When Shenendehowa field hockey’s Rachel Sterle tore her right ACL and meniscus last September, she was determined to return to the field even better than when she left it.
Fast-forward 13 months, and the Syracuse commit has done just that.
“I got cleared in seven months instead of at nine,” Sterle, now a senior, said after the Plainsmen’s 8-0 road win against Saratoga Springs Wednesday night. “I was stronger than I thought I would be.”
Sterle retained the speed that has made her a point of emphasis for opposing defenses, and one of the top reasons Syracuse University took such an interest in her.
Shortly after the injury, pushing herself physically was not an option – instead, the field hockey forward worked on the rest of her game.
“I couldn’t run or even walk; I’m crutching around,” Sterle said. “I was watching film, analyzing everything. I was thinking what could I do better and what could I work on during my recovery to get even better, to fix my weaknesses from last year and implement my strengths in the game this year.”
“I think she communicates a lot better,” Shenendehowa coach Jeanne Frevola said. “I think she’s a more experienced player, so she has a better sense of where a play is going to go.”
As Sterle was pushing her rehabilitation schedule, restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic made things more difficult. It interrupted her spring semester classes, then delayed a summer filled with tournaments and showcases with the ADK field hockey club.
“I went to the turf almost every day,” Sterle said. “I played with my friends, obviously social distancing. Then, ADK started; we had a few practices a week. I think that also really helped me get back into playing and back into the game.”
While the start to the Suburban Council field hockey season was delayed because of the concerns related to the pandemic, Sterle and her teammates have tried to make the most of the condensed season they’re able to play during this fall in which the majority of area teams are not competing.
“I was so excited that I got to play with my team again,” Sterle said. “One more time before we all head off to college and go our separate ways.”
Shenendehowa is 4-1 heading into Saturday’s matchup against 3-1 Guilderland. A year ago, Guilderland topped Shenendehowa in the Section II Class A championship game.
While there will not be any Section II postseason tournaments this fall, it’s expected that the Suburban Council will conduct a postseason tournament for its teams. Back on the field this fall, Sterle is competing and winning with an eye on earning at least one more prize in her high school career.
“It would just be proving to myself that we could eventually do it, especially as a team,” Sterle said. “The past few years we were there, but we couldn’t just quite finish. If we win it this year, it would be a great closing of my senior year and high school field hockey career.”