BY RYAN COBB Sports writer
LEADING THE LADY BLUE DEVILS — Camden senior Michaela Soules sets herself to make a run during Camden’s game against New Hartford on Thursday. Soules has battled back from surgery on her leg to lead the team in scoring with 18 goals and 20 assists and help the Lady Blue Devils get off to a 11-1-1 start this season. (Sentinel photo by Makenzi Enos)
CAMDEN — The entire Camden girls soccer team has fought adversity for years to finally get the respect of being a serious contender in the sectional playoffs following a few sub-par seasons, getting off to an 11-1-1 start this season.
But none of the Lady Blue Devils has had to fight back from adversity more than Michaela Soules.
Following a successful debut year as an eighth-grader in which she earned Tri-Valley League rookie of the year honors, Soules put up solid numbers in her next two seasons but not to the level of where she was in her first year.
During that span, Soules dealt with a constant pain in her leg that bothered her so much that it affected her not only on the soccer field but also during every day normal activities.
Determined to know what the issue was, Soules visited her doctor and was surprised to hear what the diagnoses was. It turned out that Soules fractured her femur when she was 10 years old. The fracture resulted in the bone hitting her growth plate and caused the femur to grow twisted and very short when she went through a growth spurt.
"I actually didn’t know about it until my sophomore year. I had a lot of knee pain and the doctor in Hamilton told me that my bone was bowed and an inch-and-a-half short," said Soules. "I was recommended to go down to New York City to a hospital for special surgery in Manhattan. They had to break my bone in two spots and fix it.
"For six weeks, I had to physically turn a key in the fixator that I had attached into my bone to actually link my bone out. That was a long month, plus I was in physical therapy for eight months. It was wicked hard," she added.
Her recovery process, in fact, went so long that she ended up missing her entire junior year of action on the soccer field.
With an injury of that magnitude and having to go through that long of a recovery, Soules was adamant not to let that ruin her soccer career as she fought hard to get back on the field with her Camden teammates.
"From day one when I had surgery, I knew that this was going to be my motivation," she said.
"It took a while. Just getting back into shape was hard, but getting back into soccer shape was a whole different level. Getting back into shape for not only playing but playing competitively was pretty hard. I’ve only been back since January of this year. I think I’m doing pretty well, and I think I’m at 150 percent right now."
Doing so well, in fact, that she currently leads the team in both goals and assists at 18 and 20, respectively.
Camden coach Bob Wilson said those two stats are a product of her being an unselfish player and a willingness to make those around her better.
"Just the intensity she is playing right now, you think something like what she went through, it would be all about herself, especially when you lose your junior year and you want to go to college and play, you need to make yourself look as good as possible," he said.
"The fact is she is a team player. I think that anybody that watches her play will see that and see what her abilities are."
Wilson added that what makes Soules a standout on the field is that she can be very unpredictable.
"She has the ability to see space on the field, can use both feet very well and has individual moves left or right and can move the ball left or right, so she is a little bit unpredictable," he said.
"She has decent speed, but I think it’s more than speed, it’s the constant motor she has.
"Her endurance is coming back and it’s getting better as the season goes. That’s what it’s all about. It’s about peaking towards the end."
Soules feels that with her now getting into form and her teammates playing as well as they are, the Lady Blue Devils could go far.
"This is our best team yet," she said. "Our coach has never given up on us. No matter how hard we play, he always practices us hard, and our team has real good chemistry on and off the field."
The 17-year-old daughter of Marc and Kim Soules has not yet decided on which college she will attend next year but is looking to have a major in physical therapy.
"With everything I went through, I feel I can connect with people in that way," she said. "Especially after the process I went through."
She also wants to continue to play soccer on the college level and said she plans to "keep working hard and work harder than I ever done before" in order to reach that goal.
But before she graduates from Camden and leaves her high school soccer family behind, she has a message for all her teammates:
"Don’t ever give up, and make your dreams come true," said Soules.