Brittany Arentz needed a few minutes to compose herself.
It was Senior Night for the Northeastern girls’ soccer team. For everyone involved with the program, it was an emotional event, but it hit a few of the players harder than others, with Arentz being one of them.
The Bobcats were remembering the life of teammate Abby Osborn, who would’ve been a senior on this year’s team had she not been killed in a hit-and-run car accident back in April. That is partly why Arentz was choked up.
Then there was the realization that Oct. 12 was her last assured home game. She was taking to the turf field at Northeastern one final time during a senior season in which she didn’t get to play a second of soccer.
“It’s definitely been very hard,” Arentz said, fighting to hold back more tears. “I kind of have to separate myself from the bench over here and make my own little chair for me and keep myself preoccupied during the game and cheer on the girls. So, it’s definitely been a new role for me.”
The injury: Less than three weeks before the start of the regular season, the Bobcats were taking part in the Five Angels Memorial Tournament, held by New Oxford to remember the lives of five former New Oxford soccer players who had died in a car crash.
In the team’s last game of the day, Arentz felt a pop in her right knee. It didn’t take a lot of thinking for her to fear the worse — a torn ACL.
Days later the diagnosis was confirmed. Arentz could be seen on the sidelines of Northeastern practices on crutches. She underwent surgery on Sept. 8, bringing her senior season — and Bobcat career — to an abrupt end.
For a Northeastern side that had the talent to make noise in the York-Adams League this season and do well in the postseason, Arentz was supposed to be the catalyst of it all. Through three seasons, she totaled 84 goals, steadily improving every season.
As a freshman in 2014, Arentz netted 21 goals, surpassing that with 28 as a sophomore. As a junior last season, she scored 35 times, earning her all-state recognition.
Cracking the 100-goal mark seemed like a sure thing, until it no longer was.
A new way to lead: A leader and a captain, Arentz was going to need to find a new way to make her presence felt and motivate her teammates. Instead of leading through her voice and actions on the field, she could be seen on the sidelines this fall, shouting out tactical adjustments and words of encouragement.
“She’s always seemed to be the communicator, so that’s one thing that can’t be taken away from her,” head coach Diana Collier said. “So, she’s still on the sidelines encouraging her teammates and picking out little things that she sees, just as we do as coaches.”
Fellow senior Amanda Bentz added that Arentz has always remained positive this season, which says a lot about her character as she goes through a difficult time in her soccer career.
Even without Arentz on the field this season, Northeastern carried on winning. The Bobcats finished third in Division I, qualifying for the league tournament and making a run to the tournament final, where they lost, 1-0, to Central York.
Northeastern will also take part in the District 3 Class 3-A playoffs, where it enters as the No. 9 seed and will face fellow Y-A foe Susquehannock on Monday, Oct. 23.
“I couldn’t be prouder of them,” Arentz said. “We’ve had a very hard year, obviously, so they’ve really picked themselves up and really brought the fight this year and I know every single girl out there wants to win as much as possible and it’s shown out there.”
Successful rehab: Since undergoing surgery in early September, Arentz has made significant progress in her rehabilitation. She goes to rehab three times a week and her numbers for bending and straightening her knee are very high.
In the coming weeks, she’ll get the OK to start running again, while sometime around the new year, she can start doing soccer activities. The final hurdle to clear will come in June or July, when she’ll be 100 percent cleared for full physical activity.
That’s good news because, after graduation, Arentz will go off to Kutztown University, where she’s committed to play soccer in college. The Golden Bears are one of the top NCAA Division II schools, currently ranked No. 2 in the Atlantic Region of Division II soccer with a 14-2 record.
The moment Arentz can step back on a field for a competitive game next fall will be a long time coming and one she can’t wait to happen.
But, for now, she’s had an entire year to learn something more about herself and her approach to soccer. It’s also given her a chance to reflect on a high school career that was already special, but had the potential to be even greater.
“Between my 84 goals and making all-state, like, I’ll obviously remember all that,” she said. “But, honestly, it’s playing with the girls out there. There’s no other group I’d rather play with than the eight other seniors and, obviously, we want Abby out there, but it’s hanging out with them all the time at practices and bus rides. I wouldn’t want to play with any other people.”
She didn’t get that chance this year, but for one moment on Senior Night.
In a special ceremony, both for her and Osborn, Arentz took the field for a game. She took the opening kickoff, passed it back to one of her teammates, picked up Osborn’s No. 20 jersey that was lying on the field in her unoccupied position and embraced her teammates in one final emotional moment on the rainy night.
When the final hug was given, Arentz walked off the field at Northeastern for the last time in a competitive game in her high school career.
—Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org.