Caitlyn Wong returns to women’s soccer pitch after two ACL tears

Oregon Ducks Defender Caitlyn Wong (17) pushes her way past Colorado Buffaloes Forward Brie Hooks (20) as she makes her way down field. The Oregon Ducks play the Colorado Buffaloes on October 2, 2015 at Papé Field in Eugene, Oregon. (Adam Eberhardt/Emerald) Photo credit: Adam Eberhardt

On Sept. 18, Caitlyn Wong was subbed in to the Ducks final non-conference game of the season against Portland State. She played only 27 minutes but recorded an assist, the first of her career, en route to the Ducks’ 1-0 victory.

This game was huge for Wong, but not due to her assist. Less than six months prior in a spring practice, Wong was participating in a drill with her teammates when she planted hard with left foot.

“I felt three different pops and just went down,” Wong said. “I knew that something was wrong.”

That “something” was her ACL tearing. This was not her first run-in with the severe knee injury. She missed all of the 2013 season after tearing the ACL in her right leg.

“I got this feeling in my gut that this was serious,” Wong said.

Although she left the field under her own power—something she couldn’t do after her first injury— the MRI results she got back several days later confirmed the worst-case scenario: she would once again need surgery.

Wong was devastated.

“It’s a terrible and scary feeling,” Wong said. “I told myself I don’t want to do this again.”

Wong’s parents were equally crushed by the news, but they remained optimistic about her rehabilitation.

“It was very hard for us to see that she had done this again,” said Carolyne Wong, Caitlyn’s mother.

“It was definitely very difficult to watch,” added Linus Wong, Caitlyn’s father. “But at the same time, it was also very rewarding to watch her recover.”

Wong made an improbable return from her second ACL tear. Less than six months after surgery, Wong was on the field, carrying her team to a win in her first game back.

“That was amazing to be honest,” Wong said.

Wong aimed to return on Sept. 25, a week later than she actually did, but her trainers gave her the green light to play against Portland State. She wasn’t sure when or if she would actually play. In the second half, though, head coach Kat Mertz told her to warm up.

“It’s hard to describe the feeling, stepping on the field,” Wong said. “I felt more excited before and after than when I was on the field. I felt like I was back in my natural environment.”

Wong, a redshirt sophomore, brought veteran leadership back to the Ducks in her return. Oregon has won two of the four games she’s played, which is as many as it had won in the previous four weeks of the season.

“There’s no one like her,” Carolyne said. “I’m not sure where she comes from in terms of drive and her self-starting. It’s all her.”

For Wong, it’s all about the team.

“After the second one, it really made me take a step back, ” Wong said. “I had to figure out a way to do everything I can to help my team and influence my team from the sideline. It made me better in the way that it made me look outside myself.”

Follow Gus Morris on Twitter @xgasbus

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