For junior women’s soccer defender Bridget Casey, this season signifies much more for her, than those past. Casey tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right knee during the team’s season opener in 2019, ending her season prematurely.
Casey said it was a bit of a struggle at first to find separation and identity outside of playing sports.
“I think it helped me grow as a leader on the team and a teammate to the other players because I had a new perspective on the bench, seeing things and allowing (me) to give good advice and feedback to people from a different perspective,” Casey said.
In her first game back since Aug. 23, 2019, Casey had one of the best games of her Lehigh career. She scored her first career goal in the 53rd minute of the match against American University on March 6, which was the only scored by either team.
Her performance garnered her to be named Patriot League Defender of the Week.
“It felt really exciting and great to share that with my teammates because we all have been working extremely hard,” Casey said. “In this past year, I’d been rehabbing pretty hard and trying to get back to where I was, so it was definitely a relief and an exciting moment to have all that hard work finally pay off.”
Associate head coach Lauren Calabrese said many players struggle with how they can contribute to their team whilst being injured, but Casey’s team-first attitude allowed her to carve out a leadership role from the sideline.
“Bridget (Casey) is an embodiment of someone who is team first,” Calabrese said. “Her presence elevates our level of play.”
Casey spent roughly nine months after the injury rehabbing her knee in preparation for the 2020 season— a season that almost never came to fruition.
While at home during quarantine, her sister and former teammate Mary Casey as well as current teammate and long-time friend Miranda Royds pushed her to workout with them, which proved influential in her ability to recover from the injury.
“With COVID, especially going through rehab, I think we were able to be super creative and really try to make the most of the stuff we were given,” Royds said. “Not having access to gyms was hard, so we’d get weights and be creative on the field and make use of what we had to make the best of it.”
The pair have a special connection, having grown up and played together in the past, plus the added chemistry that comes from Casey being a defender playing right in front of Royds, the starting goalkeeper.
After being cleared for activity in June, Casey was left waiting with the rest of her teammates as the league gauged the severity of the pandemic, ultimately deciding to cancel fall sports.
While the circumstances were unusual, it gave Casey extra time to strengthen her knee for the season.
Royds and Calabrese said Casey’s work ethic is unmatched. They were happy for her after seeing the work she’d put in to reach this point.
Casey is an integral part of the team, both as a playmaker but also a leader, they said. She and her teammates will be back in action Saturday, April 3, against Navy.