When Vanessa Garcia took the field on Jan. 10 against Christopher High, it proved to be a milestone moment. The San Benito High junior was appearing in a game for the first time this season after suffering a broken right leg on Sept. 2 while playing for her club team at a tournament in San Diego.
Garcia was running down the sideline and preparing to shoot when an opposing player delivered a hard slide tackle. Garcia said a couple of people said they heard a snap upon contact.
“I knew something was wrong when I wasn’t able to stand,” she said. “I couldn’t feel my leg.”
A little over four months after suffering a broken leg, Garcia was back on the pitch playing defender for the Haybalers, who entered Wednesday’s game against Watsonville with a 2-1-0 record in Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division play. Talk about a quick recovery: Garcia’s determination and hard work allowed her to make a triumphant return.
Garcia played the entire 80 minutes, never coming out for a substitute.
“I was happy to be back, but very nervous,” she said. “It felt good to be able to play and not just sit on the bench. I’m not a sitting down type of person. I like camping, taking hikes and going on walks. I’m rarely indoors.”
That’s what made the injury even tougher to take, because Garcia is super active and always on the move. Throughout the recovery process, Garcia’s parents, Adam and Lori, kept her spirits up. Even during this tough time, Garcia produced a 4.17 GPA in the first semester of her junior year.
“That I was still able to maintain a high GPA while going through rehab, I’m pretty proud of that,” she said.
Garcia took pleasure in the grueling rehab process—“It was hard, but I like working out and doing all that stuff,” she said—but it was only natural for Garcia to have thoughts of whether she would ever return to her previous form.
“Everyday I’m thinking, ‘What if I don’t get better?’” she said. “This was my first big injury, and it’s easy to think you’re not going to be the same as you were before. But after a while, once I could start jumping and turning sharply, I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to come back and be better than ever.’”
Garcia knows some of the players on Christopher High’s team because they play on the same club team, the Morgan Hill-based Orchard Valley Crush Black U17 team.
“The parents of some of the Christopher players were super shocked at how well I was moving,” Garcia said.
Before her club season was cut short, Garcia was having the best season of her young career. She took a prominent role with Orchard Valley, playing the right wing position. Garcia has always played with a lot of energy and toughness, and she’s been an effective passer while playing for San Benito.
Garcia only took up soccer five years ago, having done swimming and martial arts from an early age. Garcia loved the latter because “I like hitting people.” Garcia has always had a high threshold for pain, something she wears as a badge of honor. When Garcia got her ears pierced in the first grade, she didn’t cry.
Whenever Garcia had a fever, she still went out to play. And whenever Garcia was at the hospital to get a shot, she would tell the nurse or doctor to get on with it and proceed to watch them insert the needle into her arm. Garcia admitted that mentally and physically she’s not 100 percent back, however, she’s confident it’s only a matter of time before she can let it all out again.
“I’m hard on myself, and I know I didn’t play as good as I wanted to against Christopher,” she said. “It’ll take some more time to get back into a groove, but I plan on getting there.”