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"Rested, repaired and ready"
"The phrase first day of practice had extra meaning for Olympic High School senior Natalie Carlson.For high school athletes all over the area, Monday was the first day of turnouts for the 2001 fall season. Athletes in football, cross country, girls soccer, swimming and volleyball and boys soccer and tennis all hit the practice field to begin girding for their upcoming seasons.For most of them, prep turnouts came after a short break. Many were involved in summer sports activities, or used the summer months to decompress after the winter and spring seasons.Some of Carlson's Trojan girls soccer teammates had been to rec or select soccer games and workouts over the weekend. Others had just wrapped up summer fastpitch.But for Carlson, the first day of practice was literally that.I haven't played anything since the end of last season, says Carlson, who was shelved by knee injuries as the Trojans wound up their Olympic League championship season and was available only sparingly during the postseason. When Oly bowed out of the quarterfinal round in a 4-0 loss to Roosevelt, the defender was in street clothes on the sidelines.She didn't know it at the time, but the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee had been partially torn through much of the season. Later, she also suffered a partial tear of the meniscus, a cartilage between the articulating ends of the bones in the knee joint.While her OHS teammates were playing summer soccer or resting, she was rehabilitating the knee following December surgery to repair all the damage.I've been doing a lot of physical therapy, she said.The Trojans were a team of stars in 2000, featuring all-league midfielder Erin Laird and forward Chantal Ricard. But coach Steve Haggerty was given to referring to Carlson in terms like, the heart of our team, or the key to our defense.Though she didn't figure heavily in Troy's vaunted scoring attack - Emily Tracy, Ricard and Laird ranked No. 2, 3 and 5 in the league in total points, respectively - Carlson won Haggerty's praise by anchoring the back line, marking the opposing team's toughest scorer and settling her teammates.That is, when she was able to play. The ACL injury, the third she's suffered in her career (one in each knee previous to last year's left knee tear), kept her from playing in consecutive games, and the soreness often limited her minutes.It's a role she'd like to return to - sans the gimpy left hinge - as the Trojans try and return to the postseason this fall, working their way through the Narrows League instead of the old Olympic League.I hope to start and finish as many games as they'll let me, said Carlson, who was cleared to run on her oft-repaired knee just in time to take part in Haggerty's season-opening workout Monday morning. If I can fill a leadership role on this team, that would be great. "