Talia Ruth’s second season with Temple was over before it had even started.
Four days into the 2002 preseason, Ruth did serious damage to her knee. In practice drills, she tore her anterior cruciate ligament and both the lateral and medial meniscus, requiring two surgeries and numerous injections thereafter to relieve pain.
She didn’t play a single minute that season.
Two years removed from the injury and now a junior co-captain, Ruth is once again showing signs of her old game, the same game that drew so much of Temple’s recruiting attention. Currently, Ruth leads the Owls in goals, points and shots. She also ranks second in the Atlantic Ten conference with three game-winning goals.
Ruth’s road to recovery wasn’t an easy one. Between numerous doctors visits to acquire different opinions on her injury, she was constantly in rehabilitation sessions, attempting a return to the field as quickly as possible.
Although her comeback wasn’t premature, Ruth still suffers from the injury today, often suiting up for games in pain.
“She works very hard in the offseason to feel better in the regular season,” said Lauren Fuchs, Ruth’s coach. “If it weren’t for her knee injury, she would be a much better player than she already is for this team. A lot of times, she’s out there playing at 75 percent. I wish I had a few more Talias out there playing for me.”
Ruth’s teammate Katie Stevenson agrees.
“Talia plays better than a lot of girls do who are playing healthy,” she said.
Ruth couldn’t control her own health, but she can make her own decisions. She makes them constantly in the backfield, some tougher than others. According to Ruth, the decision to come to Temple was one of the easier choices she has made.
The highly-touted recruit played her high school career at Souderton under the tutelage of Maryann Harris. Ruth admitted Harris, a Temple graduate and former field hockey player, had an impact on her decision but wasn’t the only factor in the equation.
“I knew she played here, so that was appealing,” Ruth said. “I didn’t want to go far from home but I knew I wanted to do something diverse, too. So Temple just worked out perfectly.”
Aside from the knee injury, Ruth has also had to endure a position change. Fuchs was uncertain whether it would hinder Ruth’s productivity. So far, it hasn’t.
Listed as a defensive back, she’s also seen action at midfield. Fuchs said her co-captain’s versatility and durability are what make Ruth the quintessential player.
“She’s very talented and very gritty,” Fuchs said. “She’ll do whatever it takes to win. She really leads by example. I feel like I could play her out of six or seven different positions because she’s good everywhere I put her.”
Similarly, Stevenson has also changed positions this season. She said that the change of scenery from midfield to backfield was not problematic because of Ruth’s leadership.
“Because of Talia, the position change hasn’t impacted me as much as I thought it would,” Stevenson said. “As long as she is in front of me, behind me, next to me, wherever, I trust in her to make great judgment calls; that’s why she’s the co-captain. I know I never have to worry about a ball getting down my throat because Talia is nearby. I never worry about a ball getting by either of us, either.”
With only four games remaining in the season, the Owls are fast approaching the A-10 playoffs. The Owls are currently ranked tied for third place in the conference and only the top four seeds advance. Richmond, last year’s champs, have a stranglehold on the conference. Most staggering is the Spiders’ all-time record against Temple-6-0, including a 4-0 decision just two weeks ago.
Ruth realizes Richmond’s dominance, but feels a change at the top is well overdue.
“Whoever wins the A-10 goes to the NCAA [tournament],” Ruth said. “I’d like to think Richmond already has a bid, because they’ve won the conference the past few years. It would be interesting if they didn’t win it for once and we got in. That would be great.”
Behind Ruth’s strong play and leadership, that feat is certainly possible.
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at email@example.com.