On the soccer field, senior Vanessa Kara commands everyone’s attention as she effortlessly skips past the opposition with explosive movements and her electrifying pace. Ever since she was a young player, she had dreams of playing Division I collegiate soccer. However, her aspirations were nearly extinguished in her freshman year when she went down with an ACL tear. Resilient and determined to overcome this setback, Kara wasted no time feeling sorry for herself. She turned down that energy in the required rest and expelled it during grueling training which got her back to the field for her first college showcase in March of her sophomore year.
Kara took the field at Jefferson Cup that Spring of 2013 and began a scoring frenzy that college coaches couldn’t help but notice. Numerous colleges promptly expressed strong interest in her. However, her return was soon halted, when, in the semi-finals of the New Jersey State Cup, Kara was once again cut down, this time by the opposition’s goalkeeper, and forced out of the game. Later, she discovered she had torn the ACL in her other knee. The news ripped a hole through her heart and her Division I dream. Normally this would halt any further consideration of placement within a D-I college team, but not for Vanessa. She had overcome all the odds before, and with the grit and determination of a true athlete, and the unfaltering resolve that is unique to her, she once again began her return to the game she loves.
Amazingly, she had no sooner wiped away the tears from her second surgery when her phone started to ring. College offers began pouring in. When asked why colleges would sign a broken player like Kara, they could only respond that nothing could break her spirit. She had proven to the collegiate world that her skill and spirit to bounce back from adversity and her willingness to do whatever it takes to play her game were unstoppable. She returned once again to play for her club and even for her high school soccer team. With a hat trick, Kara led the Moorestown Friends Girls Soccer Team to win their first NJSIAA Non-Public B South championship in school history and beyond to their first State title match, in which they narrowly lost 1-0.
WordsWorth sat down with Kara to learn more about her story.
WordsWorth: What was the recruiting process like for you?
Vanessa Kara: The recruiting process was extremely stressful for me, considering I missed half of my sophomore recruiting season recovering from my first ACL injury. Once I played my first game in March, I had interest from a few schools. However, when I got hurt the second time, a little over two months after I was cleared, some schools backed off and told me to give up on going D-I. Going into my second surgery, I was very stressed out that I wouldn’t receive any offers.
WW: How many schools emailed/called/contacted you?
VK: Altogether there were about twelve to fifteen schools that expressed interest in me, and from those schools I picked seven to visit. After those visits I cut it down to my four top schools.
WW: What were the last four schools you considered?
VK: The last four schools I was interested in were Drexel, Lehigh, Rutgers, and St. Joe’s.
WW: How has this past high school soccer season impacted you as a player?
VK: This high school season impacted me because it reinforced to me that all heart, belief, and teamwork can produce incredible things. To get back on the field for MFS was especially important to me after my injuries, and I will carry the accomplishments of this season with me my next four years.
WW: How have your injuries impacted your relationship with soccer?
VK: My ACL recoveries impacted my view on soccer in a very big way. Before I got hurt I always knew I loved soccer but it was not until I was rehabbing, watching my teammates play, that I discovered how much I loved and wanted to pursue it. My experience helped me way more than it held me back because I started working a lot harder and gaining confidence. My recoveries showed me that I could overcome challenges and achieve my goals if I worked hard enough and believed in myself.
WW: Who is your favorite soccer player?
VK: Lionel Messi. I believe he is the best player of all time. His style cannot be matched. He has also overcome a lot of physical challenges which has inspired me to not give up when I was hurt.
WW: What was the highlight of your soccer career?
VK: The highlight of my career was winning the National Championship with my PDA team last July.
WW: Do you have any words to live by?
VK: “Two things will change your world, all heart and incredible self belief” – Jeremy Beardsley
Kara will continue her soccer career at Drexel University next fall.