Senior soccer player perseveres through surgeries

Morning soccer practice at Smith Stadium on Tuesday, Oct 22.

Kayla Boyd

Taryn O’Shea rarely draws attention to herself.

You wouldn’t know it from looking at her, but the fifth-year senior from Midlothian, Va., has dealt with her share of adversity.

O’Shea, who has been a member of WKU’s soccer team since her freshman year, has also torn her anterior cruciate ligament three times and has had four corrective surgeries.

The ACL is the ligament in the middle of the knee that keeps the shin bone from sliding in front of the thigh bone.

During practice after a preseason exhibition game her freshman year, O’Shea took an awkward step, heard a loud “pop” and went down.

She had the first surgery the day before classes began her freshman year. Her mom walked her to all of her classes on her first day of college.

Three ACL repair surgeries and one surgery on her meniscus followed throughout her sophomore and junior years. Her last surgery left her recovering during her true senior year.

“I didn’t think I’d ever play soccer again,” O’Shea said. “But I decided to be crazy and get it repaired again.”

Coach Jason Neidell said O’Shea wanted to stay with the team.

“You have to be able to contribute to the team in some way,” he said. “She wasn’t on the field, but she added so much value in other assets.”

But O’Shea did get to play.

She was a starter in WKU’s senior night against Georgia State on Oct. 25.

Seeing O’Shea play was one of Neidell’s favorite moments of his entire coaching career.

“There are so many memories that are more memorable than wins,” he said. “That was one of them.”

The team, who had seen O’Shea attend every game and practice without being able to participate in a game, was also just as happy.

“They were really excited,” Neidell said. “They tried to pass her the ball when a different move would have been better.”

The plan was to let O’Shea play two or three minutes. She stayed in for five.

“I can’t put it into words,” O’Shea said of her time in the game. “I was unprepared. I haven’t played with contact, and I was very nervous.”

O’Shea’s teammate, senior Torrie Lange, knew how happy O’She was that she was able to play that night.

“I could hardly look at Taryn when she stepped on the field during senior night,” Lange said. “But when I did, her smile was unreal. She was so happy and it was just great.”

As time ticked on, O’Shea became more comfortable.

“I was thinking, ‘This is awesome. I wish I could do this every day,’” she said. “It was sad, but it wasn’t meant to be sad. I cried a little bit.”

O’Shea doesn’t think she’s valiant or fearless. She thinks of her journey as something she had to do.

“Everyone says, ‘You’re so courageous,’ but I think it’s almost crazy,” O’Shea said. “You almost have to believe or trick yourself that it’ll be worth it.”

For O’Shea, the hardest parts were relying on other people and staying connected with the team.

“You need people in your corner,” she said.

Lange believes O’Shea has more heart than anyone on the team. Although O’Shea wasn’t able to play on the field very much, Lange knows O’Shea was a vital part of the team.

“She has definitely played an integral role on this team, one of which I don’t believe many people out there could ever fill,” Lange said.

Neidell thinks O’Shea has served as an example for the rest of the team.

“When you have tough circumstances, perseverance is so admirable,” he said. “She’s an inspirational example to everyone.”