Shippensburg University senior Sofia Perzan will not go down in the record books as an all-time great at SU. Perzan did not set any records at SU.
But one thing she did do is persevere. Two significant knee injuries kept the forward off the field for most of her career, but on Oct. 13, Perzan had her moment.
With the SU women’s soccer team leading California University of Pennsylvania 6-0, Perzan returned to the game in the final 10 minutes. While the next moment may not have determined the outcome of the game, it was monumental for the senior.
Perzan pushed past one Vulcan defender before ploughing over another, fired a shot off her foot and into the back of the net to score her first — and only — goal of her career in the 90th minute.
“Everyone was scoring goals left and right including all of these freshmen, and I was so excited for them,” Perzan said. “It is 6-0 but I don’t know what came over me, but I was just ready to do something. It was awesome. If that is the only time I’d score I’m fine with it because I really worked for it. That’s all you can really ask for.”
Entering her freshman season at SU, Perzan would be a player that the Raiders would count on for offense after she put together an outstanding high school career at Perry Hall High School in which she tallied 21 goals and 18 assists.
Injuries changed that.
Perzan suffered her first injury in her sophomore year of high school, when she dislocated her kneecap playing for the Pipeline Soccer Club during the summer. The injury sidelined her for three months and foreshadowed what was going to become an ongoing issue.
“It was hard for me because I had to get ready for soccer since I played for a club team. High school and club are two different things, so when I wasn’t doing one I was doing the other,” Perzan said. “It didn’t hit me until I was going into my high-school season and I was sitting on the sideline and couldn’t play. It was easier though because it was only a three-month recovery.”
Perzan came to SU in August 2014 and began preparing for her freshman season. Perzan ended up redshirting in 2014 before earning playing time for the Raiders during the spring season.
Perzan finally felt like she was in the right state of mind and was ready to begin playing at the high level she had ever since she began playing at the age of 6.
She then suffered another injury — this one far more significant. Perzan tore her ACL during a spring game while attempting to score a goal, forcing her to miss her entire sophomore season.
“I felt really happy and then in one of the spring games I was getting ready to go for a goal and I stepped one way and my knee went the other way. That was really frustrating for me mentally,” Perzan said. “Once the trainer told me it was my ACL I didn’t believe her because she couldn’t do the MRI on the field, so she couldn’t actually tell me that.
“I tried to deny it and block it out, but once I got the MRI results back that’s when reality hit me. I would need surgery and I was probably going to be out for another year, so that was tough for me. I really thought my sophomore year was going to be my year.”
The recovery process proved to be extremely difficult for Perzan, as she was not progressing as planned. She was not able to bend her knee like she was supposed to be able to after her surgery, requiring another procedure.
“Your surgeon usually has an itinerary of where you should be at a certain time, but it’s all based on how your body reacts to it. After the first month you’re supposed to be able to bend your knee at a 90-degree angle and I wasn’t anywhere close to that,” Perzan said. “I had to go in for a second operation which was a knee manipulation. They put you under anesthesia and they just bend your knee different ways to get it loose and break up the scar tissue.
“That held me back for a couple weeks and then I had a blood clot in my leg and I had to go on blood thinners for three months. I had a lot of pain in my knee as well as where the blood clot was in my calf. My whole leg just felt like it wasn’t even there. I had a very difficult recovery compared to the typical ACL injury. Typically, after three months you would be running and from there you go to more intense things like agility training. Usually it’s a 9-12 month recovery but I was over the 12-month mark.”
The setbacks were challenging for Perzan.
“It was tough. Especially since I was transitioning from my physical therapist back home to the one here since they were kind of on different pages,” Perzan said. “My doctor at home was really rushing it, but when I got here things were a lot slower, which I think may have been the better option anyway. I also met another person who was so much farther ahead of me with the same injury and that just made me mad and wondering why I wasn’t there.”
Perzan returned to SU and pushed her way through physical therapy and finally, one year later, was cleared to return to play in May 2017. While she was able to play when called upon, she had not yet mentally been able to get back to her normal self on the field.
“It was really hard transitioning back into it because I came into preseason not having anything to go off of. I hadn’t been on the field, I hadn’t practiced, I hadn’t done anything except run by myself,” Perzan said. “I think I also went in with bad thoughts in my head.
“My cutting wasn’t very good, and I was really hesitant with the ball, and I couldn’t run full sprint because I was nervous something would happen to my knee. I had to wear a brace which obviously helped, but my first game back was against Kutztown in a home game. I felt really good. I was a little rusty, but my coach even told me during preseason that my head was somewhere else, which it was. I was always afraid of what would happen if I did this or that, which took over for the first few weeks.”
Entering her senior season, it looked like things were finally going to be normal. Perzan was excited that she would finally be able to play a full season and that the injuries were behind her. Then, her knee swelled up during preseason workouts.
“That was very frustrating. That was all from the knee surgery too. It’s very common, it’s called patella femoral syndrome. My knee started swelling up, so I had to get it drained and I needed a cortisone shot,” Perzan said. “Since then it has been smooth sailing, so they just think it was overworked from the summer and getting back into the preseason and all of the physical contact that irritated it.”
Perzan was cleared to play and returned to play minutes in games down the stretch for the Raiders in 2017. She finally scored her goal at home against Cal.
“It was awesome, honestly. Granted, I know we were up 6–0, and not that they’re an easy team to play because they are one of our toughest competitors, but it was a relief,” Perzan said. “I always wanted to just show my coach that I can do it.
“The point of my position is to score goals. You can do everything else but at the end of the day, you’re supposed to be getting balls into the back of the net. I felt like I was the only one at my position not doing that. I wanted to show that regardless of my injuries I could score a goal and I could play soccer. It definitely lifted my spirits up.”
Perzan will graduate with a degree in communication/journalism in the spring of 2018. While she is unsure of where life after graduation will take her, she knows that she will look back on her time at SU with friendships that will last a lifetime.
“I’ll definitely look back on all of the relationships I’ve made and the friendships I’ve gained,” Perzan said. “I’m a big believer that playing a sport is one thing, but having that bond with the people you play with is so much more enjoyable. I have the sport I’ve played all my life, but I also have these girls who are going to be my friends forever.”
While she may have been limited on the court, Perzan’s character and ability to stare adversity in the face and overcome it will prove to carry her forward in life.