.

“Mentally, I think, was the toughest part for me, coming back, thinking I was capable,” Yu said. “As athletes, going through physical problems and pushing through things is what we’re good at. So going through the workouts and seeing myself progressively get stronger each month and seeing the physical numbers and things like that, it was good to be back and getting stronger.

“But mentally, you weren’t getting on the field, you weren’t getting touches; you were getting fitness in, but not playing soccer, so it’s hard to come back out and have confidence on the ball and believe that I was just as good as I was before I came.”

Though it took her two seasons, Yu is back and figures to be an important player for the No. 6 Irish as they look to make an ACC title run. Yu already has two goals this season, one in a 6-0 win over Valparaiso and the other in a 3-0 defeat of Toledo, and credits the strong sense of support she got from the team as a reason she has been able to come back.

“I’ve always had my teammates there for me, telling me to just keep trying and trying,” she said. “There’s been times when I just wanted to give up, but I kept pushing through, and it’s just great to be back out there, especially with this group of girls. I feel like we’re something special.”

At this point though, Yu said she is simply thankful not to be thinking about her knee.

“That’s the best part about this right now,” Yu said. “Right now, I absolutely do not think about it. I hardly ever think about my knee, and it’s relieving and exciting to think that it’s 100 percent.

“… I guess I’m just fortunate and lucky.”

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About Marek Mazurek

Marek is a senior history major and is a former resident of Carroll Hall. He has lived in Mishawaka or South Bend for all 21 years of his life and covers Notre Dame football and men's basketball. He has loads of hand-eye coordination but lacks the height to be any good. Marek is also a proud esports supporter.

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