CHATHAM, NJ – The moment of truth for Sophia Reed came on the one-year anniversary of her season-ending knee injury.
The Chatham girls soccer team was locked in a tie game and Reed had to make an instant decision to go for the win or play it safe with her body.
“I saw the ball coming out and I knew the goalie was going for it,” Reed said. “I knew I just had to get a touch and I knew everyone was going towards the ball. As soon as I kicked it, I was going to go down. That’s what had to be done to get the win.”
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That goal with 13 minutes left in the second half brought the senior striker full circle as she produced the winning goal in a 2-1 win over Randolph on Oct. 1 in the opening round of the Morris County Tournament.
A year earlier, Reed was running in the rain on a wet field – also in a county game against Randolph – and heard her knee pop. Nine days later, she had surgery for a torn ligament, thus beginning her long road back to the soccer field.
“It was nice to get back on the field against Randolph,” Reed said. “It was a good feeling.”
Sophia Reed is the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week.
Reed’s return to health has been a boost to the Lady Cougar team, which has scored 31 goals through the first 12 games this season, an average of 2.5 per game. The 17-year-old tri-captain has five goals and five assists, playing a part in 32 percent of the goals Chatham has scored this season.
“Sophia has a lot of pace and she is very strong when in possession of the ball,” Chatham coach Gary Adair said. “She is playing much smarter this season, using her experience to find the correct spaces to receive the ball, allowing herself to create more chances for herself or teammates.”
A four-year varsity player who has produced career totals of 17 goals and 10 assists, the 5-2 Reed weighed under 100 pounds when she broke onto the varsity team as a freshman. Her training at the Chatham Club has made her a stronger player for her senior season.
“There is a funny picture from my freshman year with a player completely over me,” Reed said. “My advantage is my speed and agility. Girls are physical, but I’m strong, too. You learn how to put yourself in the right position and keep your balance.”
Reed credits the new style of play brought in by Adair for the goal-scoring spree the Lady Cougars on are this season.
“She is never afraid to ask a question and is constantly looking to improve,” Adair said. “As a captain this has a positive knock-on effect for the rest of the team, as they drive themselves to achieve results.”
Ten different Chatham players have scored goals this season, led by Caroline Crouse with seven. Central defender Olivia Robertson has scored four goals.
“Under coach Adair, we’re playing more actual soccer, passing more and the team has jelled,” said Reed, who also had three assists in one game. “It’s a lot more fun with everyone involved. I’m getting the ball more, but it’s not just me. There are goals coming from everyone. Olivia (Robertson) is a defender and she’s scoring goals.”
Reed also received a lot of support off the field from other Chatham athletes who have gone through serious knee surgery and returned to play again.
“It’s a common surgery and I know that other people like Olivia Leroy, Lauren Carini, Chloe Blanc, coach (Laura) Schaefer and Morgan Tobin all went through it,” Reed said. “I had a lot of support from girls on my team. I felt if they can do it, I can do it, too. I focused on recovery.
“I just wanted to play the way I used to play and not worry about my knee. I try not to overthink when I’m playing. I know I want to go 100 percent, because if you hesitate, that’s how you get injured.”
Reed began the season wearing a large brace on her left leg, but that was holding her back. She discarded the brace after the first game and went with a much lighter protection.
“It still hurts, it’s always going to hurt,” Reed said, “but I know it’s okay.”
Editor’s note: The Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week is sponsored by the John Hawk Agency. John and his team have been protecting local families and business owners for over 12 years. Call them at 973-635-9494 for a new auto, home, life and business insurance quote this week and if you mention the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week they will make a $20 contribution to the Chatham Booster Club! To learn more, visit the agency website.