Oct. 21, 2011
At the conclusion of a week-long mission trip to Nicaragua with the non-profit organization Soccer Without Borders, Auburn junior goalkeeper Amy Howard and four of her Auburn teammates participated in an exhibition match against the Nicaraguan Women's National Soccer Team. During the second half, Howard, who was expected to be the starter for Auburn for the third straight season, felt a sharp pain in her leg as she was going after a ball.
"We played an exhibition against the Nicaraguan National Team because they don't get a lot of really good competition over there," Howard said. "It was a really fun game, besides my injury. Unfortunately the worst happened and I tore my ACL. Luckily we were going back the next day. Believe it or not, it didn't take anything away from the trip."
Howard applied to Soccer Without Borders after getting the idea to go down to Nicaragua from teammate Ana Cate, who is of Nicaraguan decent. After going through the application process, Amy was one of 10 to 12 college-aged players that was selected for the trip.
"The trip was unbelievable," the Mandeville, La., native said. "I am really interested in mission work. It was a great experience going with the girls. Ana's family is from Nicaragua and she knew a little bit about the program. We checked it out and it looked interesting so we looked more into it and applied. Finally, we found out this is for real and we can finally do this and it turned out being an unreal experience."
Soccer Without Borders' mission is to use soccer as a vehicle for positive change, providing under-served youth a toolkit to overcome obstacles to growth, inclusion and personal success. While Howard was able to accomplish that during her time in the Central American nation, her favorite part of the trip was being able to bring joy to the little girls.
"The first couple of days we were just getting into it, meeting all of the people. I was getting my Spanish down and we had a fiesta with the little girls in the program. They had the time of their lives and they made us have the time of our lives. There was food, dancing and music. It was just great to see the Nicaraguan culture."
After coming back into the United States, Howard had to undergo surgery and the ensuing four months of rehab. While she was going through the rigors of her own troubles, the hardest part was watching her teammates go through preseason without her.
"Preseason was definitely hard to watch, because it is so hard as an individual and as a team," Howard claimed. "My team did an amazing job working through it. I wanted to be out there so bad. Everything was pretty hard to watch because I wanted to be out there, but preseason was really tough."
While ACL injury recoveries vary based on the severity, Howard's return to soccer, which took only 16 weeks from surgery, was eased by the support that she received from her teammates, coaches and trainers.
"You hear ACL rehab is pretty tough and it was," Howard said. "The bending was the worst part. It is not something I wanted to do, but my teammates were always there. Whenever they were getting treatments in before they go out and work hard, they motivated me to work hard. In rehab, they're telling me good job and our trainer, Cindy Campbell, was unbelievable. She came in during the summer twice a day so I could rehab and get better."
After successfully completing rehab, Howard, who is already fourth in school history with 13 career shutouts, returned in top form as she recorded a shutout against Vanderbilt in her first start of the season. While her recovery was swift, the feeling of accomplishment consumed her.
"I thought I was progressing really well," Howard said. "It is really weird how it happened, but it happened so fast. I felt like I could play, but I didn't think it was going to happen in the next few weeks. When they told me to jump into practice, I was surprised. It was such a rewarding feeling knowing that the past four months had paid off.
"I was nervous, but I almost felt ready. I think it is because I had watched all season. (Assistant Coach) Keidane McAlpine had told me, `you have been watching every day and you have seen practice and the movements' so it is like my brain was not really that far behind."
After months of hard work and tribulation, Howard has finally felt that she is nearly back to 100 percent physically.
by Evan Roberts, Auburn Media Relations
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