Temple women’s soccer player is eager for her comeback

Emma Wilkins is practicing for women’s soccer spring season after tearing her ACL last year.

Senior forward Emma Wilkins kicks the ball during the Owls’ exhibition match against Lafayette College at the Temple Sports Complex on Aug. 18, 2019. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Emma Wilkins describes injuring her knee as one of the most “surreal” moments she’s experienced. 

“The motion that my knee shifted and the sounds I was hearing weren’t normal,” Wilkins said. “All the clicks and different pops just all came at once. My body knew what it was at the moment but in my head I had no idea what had happened. I just freaked out and threw everything on the ground.”

Wilkins tore the ACL and meniscus in her left knee on Sept. 22, 2019, in a 2-1 loss to Penn. She was second on the team in scoring with five points in nine games and was the team’s leading goalscorer in 2018-19 with six goals and 12 points overall. 

Wilkins began practicing with the team again this fall, and now she’s preparing for the spring season, which could start as early as Feb. 3.

“I’m eager to prove myself again and it’s really going to be hard, but I’m going to give it my all,” Wilkins said. “All I want to do is play.”

Wilkins’ rehabilitation was one year long and an “extremely difficult and mentally exhausting” process, she said. 

After her surgery in October 2019, she worked with Jane Sweeney, the Owls’ former trainer, for the first three months on leg extension and muscle flexion to engage her quad muscles more, Wilkins said. 

Once she was strong enough to get off crutches, Sweeney took her to Edberg-Olson Hall to use an anti-gravity treadmill, Sweeney said. 

“The machine is able to take some of her body weight off, which puts significantly less pressure on her knee,” Sweeney added. 

Wilkins progressed to the “full-on running” stage of rehabilitation right as sporting events stopped due to COVID-19 pandemic in March. Her next step was getting back to the field to work on drills like cutting and agility, she said. 

Due to the pandemic, Wilkins used her own equipment at her home in Galloway, New Jersey, to work on drills, she said.

Wilkins received help to complete them from senior midfielder Julia Dolan, who lives in nearby Egg Harbor City, New Jersey. The two have been teammates since their days playing together at Absegami High School in Galloway, New Jersey. 

Dolan helped Wilkins with the packet of drills Sweeney gave her and participated in them alongside her, Dolan said.

“We would just go to a local field by our house,” Dolan added. “She’d set up the cones, and I’d just be there to help and do the drills with her. She helped me too, it wasn’t just me helping her. We just pushed each other in both her recovery and in the soccer part of it.” 

During her rehabilitation, Wilkins watched her teammates finish the 2019 season and fail to qualify for The American Athletic Conference tournament from the sidelines. 

Although there were moments she knew she needed to take care of herself first, Wilkins never allowed her injury to impact her voice on the team and how she could contribute to the team’s morale, she said.

“I was really sad for a little while, but then for some reason I blocked it all out,” Wilkins added. “I was always occupied, always doing something, so I couldn’t really take the time to understand my feelings, and I just went with it.” 

Wilkins would’ve been ready to play if a fall season occurred, but she’s taking the extra time to get out of her brace and get her conditioning levels back up, she said.

“This is a blessing in disguise, 100 percent,” Wilkins said. “I definitely didn’t want to play in the spring originally, but now that I’m here, I definitely will take advantage of it.”

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