The career of a high school athlete is finite.
There is no red shirting. There are no contract extensions. There are no negotiations for an extra year of eligibility.
Just four years.
Four years to make a playoff run.
Four years to play with the friends you grew up with.
Four years to work on your craft before being judged on whether or not you can play at the next level.
When one of those years is compromised due to an injury, it can be as much a mental tax as it is a physical one.
Cocalico senior Emily Zwiercan knows this feeling all too well.
Heading into her junior season, Zwiercan was one of the cornerstones to a talented Eagles' soccer squad that had aspirations of making a league and district playoff run.
Cocalico went 3-1-1 in their first five games before going on the road to take on Section Two heavyweight Elizabethtown.
In the second half of a 0-0 deadlock, Zwiercan made a move to strike a ball near midfield when her leg connected with the leg of an E-Town player, immediately sending her to the ground. Zwiercan was taken by ambulance to the hospital and Cocalico lost the match, 1-0.
"I knew it could be bad because while I was laying down, I couldn't feel anything in my leg initially. Then I rolled over and I was in a lot of pain," she said.
After an X-ray at the hospital, it was determined that Zwiercan suffered a complete fracture of her right leg.
"I was in a full leg cast for four months before getting a walking cast that I could crutch around on. After that, I could walk around and slowly work out a little bit."
Zwiercan missed the rest of the 2014 season and was relegated to watching her teammates from the bench for the remainder of the year.
The Eagles managed to finish the regular season at 9-5-3 and win their play-in game against Waynesboro before falling 2-0 to Lower Dauphin in the first round of the District 3 Class AAA playoffs.
"It was pretty hard to watch from the bench because I knew things would be a little different if I was playing; they needed help. A lot of people stepped up, which was amazing and the midfield was awesome but it (the injury) affected everyone else too, not just me. It affects the girls that were just getting the feel of playing with me in there and then it kind of threw them out of it because it's a whole new feel."
With the season over and her leg on the mend, Zwiercan began looking towards playing on her club team (Penn Legacy) to get back in soccer shape and return to the level she was at before her injury.
Unfortunately, the injury bug wasn't done biting her yet.
During a scrimmage in February, Zwiercan was on a breakaway when she was tripped from behind and felt a similar pain in her leg.
"The game was mostly to get my fitness back and try to get back in the groove of things but I got taken down from behind and I guess she hit me in the right spot."
The pain didn't keep Zwiercan from taking the penalty kick and attempting to play for another three weeks before an MRI revealed that her leg was fractured again.
"I did not want to be in a cast again. Luckily I was able to just be in the walking boot and eventually it healed enough that I could start walking on it again."
Cleared for contact this week, Zwiercan isn't letting her past injuries keep her from setting high goals for her senior season.
"You just have to stay determined. While I'm running sprints or doing drills, I keep telling myself that I'm going to come back ten times stronger and I'm hoping my teammates will help me get there. I'm not going to be where I was last year right away and I'll need motivation."
Zwiercan has committed to playing collegiately at Kutztown University but made it clear that she's completely focused on the 2015 high school season, which starts in a little over a month.
"I want to win. I want to go further than we went my freshman year, sophomore year and last year. I also want to make it fun for the girls as well. It's going to be physical, it's going to be intense and I'm excited."