Updated: Oct. 05, 2015 at 12:38 p.m.
In the second game of her senior season, out on the western seaboard against Cal State Fullerton, one of the Titan players fell on the leg of women’s soccer’s senior defender Brooke Bean. When it happened, Bean heard a noise she’d heard before.
“When I went to cut, my foot was planted and my knee kind of just popped,” said Bean.
Bean had torn her ACL, which she also did in her senior year of high school. An athlete who has torn an ACL is at increased risk to tear one again. The repaired ligament doesn’t retain the same flexibility, and the healthy opposite knee undergoes more stress.
So for the second time, the injury has come between Bean and a senior season. This time, sidelined while leading the team as a captain and watching her healthy teammates contend for a conference title she covets, she’s trying to keep her mind on the field and with the squad in every way she can.
“I had the surgery in high school, so the process isn’t new,” Bean said. “My teammates have been great and super supportive. I’m just trying to be as involved as possible in the whole soccer realm.”
Bean is now re-experiencing the recovery process during her senior campaign at GW. She will redshirt and be back next season as a graduate student. She was slated to be the anchor of the defense heading into 2015 after she appeared in 15 games last year, starting 12 of them at both midfield and defensive positions.
Through the first half of the season, Bean has been at every game despite her injury. As the team plays on without her, she glues her eyes to the playing field for 90 minutes each time the Colonials have a game.
On Thursday, when GW opened conference play against Saint Joseph’s, Bean huddled with the rest of team, bundled up in a black warm-up jacket to watch the game from the bench.
“She’s just a great human being, first off, and someone who is beloved on the team,” head coach Sarah Barnes said. “She’s someone that we look to for great performances but also for great leadership, so you feel awful for a kid in her senior year when that happens.”
She added, “Right now it’s about having other players on the team step up and fill the role. We have a very strong senior group that is very bought-in and hard-working. You can’t replace what Bean specifically brings, but I think she’s done a great job from the sidelines and trying to stay involved. It’s just in a different role now.”
Bean has already begun the transition in terms of the application of her leadership. Though she can no longer be a physical presence on the field, she maintains her character in the locker room and on the sidelines.
“It’s very important for me to help in any way I can, and I think it’s important for my mental state as well,” said Bean. “I’m there for all the video sessions, and it’s easier to see things or adjustments we need to make when I’m not on the field.”
GW’s defense has been its calling card thus far, just as it was last season. Several players on the back line, like junior Kate Elson, are new in their defensive positions and Bean has been active during every game, explaining spacing and matchups to her teammates and cheering like crazy.
One of the biggest changes that Bean’s injury has facilitated is the insertion of fellow senior Brooke Stoller into the center back role, with heavier minutes and a bigger leadership role coming along with that position.
“I think that Bean is a great player and obviously a great leader and captain. We’re all trying to step up and fill her role, but she’s still a great leader on the sidelines,” Stoller said. “Even before games, during games, after games, she’s talking to me and telling me what to do. She’s keeping me really clued in, so that’s been really helpful.”
Bean is a journalism and mass communication major, and had planned to apply to law school this year before she got injured. Once she did, though, she decided to take the redshirt route almost immediately.
The general timeframe for recovery is six months, though that can vary depending on the person’s progress. Bean had ACL surgery in late September and will now work on getting back up to strength before she can regain the stability and understanding of motion to be able to plant her foot and turn on a dime in a game situation.
Given Bean’s value to the defense and place on the team, it did not take long for her and the coaching staff to decide that a redshirt year was the right call.
“It’s something that we talked about right away,” Barnes said. “If it’s the worst case scenario, the truth of the matter is that [Bean] can still come back, and I think that’s going to be a real win for us next year.”
It has been Bean’s goal to win an A-10 championship, and the lost chance to compete for one this season is perhaps the biggest loss of all brought by her injury. But with a strong core of underclassmen, Bean is hopeful that the team will still be competitive enough next year for her to meet that goal.
In the meantime, Bean will be able to pick up enough credits to add a law and society minor to her degree. It’s a nice pick-me-up after working for months toward a season that would end up lost.
“I was really excited for this year: I worked really hard over the summer and thought I would have the chance to be very impactful,” Bean said. “I’m going to take that approach coming into next season as well. I know I have a long way to go.”
Josh Solomon contributed reporting.