Coal Ridge seniors use adversity as motive for success in soccer

Sydney Wright and Chelsie Ryan have been through so much and they only seem to get stronger.

The Coal Ridge High School seniors have overcome knee injuries and the death of a teammate to return to the girls soccer team in hopes of a historic run this season.

Ten of the girls on the team grew up playing together with Emily Johnson, who was killed in an all-terrain vehicle accident in November 2008.

“She was definitely the glue that kept the team together,” Coal Ridge coach Brian Blair said. “At the same time, we had more focus than ever before.”

For Ryan and Wright, it was the beginning of more adversity.

Last spring, Ryan tore ligaments in her left knee against Vail Mountain and missed the rest of the season.

“I pulled my groin the day before in practice and had it wrapped,” Ryan said. “I was hip-checked and my knee popped and snapped. It was devastating. The doctor told me I couldn’t play for the rest of the year.”

Ryan, who scored 15 goals before the injury, missed the team’s final two regular season games and its two playoff games.

The Titans went on to reach the round of 16 in the Class 3A state playoffs.

Wright, who led the Titans with 17 goals, blew out her knee last fall in club game.

“I was so devastated,” Wright said. “It made me appreciate everything.”

The injuries were a crushing blow to their hopes of playing in college at the time, but both returned in time for this season and have the Denver Post’s sixth-ranked team (5-0-1, 3-0-1), sitting atop the Western Slope League. Coal Ridge played last weekend at Rangely and Basalt.

“After it happened, I thought there was no way I could play this season,” Wright said. “I worked hard and was cleared four months after the surgery.

“I’ve worked so hard. I don’t feel like giving it up. It’s my thing.”

Wright received her knee brace in time for the Titans’  second game, but was frustrated with the limitations of her knee and the brace.

“Now, I feel good,” Wright said. “I feel like it’s never happened. I feel confident.”

Ryan was cleared to play in time for basketball and feels like new. She is second on the team with seven goals this season.

Wright and Ryan are two of 10 seniors on the team this season, hoping to go farther than an any Coal Ridge girls soccer team in school history.

Whatever happens, they won’t forget what they’ve experienced.

“Emily was a big part of the team,” Ryan said. “Everybody loved her. We missed her a lot. We still say she’s there every game.

“She wanted to call the (soccer) field ‘The Pasture.’ We have a plaque with her name and hand print by the field. We pray by her plaque before every game. She’s still a big inspiration.”


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