RADNOR >> When Cece Peden lunged into the tackle in July, she heard a pop and feared the worst.
The midfielder had endured the physical and psychological brunt of a ligament injury after tearing her left ACL in April 2016, which wiped out her junior season at Haverford High. But in the last club tournament of the summer with FC USA, Peden trudged off the Tuckahoe Turf Farms in South Jersey nursing a limp on her right leg and the worst of suspicions.
Barely eight weeks on, Peden’s quandaries now include which of her cranky knees most requires a brace on a given day. But that problem on the soccer field is better than most others off of it. And as Peden’s goal in the Fords’ 3-0 Central League win over Radnor Tuesday showed, it’s an easily solvable one.
Peden snapped a perfect header off a corner kick by Rebekah Cunningham in the 68th minute, the Fords’ second tally and a back-breaker to Radnor’s resolve. Peden wriggled loose of her marker and planted a downward header that left a sprawling Anna Gurian no chance in the Radnor net.
The goal was Peden’s second of the season, the first coming in a lopsided win over Upper Darby last week. But the situation and the stakes of Tuesday’s tally imbue it with special significance.
“I felt like maybe this was the time (a goal) would come, and then I made sure I saw where the goal was and tried to just keep it down,” Peden said with a beaming smile. “Offensively, we always say, ‘head it down,’ and usually I get it wide. So I was so happy seeing it go in and I was so surprised.”
Sophomore Maya LeBlanc opened the scoring in the first half, and Annalena O’Reilly capped it with six seconds to play via a stunning chip from near midfield.
Peden’s emotions Tuesday seemed distant from the worry of that July afternoon. Peden’s ACL tear the previous spring cost her a special campaign with the Fords, who qualified for the District 1 Class 4A playoffs and won the program’s first playoff game, all with Peden as a bittersweet spectator.
“That was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “… It’s just so hard to not feel like — I know I was a part of the team but to not feel like I was helping out at all when they were being so successful. I felt so bad and was just like, I wish I could play and be able to help them out.”
Goal Haverford! Cece Peden heads home a Rebekah Cunningham corner. 2-0 Haverford with 12 to play. pic.twitter.com/1AhaihejmH
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) September 19, 2017
She attacked her first rehab tenaciously, returning to non-contact workouts in January and to the field by the spring. But the collision in July threatened to send her back to square one.
A grateful Peden escaped with just a torn right MCL, the severity limited only by the context of her past. She was handed a diagnosis of six weeks of rehab; she’d be back on the field after six and half weeks, scores of physical therapy visits and dozens of calls to her doctors.
“They told me six weeks is the soonest I could come back, and I made it happen,” she said. “I worked really hard at PT and I called my doctor every day, trying to get him to see me and test it out again.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Haverford vs. Ridley
Peden missed the preseason and the Fords’ first two games, swapping a bulky brace on her left knee for strapping on her right. She’s improving her fitness daily, maxing out at 10-minute bursts of sustained effort, though she’s been unsurprisingly pushing the boundaries there, too.
As one of only four starting seniors, her veteran savvy is more valuable.
“It’s really good to have her back,” Cunningham said. “She’s a big asset to the team and she improves the midfield. She’s good at communication, so she builds up the team really well.”
Like Cunningham’s corner, the first goal was set up by a defender. In the 15th minute, right back Grace Drames sent a ball into the box that LeBlanc volleyed home on the bounce. The backline also repelled Radnor’s advances, with the active Nora Janzer extinguishing threats in a central pair with Cunningham. Goalie Amelia Durfee was forced into just three saves.
“We had a difficult time receiving the ball because no one was telling us when someone was pressuring us and we weren’t looking over our shoulder,” Radnor sophomore forward Sophia Muetterties said. “We needed to be thinking one step ahead, but we were one step behind. We need to communicate more.”
Carolyn Eckstein came closest to a breakthrough for Radnor with a shot late in the first half that glanced off the outside of the post. Muetterties toe-poked wide off a Sarah Beth Lanzone set up in the second, just a minute after Muetterties played in Cat Belveal for a shot the senior couldn’t land on frame.
As for Peden, she made the most of her one shot on the day in making up for lost time.
“I feel like this was the first real goal back,” Peden said. “It really felt so good.”
Also in the Central League:
Strath Haven 6, Upper Darby 0 >> Grace Samaha scored twice in the game’s first 10 minutes, and Claire Wolgast and Carly Perlman combined on the shutout for the Panthers (5-2, 3-1).
Garnet Valley 3, Springfield 2 >> Riley Delaney settled a hectic, four-goal second half with the game-winner. Abby Kalish and Nicole Barnes also scored, and Kayleigh Saboja made nine saves for GV.
Aiden Gallagher and Julie Schickling scored for Springfield.
Penncrest 3, Lower Merion 0 >> Carly Baillis scored twice, Corryn Gamber added two assists and Bryn McLaughlin stopped two shots as the Lions (7-0, 4-0) extended their shutout streak.
In the Inter-Ac League:
Episcopal Academy 3, Penn Charter 0 >> Olivia Dirks scored on either side of halftime, Lauren Bassett also tallied and Hannah Moriarty stopped 12 shots as the Churchwomen won.
In the Del Val League:
Interboro 8, Penn Wood 2 >> Taylor Newcomb posted a hat trick, and Kerri Barnett added a pair of goals for the Bucs.
Lowoe Samolu scored both of Penn Wood’s goal.
In the Bicentennial League:
Christian Academy 6, Faith Christian 2 >> Lindsay Haseltine scored four goals, and Hannah Sareyka and Grace Gormley also scored for the Crusaders (5-2, 3-0).
In nonleague action:
MaST Charter 1, Cardinal O’Hara 0 >> Kerry Patterson made six saves, but Alexa Murphy’s first-half goal doomed the Lions.