BERLIN – Berlin girls soccer head coach Alex Joslyn watched the replay of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott’s gruesome leg injury last weekend and couldn’t help but think back to when he had to watch such a brutal injury happen in person.
Last season, when the Redcoats were playing in their final scrimmage, Joslyn’s All-State junior Ashley Wenzel collided with the opposing goalkeeper, who was sliding in to try and take away a scoring attempt, and the impact led to a broken tibia and fibula for Wenzel, who would go on to miss the entire season and part of Berlin’s girls basketball season.
Wenzel said she knew she had broken her leg right when the collision happened.
“You saw what happened to Dak Prescott on Sunday,” Joslyn said. “Ashley was very close, if not very similar, to what happened to him.”
Wenzel, after finishing second in the state in 2018 with 25 goals, labored through grueling physical therapy sessions and in a sense, learned how to walk again as her broken leg healed, having been given a recovery window of 3-6 months before she would be able to compete once again.
“I don’t think people have any idea of what she overcame with that injury,” Joslyn said. “It was beyond serious.”
Wenzel did overcome the injury, finishing the basketball season as a regular contributor, and had her eyes set on a full soccer season as a senior, in a year that the Redcoats expected to compete for a state championship. But as the fall season approached, and the country still struggled to get the covid-19 pandemic under control, Wenzel began to question if she would wind up missing yet another full season of high school soccer. The thought of missing both of her upperclassman seasons, including her senior year when fully healthy, was tough to digest.
“I was definitely nervous that we wouldn’t have a season this year,” Wenzel said. “All I wanted was to be back out on the field with everyone.”
Wenzel watched the 2019 season pass by from the bench while on crutches, wishing she was out on the field with her team. As 2020 approached, she feared she would be back with her teammates, only they’d all be left with nothing more than cohorted workouts and team practices. But after a delay of nearly two weeks, the soccer season began, giving the senior the farewell tour she had hoped for. One of the first stops on that tour was her first game back at Sage Park since the injury, and Wenzel made the most of it, scoring four goals and recording two assists in a blowout win over Middletown.
After missing a full year and nearly missing two, Wenzel isn’t focused on what’s been lost this season. There may not be a full season or a state tournament, but there is soccer, which is enough for someone who hadn’t played in a meaningful high school game on the pitch since 2018.
“It’s definitely a really good feeling,” Wenzel said. “We just want to play like every game is our last, because it very well could be. We just have to go out there every day and give it all we have.”
Wenzel took a similar approach to her recovery, working through pain and discomfort to get back to playing as quickly as possible. When the coronavirus shut down high school sports for six months, it appeared Wenzel’s work might not be enough to get her back on the field. But the season survived, giving Wenzel the return she’d craved since last September.
“There are not enough words to say about Ashley Wenzel,” Joslyn said. “I was getting nervous that I wouldn’t be able to coach her another year, but now I do. What she’s done in terms of physical therapy and working off the field with her father, she’s put in so much work to get back on the field and it’s paying off now. I’m just glad I get the chance to coach her for a few more weeks.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or email@example.com