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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Road to recovery

    UA goalkeeper Chelsea McIntyre swings to boot the ball in a 4-0 win over Weber State Friday at Murphey Stadium. After suffering an ACL tear and a family loss, McIntyre has bounced back as a dominant force in the net.
    UA goalkeeper Chelsea McIntyre swings to boot the ball in a 4-0 win over Weber State Friday at Murphey Stadium. After suffering an ACL tear and a family loss, McIntyre has bounced back as a dominant force in the net.

    When Arizona goalkeeper Chelsea McIntyre first took the field for the Wildcats, she did so as a replacement for injured keeper McCall Smith.

    After an impressive performance in which she recorded eight saves as a freshman, McIntyre earned herself the starting spot in her sophomore campaign in which she played in 20 games.

    Life was looking good for McIntyre as she entered preseason camp in 2007 with the starting job all but in the bag after picking up six shutoutsand earning a National Player of the Week honor in 2006.

    Then everything changed.

    Just six minutes into the start of the team’s first practice of the season, its leading candidate in goal crumbled to the turf with a torn ACL. Her season was finished.

    But the news got worse. A few weeks later McIntyre received news that her grandmother had passed away.

    “”She went through a really tough time,”” said defender Brianna Caceres. “”When she fell it was really hard, then having her grandmother die was just another big blow.””

    Then came the road to recovery for McIntyre – physically and emotionally.

    Through the entire 2007 season, Arizona’s fallen leader was forced to watch her team struggle from the bench as two more goalkeepers, Devon Wharf and Danielle Nicolai, both suffered injuries and were forced to miss time.

    But come April, McIntyre finally got back into her normal routine and began picking up where she left off in early August.

    “”It was really tough watching all last year without being able to contribute and help my team,”” McIntyre said. “”Every day through rehab last year I told myself, ‘I’m going to be ready, no matter what it takes.’

    “”And you know, I got myself prepared and worked hard to get back, and now I am.””

    After the team’s first game this season, it became apparent McIntyre was back to full strength as the redshirt junior opened the year with a five-save effort en route to her first shutout victory of the year.

    Four games later, McIntyre has two more shutoutsunder her belt and has allowed only two goals in regulation through Arizona’s first five games.

    “”Chelsea’s always been sharp, but I think if anything she’s a little sharper (after the injury),”” said UA head coach Dan Tobias. “”She’s always been very conscientious and a great goalkeeper. When she went through those things last year, I think it helped her gain perspective on a lot of things and she has really grown from that.””

    For McIntyre’s teammates, her recovery from both blows last year has been an inspiration, especially with her immediate effectiveness early on this season.

    “”Watching her grow not only on the field but off the field with her teammates has just been awesome,”” Caceres said. “”Since coming back she seems more confident.

    “”When she first started out she was a little more hesitant, but now she’s really confident and that helps me and the rest of our defense know we don’t have to worry with her (in goal).””

    Despite being on the field only five games this season, McIntyre’s presence has given a calming feeling to teammates she had previously never taken the field with, such as sophomore defender Lauren Bennett.

    Also, with the Wildcats forced to shuffle through four goalkeepers through the course of the 2007 season, Bennett said the prospect of keeping McIntyre healthy throughout the year is a welcomed change.

    “”It really helps us all,”” Bennett said of having a steady keeper. “”When you’re switching keepers, they all have different tendencies of saying different things and stuff like that.””

    “”It’s just tough continuously getting used to new keepers. But hopefully we won’t have to worry about that this year.””

    With the way McIntyre has opened the season, it is easy to explain her teammates’ and coaches’ confidence.

    Through the first five games of this season, McIntyre leads the Pacific 10 Conference in saves (24) and finds herself second in four other categories including shutouts (3) and save percentage (.889).

    By the end of the season, she will likely not move far from those positions as the player who said earlier this year that she would, “”work for (my team) until my death if I have to.”” McIntyre is doing just that, and so far, her hard work it is not going unappreciated.

    “”I expect her to always give 110 percent, to give it her best and she always does,”” Caceres said of McIntyre. “”She’s a great goalie. We’re so comfortable with her in the goal. We just love her.””

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