SELLERSVILLE >> Maggie Wunder walked out of the batter’s box and removed her helmet, a look of frustration clear on the senior’s face.
She had just struck out for the second time in Monday’s 10-0 loss at Pennridge, so it wasn’t surprising that the shortstop was a little mad at the result. What was surprising was that she was even on the field on the sunny and warm April afternoon.
In August, Wunder completely tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and partially tore the meniscus in her left knee during a soccer scrimmage, more than likely ending her high school athletic career.
Eight months later, she’s back.
“It felt really good to be back actually,” Wunder said after making her season debut against the Rams. “I was a little nervous coming in because I hadn’t been on a field since August. I felt good, I just have to make some adjustments because I’m not fully recovered yet but I did better than I was thinking I would.”
The road back was a winding one for Wunder, who wasn’t even sure how bad the injury was at first. She knew it was serious when it happened but initially, she thought it might have been a hyper-extended knee or even a dislocated kneecap.
It took about three weeks and eventually an MRI to figure it all out and Wunder had surgery on Sept. 23 to repair her ACL. A completely torn ACL in a serious injury, so playing soccer was out and the initial prognosis wasn’t good for suiting up in green and gold again at all.
“They were telling me I wasn’t supposed to be cleared until June,” Wunder said. “So I was thinking I wasn’t going to be playing any high school sports this season.”
That could have been it. But Wunder wasn’t going to let that be it.
“I’m a senior and if I didn’t get to go on and play in college, that would have been it and I didn’t want to end it like that,” Wunder said. “I did a lot of rehab and working out on my own. They were saying if anything, I could maybe be back in May, so to be back an entire month ahead of time is really amazing.”
Wunder estimated she’s had about five doctor visits since the surgery and each time, she got a different time frame for when she could possibly be back, which was frustrating. Rehab and physical therapy followed, which was both tough and a little repetitive but Wunder was determined to play at least some of her last softball season.
The senior is done with rehab but said she’s still got work left to do trying to rebuild muscle and strength in her left leg. She worked like crazy and got some initial clearance to do some light infield work and hitting off a tee, but the season started and she wasn’t clear to play.
“The biggest challenge came from myself, my mental stability and staying positive,” Wunder said. “I had a lot of down time and it was driving me insane not being able to do anything really, just having to sit around.”
Wunder thinks the fact she was already in shape for soccer season aided her recovery process. She kept pushing and the window seemed to start opening a little wider until she finally got full clearance on March 31.
At first, there was some discussion about Wunder starting out at either third or first base if she wasn’t ready to handle the quick reactions and movement at shortstop. But even with a large brace providing stability to her left leg, Wunder was able to do everything without issue and stayed at her normal position.
“I think me telling myself that I want to get back is what really motivated me to put in effort and keep working out to get stronger,” Wunder said. “I want to keep going and get even stronger than I was before.”
This season was supposed to be a big one for her in terms of her future. A couple of colleges were interested but wanted to see her play throughout the year. Out and out committing to play somewhere was pretty much a longshot but Wunder said that over the weekend she decided to attend Millersville and will have an opportunity to walk-on the softball team there.
Wunder hopes now that she’s back she can be a leader on the field. The Crusaders have struggled a bit to start the season and the senior said she and her teammates need to stop overthinking things, relax and enjoy the game.
She added it’s important to keep a positive attitude even when things aren’t going well. She would know, it’s the reason she was able to walk out of the batter’s box on Monday thinking about how to make more of the next one.
“That’s the one thing I have to remember, that I’m even out here,” Wunder said. “I’m back sooner than expected. It’s one thing I’m able to stay positive about.”
Top Photo: Lansdale Catholic shortstop Maggie Wunder dives for the ball during game against Pennridge in Sellersville on Monday, April 17, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media