Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

October 21, 2013

Kari Simon leads CU soccer charge

Concord sophomore among league leaders in goals

ATHENS — Kari Simon of the Concord University women’s soccer team is tied for second place in the new Mountain East Conference in scoring, with eight goals in 15 games.

Not bad for someone still visiting the athletic training room multiple times a week to rehabilitate a knee that was operated on less than a year ago.

“I’m not at full strength yet,” she said. “Sometimes I feel like that hinders me in a game, that I should have maybe scored, and I haven’t.”

At the end of a dynamic freshman season in which she also scored eight goals, Simon was competing in a conference tournament match when she got caught among a bunch of players and tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her knee.

“It happened so fast,” she recalled. “I tore it on November first, but it was in our second round of conference (tournament play) last year, so I only had to miss one game — which was unfortunate, but at the same time, at least it was at the end of the season.”

“I had surgery over Thanks-giving break, so I rehabbed at home over Christmas break. Then I came back here, the first of the year, and I rehabbed almost every day, here in the training room.”

She said the repetitive exercises were “very tedi-ous, and hard. And now, I still have to go to the training room two or three times a week, just to maintain strength, gain full motion, and keep up with everything.”

But, she added, “I feel fine. I notice I lost a little bit of speed and range of motion, but it’ll all come back soon. Confidence? Being afraid to go into tackles? Sometimes it scares me, because I don’t want to be hurt again, but I think it’ll all be fine.”

On Saturday, just before halftime in a match with Wheeling Jesuit, she scored Concord’s only goal in a 1-1 tie that kept the Lady Lions’ playoff hopes for this season alive. She took 13 shots, nine on goal, spread across regular time and the two overtimes.

Concord (5-7-2, 3-6-2 MEC) has three more regular-season matches, all at home, starting with an outing against Urbana (Ohio) at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Though she leads her team in points, she is quick to point out that soccer is not a one-person show.

“It starts with everyone, including the defense working the ball up to the midfield, and then the midfield working the ball up to the forwards,” she said. “Playing as a team and possessing the ball has a really big impact on how our goals are scored.”

“Our coach puts a big emphasis on going to the end line and then crossing the ball in, so I like to dribble to the end line, and then either play the ball in, or have one of my teammates dribble to the end line and cross the ball to me — either way.”

She said that head coach Stefani Workman helps the team mentally as well as strategically.

“She knows individually, how to motivate us really well,” Simon said. “She is very positive to our team. She knows what to say if something isn’t going your way in the game — or if you need to step it up.”

As a freshman, Simon was an unknown factor to several opposing coaches. This year, that has changed, and Workman gave her some advice about adapting.

Simon said, “I have a cutback move that I do, and at one point Coach told me that I need to come up with another one, because teams know that I’m going to do that, so I can’t do that on everybody to get around them.”

In her first collegiate match last year, Simon scored the only goal in another 1-1 tie.

“It was so exciting,” she said. “I had always, my whole life, wanted to play in college, and I never knew if I would actually get the chance. And then, when I got the chance, and came here to Concord, and then scoring — it was just like a dream.”

She went on to start 17 of 18 matches in 2012, and wound up fourth in the West Virginia Conference in points (19) and goals.

That being said, collegiate soccer was “a huge surprise,” she said, compared to her stellar scholastic career for Par-kersburg South High School, and as a member of the U-19 state champion WV Chaos travel soccer team.

She said, “In high school, my junior and senior year, I had, like, 28 goals each year. I kind of had that mindset, like I was going to come in and be able to score like 20 goals like it was nothing.”

“The first game I played in, I was shocked. It was a whole ’nother level. It takes a lot of confidence-building, coming off scoring a lot of goals in high school and being able to run past people.

“Here, in college, everybody is at a high level. Everybody is good. So it’s not easy just to run around people.”

In the middle of this season, she went through a seven-game stretch in which she netted just one goal. She broke out of that in a big way on Oct. 9 with three goals on nine shots against Shepherd University.

“I was tired of not scoring, and I think that motivation from my coach helped a lot. So I just set my mind to it and said nobody’s going to stop me,” she said.

“I had two goals at halftime and she (Workman) told me that I had to get another one, that it was unacceptable if I didn’t. So I said, ‘OK.’ ”

Now, she is looking forward to Concord’s chances in the Mountain East tournament, if the team can claim a playoff spot.

“I think that we have so much potential, and we know how to use it,” she said. “We just need to keep it every single game, and not just be an ‘all-star’ for, like, the Shepherd game. We need to play like that every single game, and know that if we don’t, it’s unacceptable.”

“We need chemistry because if every person is not connecting and working together as a team, then nothing is going to be accomplished.”

In the meantime, she relishes the idea of playing those final important regular-season games in front of the home crowd at Anderson Field in Athens.

She said, “It’s awesome to know that our student body and parents come to support us and to cheer us on. It feels great to have peers coming out and supporting you.”

— Contact Tom Bone at

tbone@bdtonline.com

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