Attacking midfielder: Paige Wolny’s 18 goals and 10 assists helped Mercersburg Academy to an 11-5-1 record, which was a school record for wins in a
Attacking midfielder: Paige Wolny's 18 goals and 10 assists helped Mercersburg Academy to an 11-5-1 record, which was a school record for wins in a season. (Mercersburg Academy courtesy photo/Markell DeLoatch photo illustration)
A year ago at this time, Paige Wolny was right in the middle of a serious and productive rehabilitation for an ACL tear she had suffered in August.

The knee injury caused her to miss her entire junior season of soccer for the Mercersburg Academy girls team.

But all that hard work in rehab paid off - and paid off quickly. She was cleared to start playing again in February, which was a remarkable recovery, and Wolny used that extra time on the ball to come back for a strong senior season.

Wolny is the Public Opinion Girls Soccer Player of the Year.

"She was a special player this year and she reminded me of how much we'd missed her last year," Blue Storm coach Jason Bershatsky said.

Wolny scored 18 goals, which tied her with Katie Miller for the team lead, and added a team-high 10 assists. That production helped Mercersburg to an 11-5-1 record, which was a school record for wins in a season.

"We played really well this year," Wolny said. "Everybody worked hard. In other years, some players didn't really care about how we did in soccer, but this time we were cohesive as a team. We had a lot of fun on and off the field."

The ACL injury happened while playing for her club team in California, about two weeks before she was to come to Mercersburg for her junior season. But by late February, she was back playing indoors against some of the boys at the academy.

"It was hard to come back mentally, in terms of the extra work in rehab," Wolny said. "And I really missed not playing that season. But I was cleared about four months after the surgery. I wore a brace for a while, but I don't even think about it now. I wasn't nervous to get back on the field."

Her game certainly didn't show any nerves.

She scored two goals in the season opener against Jefferson, and in the Storm's first four games she had three goals and four assists.

Bershatsky said, "She played an attacking midfielder for us. While she's strong on defense, she had a lot of contributions on offense. She's a smart player. Her assists were usually on well-played passes.

"It's also nice to have a player who can finish, and her passes helped Katie finish, too. Paige is one of those players that if the game is tight, you want her to have the ball and to take the shot."

Wolny's best attribute is her ball skills, which, combined with her speed and experience, made for a good combination.

She said, "What my coach instilled in me growing up was to have good ball skills, so we did a lot of foot work drills."

Wolny knows that when she enters college play next season - hopefully playing for Division I St. Mary's (Calif.) - she'll need to improve in several areas.

"I need more work on my left foot, I have to play with more aggression and I have to be quicker with the ball," she said.

Bershatsky said, "Paige drew three penalty kicks this year. She's so strong on the ball that the other team almost had to foul her. She's also very athletic and she knows just the right time to turn on her speed."

Wolny's other attribute is mental strength.

"She's pretty quiet, but really competitive," Bershatsky said. "Soccer is really important to her. When we have a big game, you can see how much it means to her. And she sets a good example for the younger girls. They got a chance to see what a really good high school athlete should be."

Fortunately, she was at 100 percent health.

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Ed Gotwals can be reached at 262-4755 and egotwals@publicopinionnews.com.