Londonderry Lancers Girls Soccer '07

Londonderry girls soccer captain Erin Griffin cheers from the sidelines at Wednesday's game against Salem. A torn ACL may have put an early end to her season as player, but Griffin is helping lead the Lancers as a coach. » Jarrod Thompson, Staff Photographer

An ACL injury may have sidelined Erin Griffin, but it did not end her season

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Whoever came up with the phrase "making lemonade out of lemons" would have probably enjoyed spending a few minutes talking to Erin Griffin.

The dynamic senior captain for the Londonderry girls soccer team was back on the field Wednesday for the Lancers' 3-0 win over Salem. But with Griffin dressed in long pants and sneakers instead of shorts and cleats, yesterday probably marked the first occasion in the last four years that the Blue Devil coaching staff did not have to warn their team to keep an eye on the lightning-quick striker from Londonderry.

Attempting to make a routine cut on a wet field against Merrimack in just her second game of the year, Griffin knew before anyone else that her much anticipated senior season was over almost before it had started.

"I knew pretty much right away," said Griffin of the tear to the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, in her left knee. "I felt my knee pop and I knew what it was."

Given that the Lancers returned all but three players from a team that went 14-3 a year ago and have been picked by many as favorites to win Class L this year tells all you need to know about how thoroughly that single "pop" reverberated through Griffin's psyche.

After battling through a preseason medial collateral ligament injury, or MCL, in her right knee to score two goals in the Lancers' opening win against Bishop Guertin and adding a third tally against Merrimack before going down, Griffin indeed appeared poised for an all-star senior campaign. In an instant, however, all of those expectations vanished, not to mention the prospect of one final year of trading passes with the player who Griffin taught the game in her backyard -- her younger sister Kelley.

"It's hard because I really enjoy playing with her," said Erin Griffin of her sophomore sister, who will now be asked to carry more of the scoring burden playing both center midfielder and striker -- the two positions her older sister played.

"We're very similar in how we play and we worked very well together," said Erin Griffin.

First-year Londonderry coach Jim Tremblay is banking on the fact that they will continue to work well together -- and that's where those lemons come in. While he says you can't understate the loss of Griffin's firepower and intensity on the field, he is also eager to gain her insights on the bench where Griffin will help serve as another coach for the Lancers. It's a role that has already paid dividends.

"Despite the fact that she's injured, she still is going to be a very big part of this team," said Tremblay, whose team is off to a 4-0-1 start. "Already she has been like another set of eyes for me. She's an excellent leader and I think her leadership has already shown where I'll say something very brief when I'm taking out a player during the game, and Erin will go over to talk to them and explain the situation. They all respect and listen to her because of what kind of player and competitor she is."

Griffin will be the first to tell you that no matter how seamless she may have made the transition appear, coming to grips with her new role is a daily battle at best. "It's definitely very difficult," said Griffin who plays year-round for Seacoast United and plans to play next year on the college level.

"Just watching and knowing that I want to be out there so badly. Eventually it will be better, but right now it's still pretty hard."

Still, if there is a silver lining to be found for Griffin it's that she may just be getting an early introduction to a future calling.

"I definitely would love to (coach) some day," she said. "I love working with younger kids and I have had the chance to work at some camps, which I really enjoyed." One younger kid who could see Griffin shining in that role is the same player she shares the breakfast table with each morning.

"She has always been very positive and is such a motivational person," said Kelley Griffin. "It's very difficult to see her (on the sidelines), but it's going to make us work harder."

Erin Griffin is scheduled to have surgery on her knee next week and expects to be ready for preseason workouts on a college soccer field next August, if not sooner. Tremblay, who has been an assistant with the Lancers since Griffin's freshman year, sees no problem with that timeline.

"I definitely see Erin playing on the next level," said the coach. "I don't think there is anyone who is more aggressive to the ball in Class L than Erin and I would put her desire to win against anyone in Class L as well."

And as far as dealing with adversity goes? Well, you would probably have to give the senior striker/assistant coach the nod there as well.

What is an ACL tear? A tear of the ACL occurs most often during sporting activities when an athlete suddenly pivots, causing excessive rotational forces on the ligament.

What are the signs of an ACL tear?
A sudden giving way of the knee often accompanied by hearing a "pop" at the time of the injury, sudden swelling of the knee joint and pain in the knee when walking.

What is the surgical procedure?
ACL reconstruction surgery is usually not performed until several weeks after the injury. The torn ligament must be entirely removed and a new ligament is created out of other healthy tissue.

What is the recovery time?
A recovering patient can expect to be on crutches for two to three weeks and the total recovery time for athletes returning to high-demand sports like soccer and basketball is seven months.

Source: Mayoclinic.com

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