Knees of a Warrior, Heart of a Champion: IHA Alumna Achieves Dream of Playing College Soccer

By Emily Bommer

As girls run across the soccer field and get ready to warm up for the game, they all have their shin guards and socks pulled up to their knees. All of the players’ knees look the same with nothing on them–all except for one. Only one person on the team has scars covering both of her knees from having three ACL tears and surgeries.

While two girls have torn their ACLs once, only one has torn her ACL three times. Only one person was told multiple times that she would never play soccer again by doctors, friends, family members, and coaches- and is now playing on a college level team. The freshman from New Jersey on the Gettysburg soccer team may know most out of her teammates what it means to have a real passion for a sport.

As an incoming IHA freshman, Jordan Stefanacci tore her ACL for the first time, making her unable to play for the season or to even try out. She tore her ACL again in the spring of sophomore year, and then again at the end of her junior year, making her “benched” for most of her senior year.

Some would think that since all of these ACL tears happened while Jordan was playing soccer that she would just give up. Some may say that this was a sign that she should stop playing. Tearing your ACL once is a big enough deal as it is; twice is even rarer, and tearing your ACL three times is almost completely unheard of.

For those of you unfamiliar with ACL recovery time, it’s seven months to be out of any physical activity. Seven months is a much longer time than it sounds, especially when you are in love with a sport. Think about what it takes to recover from ACL tears: hours at physical therapy, countless visits to the doctors, casts and medical tape worn at all times , and of course not being able to do what your friends are doing because of physical setbacks.

Jordan Stefanacci spends her summers working on her soccer skills.  Photo Credit: Ryan Stefanacci

Jordan Stefanacci spends her summers working on her soccer skills.
Photo Credit: Ryan Stefanacci

Jordan doesn’t believe in “setbacks”; the word simply does not exist in her vocabulary. Take all of this into account, and then put this into an overachieving high school girl. Put this into someone who was in the National Honor Society at IHA, someone who always made time for her family, and someone who was always there for her friends. Does that sound like a recipe for disaster? You would think that, but Jordan may be the most positive and loving person that anyone could ever meet.

In December of 2013, Jordan’s luck looked like it was finally changing. She had been accepted to Gettysburg College and was going to be playing soccer. Let’s be real, however. People are always saying “Hard work pays off,” but how often do you believe them?

Say someone told you that you wouldn’t play soccer throughout high school and would still have to be working just as hard, if not harder, than all of your teammates. Say that same person told you that with all of this hard work, you may not get the results that you’re looking for and there is only a small possibility of playing soccer in college. To some people, this sounds completely ridiculous- why even bother? But Jordan had a different plan. Jordan worked hard, and by the time she got to college, she was ready to play.

Shocking everyone in the first game that she ever played as a Bullet- Jordan scored her very first collegiate goal. If this isn’t starting to inspire you- there is more.

Many people have been inspired by Jordan’s attitude (and it’s hard not to!), including IHA’s soccer head coach last year, when he named Jordan one of the captains of the varsity soccer team. Not only did Jordan train all school year for soccer, but she never took an off-season.

Summers, which most people spent by the pool, Jordan spent training. The best part of it all is that Jordan has morals. She is not arrogant or conceited, she does not brag, and she is supportive of her friends and family- something that most teenagers who don’t even play sports do.

Jordan’s advice to people with injuries or an ACL tear is, “Keep your head up and never stop working hard. If you never give up on yourself, there is nothing that can stop you from achieving your goals.”

The easiest part for anyone is giving up, but a warrior never stops fighting. While all of this is going on, Jordan remains humble. She doesn’t consider herself better than others. Jordan knows what it is like to be at rock bottom- like when she was in recovery- and she knows what it’s like to be on top, like when she finally achieved her dream of playing soccer in college.

If you can learn one thing from all of this, it’s that anything can only get better. Even after three ACL surgeries, Jordan still says “I am happy where I have gotten.”

This is a big deal, not many soccer players get the opportunities she has been blessed with. Jordan is finally playing soccer in college- something that she has dreamed of doing since she started playing. So even with scars covering her knees, Jordan is continuing to be optimistic and is following her heart as she plays soccer at Gettysburg.

Categories: Features, News@the Heart