During a practice in the Student Pavilion in December 2015, Taylor Gooch’s season changed in a matter of seconds.
“We were conditioning and we were doing sprints and I turned,” Gooch said. “The first time I turned on this leg, my left leg, I kind of felt it like, stretch, but I just tried to brush it off because I wanted to finish conditioning and then the next time I turned on it, it snapped.”
The freshman defender tore the Achilles tendon in her left heel, sidelining her for the 2016 season. The story was all too familiar.
In 2013, Taylor’s sister, Hailee, tried out for the Salisbury University volleyball team.
During conditioning drills in the first practice of August tryouts, Taylor—who earned all-conference honors during her junior and senior year at Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes, Delaware—tore her right Achilles tendon during circuit training.
“By the time I was on the last suicide I was pretty worn out,” Hailee Gooch said. “So when I fell, I thought I slipped on one of those gold things that you put the volleyball net in on the gym floor. … I had no idea that I even tore it. When they asked me to stand up and walk, I couldn’t walk.”
Hailee Gooch, now a junior, underwent surgery and then rehabbed her injury until April 2014 and is now using her experience to help her sister.
“I’ve like told her pretty much about my recovery and how long it’s taken,” Hailee Gooch said. “Like filled in how hard it is to kind of get back to where you’re at before. She’s pretty tough, so I think she’s walking before I was without a boot or crutches. She’s healing a lot faster than I was.”
Junior attacker Anna Frederick, who played alongside Taylor Gooch for two years at Cape Henlopen, remembers watching her force a turnover in the 2013 Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association State Championship game and run down the field to help Cape Henlopen protect its lead and earn the title.
After missing the 2015 season with a torn ACL, Frederick knows how it feels to sit out.
“I always ask her or other people that are in rehab or physical therapy, ‘How they’re feeling’ or, ‘How it’s going,’” Frederick said. “So that they don’t feel that no one cares that they’re hurt and that they’re going through maybe the toughest thing they’ve had to do in their athletic career.”
The two Gooch sisters are two years apart in age and are competitive with each other. They spent their childhood competing over who their dog liked better and running races to see who was faster. As they have gotten older and spent more time apart, they have gotten closer.
“I would say before both of us went to college, we weren’t that close, we would fight a lot,” Taylor Gooch said. “When she went to college, we got a little closer, but we wouldn’t really talk until she came home for break. But now that we’re both at college, we talk pretty much every day and talk about personal stuff with each other.”
Evan Easterling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Evan_Easterling.