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Claire Cooke a fixture in SU’s lineup almost 2 years after ACL surgery

first_img Published on September 26, 2018 at 10:45 pm One month into Claire Cooke’s senior season at W.T. Woodson (Virginia) High School in October 2016, the Syracuse commit heard a pop in her knee, and she fell to the ground after an illegal pick.“I thought it was her stick hitting my stick when she fell on me,” Cooke said. “But it hurt really badly, and I knew something was wrong.”She had torn her ACL, meniscus and PCL.Cooke had never broken a bone or torn anything in her body. She had never experienced an injury more significant than a sprained ankle from playing soccer.Cooke spiraled into self-doubt and frustration, but she still ended up at Syracuse (6-3, 0-2 Atlantic Coast). After redshirting her freshman season due to the injury, Cooke has started seven of SU’s nine games and registered three shots.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“She needed to learn to play the game with speed,” SU head coach Ange Bradley said. “And once she settled down and stopped trying so hard, she was able to be a really good player. She makes good reads, and she’s really aggressive in her defensive pressure.”Cooke originally began field hockey to stay in shape for soccer and lacrosse.But then she quit soccer to focus on lacrosse and field hockey. She made the varsity field hockey team as a sophomore, and then joined a club team, Rampage, to gain exposure. Although Cooke showed potential in field hockey after her freshman season, her initial experience on the club team — or lack thereof — made it seem like she wasn’t even close.Cooke felt behind. She found it hard to fit in not only because of the gap in skill level, but also because a majority of the players on the Rampage had been playing together since they were eight years old.“Her skills were pretty far from all the other girls who had played together,” Rampage assistant coach April Moshos said. “I remember her many times coming up to me and saying ‘What can I work on, what can I work on?’ Because she was so athletic and so fast, she wanted to run everywhere. So we worked on her really learning to be disciplined in her position and her really paying attention to her skill.”Cooke was behind in recruiting, too. Massachusetts and American University had showed interest, but it all waned after she had the worst tournament of her life, according to her mother, Jennifer. She was recovering from the stomach bug, but upon returning home from that tournament, she received an email from both colleges saying they were no longer interested.A month later, while watching the 2015 field hockey national championship game between SU and North Carolina, Jennifer planned how to further her daughter’s recruitment. She suggested Cooke email Syracuse.“There’s no way that they are going to email me back,” Jennifer remembered her daughter saying. “There’s no way they are going to recruit someone who just started playing, like, two years ago.”She reached out to the Orange because at that point, in November of her junior season, Cooke’s destination was shaping up to be a lower Division I or Division III school. She hadn’t played well enough in tournaments.In February of 2016, that changed. The Rampage were traveling to Florida for the Presidents’ Day Tournament. Originally, there wasn’t a spot for Cooke, but one of her teammates broke their thumb. Following the injury, Rampage head coach Starr Karl asked Cooke to fill the void. Cooke would go on to play the best field hockey Karl had ever seen her play, and to Cooke’s surprise it was in front of Bradley.“Holy sh*t,” Cooke remembered saying after the tournament. “The reigning national championship coach just emailed me.”Bradley asked Cooke to visit SU, which Cooke eventually did. It was on that trip that Bradley offered the 2016 All-State midfielder a scholarship. She accepted.But months later, in the fall of her senior season, Cooke blew out her knee, and she struggled to recover before her first season with Syracuse.Doctors cleared Cooke six months after surgery, but her full strength wasn’t back until three months into the season at SU, she said. When Cooke arrived on campus in July, about eight months after the injury, she wasn’t fully healthy. And she couldn’t do many of things that both she and Bradley expected.Once at SU, Bradley asked Cooke about her goals. The freshman didn’t have any. Bradley questioned her progress. Cooke hadn’t done anything.Bradley challenged Cooke to set small goals for herself like getting full rotation on the bike and meeting certain “marks” while running. Cooke did everything she could but decided that redshirting was in her best interest.“By the time I got to play college field hockey, the transition from playing high school to not playing, because I was out for my injury, to playing at the speed of the way that we do now, it was just too much for me,” Cooke said.Transitioning from senior captain on her high school team to a redshirt freshman on a college team filled with All-Americans and national champions was a difficult process, Cooke said.Two years removed from her injury, Cooke is now a regular fixture in the SU lineup.“I’m very, very lucky to be here,” Cooke said. “That’s for sure.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more