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After losing senior season to injury, Cameron Jones finds other ways to contribute to Ridgefield soccer team

Jones, who suffered a torn ACL in the spring, fills a variety of roles as one of the Spudders' team managers

By Will Denner, Columbian staff writer
Published: November 8, 2022, 7:00pm

RIDGEFIELD — At this time last year, Cameron Jones was enjoying her first “normal” high school soccer season at Ridgefield High.

She had no injuries nagging at her, no postponements due to COVID, and as one of the anchors of the Spudders’ back line, the junior helped lead the team to a fourth-place finish in the Class 2A state playoffs.

Now a senior, she’s helped this year’s team as well, but from a different vantage point. Unofficially, she’s the team psychologist, video coordinator, equipment manager, an assistant coach and a liaison between players, coaches and parents.

Those roles highlight some of Jones’ many contributions after suffering a torn ACL in the spring playing for her club team. The surgery and subsequent timetable for recovery meant she would miss her final high school season playing with her friends and twin sister Claire.

She had the option to take the season off, and no one would’ve faulted her for it. Or, stick around the game she loves and find a way to make an impact on her team. After some thought, the choice for Jones was obvious.

“I looked at it and I realized these are some of my best friends,” Cameron Jones said. “I’ve played with them, they’ve played for me, I’ve played for them. It’s my duty to stick alongside them through this. And I think I had to just find my role, which they made really easy for me.”

Before the injury, Jones said she was playing at a higher level than ever before. Over spring break in April, her club, FC Portland, was playing a rivalry game against another league opponent. From her position at center back, Jones made a play on the ball and knocked knees with an opposing player.

She didn’t hear a pop, she didn’t have any pain, but Jones could feel her knee “go out (and) come back in.”

A doctor’s visit and MRI confirmed a full ACL tear. For a day or two, Jones didn’t think she would come back from it. She felt anger over her predicament, especially at such a crucial time in her high school career.

The game she loved wasn’t giving her the same love. She didn’t think anything was possible after the injury. But there were plenty of people, her sister included, who knew that wasn’t true.

“When she was talking about it, and I knew it was emotional, it was hard not to get angry because you see someone who puts in the work so much,” Claire Jones said. “Of course I was mad, angry just for the circumstances she was in. But I told her … you’ve always been the underdog, and this is just one more thing. It’s only going to make you stronger and you’re going to grow from it.”

Talks with family, teammates and doctors gave Cameron hope. She opted to have surgery in May.

“One day without the game, I realized I can’t just leave now,” she said. “I can’t leave on that note. I want to leave when I want to leave. So I decided I’m going to make a comeback.”

Her rehabilitation, which is progressing slowly but steadily, was her main focus over the following few months.

But as the fall high school season was starting up, there she was with her teammates working as one of Ridgefield’s managers.

The role entails a little bit of everything. At the start of the season, she organized team bonding activities and early-morning runs for the group. She set up the team’s Hudl account and ordered sweatshirts for everyone on the team. At practices, she hangs with other players who are out with injuries. She’s often one of the loudest voices on Ridgefield’s sideline during games.

“She’s very passionate and has a lot to give to the program and I think the other players see that,” said Steven Evans, Ridgefield’s first-year head coach. “I think the positive side that she’s had for everything she’s done this year, what she’s been through to still be positive and encouraging is great.”

It took a leap of faith on Cameron’s part to believe she could make a difference with this team off the field.

Players and coaches agree she’s been an important voice for a group with just four seniors. Younger players look to her for advice, but also the veterans. Claire, who’s moved from her midfield position to center back to fill in for Cameron, has leaned on her sister to better understand the position.

“Being around the sport you love so much and you do every day, then not being able to do it, it’s hard to sometimes to come to the field and be happy when you know every day you’re doing the same thing, just sitting and watching (others) play,” Claire Jones said.

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“The way she’s been able to coach, the way she’s been able to mentor me … she’s that stable voice that keeps me firm because she’s a major leader. We lost her voice, her athleticism and her skill on the field, but on the bench she’s that leader, she’s the one everyone goes to.”

She’s also leaned on the support of teammates Ella Krause and Abigail Vance, both of whom are working their way back from knee injuries. All of them celebrate when one takes a positive step in rehabilitation or gets cleared for more activity. Recently, Cameron was given the green light to begin passing and juggling drills.

“We’re there for each other on the tough days,” Cameron Jones said. “They’ve seen me cry, I’ve seen them cry, we’ve cried together, we’ve laughed together, we’ve joked about it together. It would’ve been 100 times harder (without them).”

She won’t play this season for the Spudders as they begin the 2A playoffs on Wednesday at East Valley of Yakima, but she has a path to returning. Earlier this season, she announced her commitment to play college soccer at Virginia Military Institute, a Division I school.

This wasn’t what she had in mind for her senior year, but the new position has been a learning opportunity, both for her and her teammates.

“This hasn’t been a great season or trial of my life,” Cameron Jones said, “but I’ve learned a lot, I’ve gotten stronger from it, and I hope I look back on these years and I’m grateful for them.”