Camas graduate Maddie Kemp will go two years without playing in a live soccer game.
After a devastating knee injury in a Gonzaga women’s soccer preseason training session last year, Kemp fought her way back to the field in time for the 2020 season. Just days after she returned to practice, the West Coast Conference postponed its fall soccer season to the spring due to COVID-19.
“The last time I played a game, I was 18. The next time, I’ll be 20,” Kemp said with a chuckle. “It was rough for me, but I believe I’ll be able to make something great of it.”
Kemp’s last live-soccer action was in March 2019 before she departed for a promising freshman season at Gonzaga. She left high school soccer as a four-time state semifinalist and the most decorated girls soccer player in Camas history with hopes of eventually playing professionally.
Those dreams were abruptly put on pause. In a pre-practice small-sided game on Aug. 14, 2019, Kemp turned back to get a ball and her knee collapsed.
She tore her ACL along with her medial and lateral meniscus in her right knee. She also partially tore her MCL. She had surgery on Sept. 13, just days after classes started at Gonzaga.
“It was a brutal first month because I couldn’t walk and I was on crutches,” Kemp explained. “But I was at every practice, every meeting. I went to physical therapy three times a week and took it day by day.”
Kemp is an outwardly emotive person. “I have no problem voicing what I think or how I feel,” she said.
Her frustrations are equally as apparent to her friends and teammates as her joy and happiness. Her response to the injury was a pleasant shock for Kemp.
“It surprised me how I was not torn down by the injury, how I was so positive,” Kemp said. “I thought I’d be more frustrated.”
Kemp saw a side of soccer she hadn’t experienced. Sitting on the sidelines was rare for the two-time All-Region girls soccer player of the year through her youth career.
While watching the WCC from the bench, she learned the level of accountability it takes on and off the field to be a college soccer player. She also witnessed how fitness can impact performance when elite athletes are matched up.
“To set yourself apart, you have to do the little things right,” Kemp said. “Sometimes being good isn’t going to take you where you want to go.”
Amid a grueling rehab, she was also able to discover what the sport meant to her and what she sought from it. She still wants an illustrious collegiate career and to eventually play professionally, but those original goals have new meaning after her injury, she said.
“At some point, you really have to give up certain areas of your life and be willing to sacrifice to be the best,” Kemp said. “There were times I doubted a lot whether I was done, times I felt defeated. This realization showed me in the nick of time what I wanted from soccer.”
Kemp returned to practice earlier this month in a non-contact capacity. She was on track to be fully cleared by the start of the season. She now has seven more months to get back to game shape.
“There were doubts that I wasn’t ever going to be the same again,” Kemp said. “But I had a practice just the other day, my seventh practice back, and I really felt like me again. I didn’t see that day coming for a long time.”
The West Coast Conference aims to have all fall sports compete in spring 2021. Gonzaga classes return Sept. 1 in a hybrid capacity. The Bulldogs’ women’s soccer team was training this month in socially distanced groups of five, Kemp said. Their fall training schedule is still in the works.