Anger, frustration, pain.
Those were the range of emotions Erica Modena remembers feeling when she tore her fibula in just the third game of the 2014 season.
It was a major setback for the junior striker, who in the previous season tallied six goals in route to being named Second Team All-MAAC and All-MAAC Rookie Team.
But the injury has served as motivation for her, fueling her comeback and igniting a spectacular 2015 season that has already seen her surpass her career-high in goals.
“I just kept in my head, that I need to be better than I was,” Modena said. “I’m going to try to keep going. I’m not there yet, but hopefully I can be soon.”
If Modena considers seven goals in eight games “not there yet,” then the MAAC conference is in trouble, because Modena might just actually keep getting better.
In the first game of the year, she scored the lone goal for the Jaspers in a 1-0 home win against Vermont, and made it clear that the broken fibula would not prevent her from being the same player she was.
Just four games later, she notched her first career hat trick in a 3-0 win against Lafayette.
Through the first five games of the season, she already scored five goals. It was the kind of firepower the Jaspers were missing last season.
“It was really hard, but I tried helping my teammates off the field as best as I could,” Modena said about sitting out all but three games in 2014. “On the field, I really couldn’t do anything, but giving them motivation to keep going, that felt kind of good.”
Losing Modena early in the 2014 season forced head coach Brendan Lawler to play around with the lineup and often play people out of position.
For midfielder Lizzy Carlson, not having Modena on the team left the Jaspers with a huge hole to fill.
“When we lost Erica last year there was kind of a gap because we play how Erica plays, and when we lost her there was a huge gap on the team,” Carlson said. “I think having her come back has really made our team a lot more stronger.”
With a healthy Modena back, Lawler has been able to slide players back into their natural positions, which has benefited Carlson, who has scored two goals and tallied two assists.
But being able to play alongside her roommate and best friend in Modena, has also been a key factor in both Carlson’s and Modena’s success this season.
“I think being able to play with your best friend up top really makes the chemistry flow,” Carlson said. “I’ll run for her and she’ll run for me.”
Through Modena’s rehab process, which lasted several months, Carlson provided much advice, as she had already experienced the pain of having to sit out a year due to a torn ACL in high school.
But if there was one thing that Carlson, or anyone did not have to advise Modena on, it was how to stay motivated. Lawler knew that that was something Modena had within herself.
“Through the recruiting process you always want to find people who are self-driven, love the game, and have that intrinsic motivation to continue to be their best, so taking soccer away from Erica was the only motivation that she needed,” Lawler said. “I didn’t have to do anything else. It was just a matter of making sure that she was staying positive in her mind.”
The motivation to prove that she can still play at a high level has been paramount in Modena’s successful 2015 season, she admitted. But motivation alone is not enough to carry a player through a season.
During her time away from the field, Modena ate healthier, took care of her body better, and matured. She realized just how much she loved soccer and missed playing it.
She was able to get back for the spring season, where she played for the Massapequa Stars of the Long Island Junior League, but nothing compared to being able to play for the Jaspers again.
Modena will apply for a Medical Hardship Waiver from the NCAA, in hopes to regain an extra year of eligibility. There are several conditions that must be met for a student-athlete to be granted the Waiver, one being that the student-athlete must not have competed in more than 20 percent of his or her team’s games.
All signs point towards Modena receiving that extra year, but for now, it is something Modena will not worry about. She’s just glad to be playing again.
“It’s great to be back,” Modena said. “I’m excited. It was a hard time last year sitting around on the sidelines, but I think our team did good, and I’m excited to play this season.”