TURNER — Shannon O’Malley felt the pain and despair of suffering a season-ending knee injury twice in an eight-month span.

Leavitt’s senior striker wouldn’t care to relive the day she tore her left ACL, MCL, LCL and meniscus, or the day, 10 minutes into her first game back from surgery, she tore her right ACL. It’s even less likely that she would agree to change anything about those days if she could.

After all, if not for the injured knees, O’Malley might not have found another passion to match her love of soccer. And she wouldn’t have known the feeling of scoring her first two goals since her sophomore season to help the Hornets grab a 3-3 tie against Lincoln Academy last Friday. 

“It feels good to score again. It was just the happiest feeling because I’m, like, I’m back. I can do it,” she said. 

There isn’t a whole lot that O’Malley can’t do on a soccer field. She battled her way into the starting lineup as a freshman and scored 13 goals. Her speed and striker’s mentality of relentlessly pursuing the ball made her among the most feared scorers in the KVAC by her sophomore year

“She’s such a physically strong kid, there’s not a lot of fear of contact,” Leavitt coach Chris Cifelli said. “Even as a freshman, she would go up against some really strong kids and wouldn’t back off.”

“When she puts her mind to something, it usually comes to fruition,” Cifelli added.

The first knee injury that tested O’Malley’s resilience came near the end of her sophomore season, on senior night. Having watched her older brother, Conor, overcome a torn ACL to play football for Leavitt, she knew the moment she went down what had happened, and what it would take to come back.

Approaching her rehabilitation with the same dogged determination she demonstrated going after a soccer ball, O’Malley took six months to recover from surgery.

She returned for the first night of summer soccer the following July, and within first 10 minutes of the first game against St. Dom’s, she tore her other knee.

“It was discouraging, but the rest of the team really helped me push myself to get back. If I didn’t have all of the supportive people I had, it probably would have been a lot harder,” O’Malley said.

“Soccer is my passion, so I knew I would have to work hard to get back. I knew what worked and I just had to focus on working out every day and eating right and keeping myself in shape so I could come back and be what I was on the field before.”

Fortunately for O’Malley, she wasn’t done in by the monotony of more than a year on the sidelines. She helped out with the team wherever she could and she developed an understanding and appreciation for the science of rehabbing.

“I grew into really loving it. Working out became a passion of mine. I do it all the time now. It’s fun to me,” she said. 

“(The knee injuries) helped me become who I am today. If there’s any positive out of it, that’s it,” she said. “It showed me that I need to work hard. I can’t just run out and be good at soccer or anything else.”

O’Malley hopes to ultimately get her doctorate in physical therapy.

“I want to help people who go through the same thing I did because I know it’s hard to go through,” O’Malley said.

She also plans to pursue her passion for soccer. She’s been offered a roster spot at St. Joseph’s College and is also considering the University of Southern Maine.

O’Malley is grateful each time she gets to step on a soccer pitch, so she didn’t worry about whether her injuries had eroded any of her skills or made her rusty.

“I just wanted to have that positive mindset so I can play to my fullest potential. I don’t want to be hesitant on the field. I want to be that strong player out there and have my teammates depend on me,” she said. 

Even when she isn’t scoring goals, O’Malley still has a big impact on the game, Cifelli said.

“The big part of it is how contagious her work ethic is,” Cifelli said. “When she gets those multiple shots, you just feel that momentum shift and you feel a little more excited going forward.”

No one is more excited about going forward than O’Malley. 

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