Women’s soccer player Paige Rachel moves on after second ACL tear

Paige Rachel will graduate with a master’s degree after an injury in Spring 2016.

Graduate student Paige Rachel did not play in Fall 2016 due to her third ACL tear, but became a mentor to younger players. JAMIE COTTRELL FOR THE TEMPLE NEWS

Elaine Byerley saw the injury and felt an urge to vomit.

Coach Seamus O’Connor couldn’t believe his eyes.

As Paige Rachel went to stop a ball against Lafayette College at the Ambler Sports Complex in the 2014 preseason, she landed awkwardly and tore her left ACL.

It was the first of two times she tore her ACL at Temple. The second time was during Spring 2016 against La Salle.

“The whole process with Paige has just taken away some of my love for soccer,” O’Connor said. “It really doesn’t make sense. I always tell them like, ‘Why are you doing this?’ I don’t even push my own daughter to do soccer because I’ve seen the bad side of it, and that’s the hard part.”

“I just don’t understand it sometimes,” he added. “It’s an unfortunate part of our sport.”

Rachel missed her junior and redshirt senior seasons because of injuries. She started 28 out of her first 34 games as an Owl and finished her career with four goals, an assist and nine points.

Prior to Rachel tearing her ACL twice at Temple, she tore her right ACL as a freshman at Central High School in Manchester, New Hampshire. When O’Connor went to scout her he said she was all over the field and pretty explosive despite recovering from her injury.

With Rachel shooting primarily with her left foot, she was a big part of the offense on set plays.

When Rachel got hurt during Spring 2016, it started a domino effect of injuries on the roster that lingered during the regular season.

If Rachel didn’t suffer another injury, she could have helped an Owls offense that finished last in the American Athletic Conference in goals last season.

“She was supposed to play a big role on the attacking end of the field for us,” O’Connor said. “It took me awhile to even register that it happened. It just didn’t seem right. These kids are so athletic and so powerful, I expect them get hit by a truck to hurt them, but something like that, it doesn’t make sense because they’re so athletic and so strong and so fit.”

After Rachel’s third ACL tear, O’Connor told her with all she had on her plate — like her internship, graduate school, rehab and another job — she didn’t have to come to practices.

But that didn’t stop Rachel. She still went to practices and served as a mentor to the team’s underclassmen. She also went to games to watch from the sidelines and occasionally give her teammates advice.

While helping the underclassmen, Rachel noticed an issue for one particular freshman. Defender K.J. Waghorne, from Wheaton, Illinois, was homesick and adjusting to life at Temple.

Rachel began to help Waghorne transition to Temple. The two started getting dinner together regularly last season, O’Connor said.

“I know how hard it is to come in as a freshman out of state,” Rachel said. “Your parents, family and friends can’t always come to everything. Like after games, I know how hard it was. And when I saw she was from Chicago, I knew she was going to kind of go through what I went through.”

While Rachel didn’t end her Temple soccer career as a contributor on the field, she succeeded in the classroom. She graduated with a bachelor’s in advertising in December 2015. She will graduate this month with a master’s in marketing.

Rachel recently accepted a full-time job at MaassMedia, a marketing analytics agency, and will live in South Philadelphia.

“Hopefully it’s going to make her a very, very successful and confident person going forward with the rest of her life that she came through with this and showed herself how mentally tough she was,” O’Connor said. “And showed herself how she can respond to that and how great she can be. Most people don’t come back from one. She’s done it three times.”

Tom Ignudo can be reached at thomas.ignudo@temple.edu or on Twitter @Ignudo5.

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