The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is something many sports fans are familiar with. The ACL is one of four main ligaments in the knee. It is the smallest ligament of the four; however, it provides the most important function for athletes: stability.

It stabilizes the knee when athletes decide to cut or change direction, providing the main base for explosion in their movements. The impact the tiny ligament brings is immense.

Sports fans everywhere gain more and more knowledge every year in the anatomy of the knee just by watching sports. Many high-level athletes suffer from a torn ACL injury every year.

Athletes like Tom Brady, Derrick Rose and Alex Morgan all have torn their ACLs. Other athletes aren’t as “lucky,” as some have torn theirs multiple times, most notably Jamaal Charles, who tore his ACL for the second time this year. Also, in 2011, University of Connecticut’s Caroline Doty tore her ACL for a third time. ACL tears are more common in female athletes than male, almost three times as much.

Despite advancements in rehab and medicine allowing many athletes to be able to fully recover from an ACL tear, the combination of frequency and magnitude the injury contains makes it an athlete’s biggest fear.

Lauren Koehl, a redshirt junior on the Illinois State Univeristy soccer team, tore her ACL in a preseason practice her sophomore year, and even though it was a devastaing blow, she tried to stay upbeat.

“Like any injury, it’s really tough,” Koehl said. “I knew more and more people were coming back from ACLs, so I was really hoping for that. I was just trying to stay as positive as I could.” Koehl would miss the entire season, watching her team win a conference title and play in the NCAA tournament. She would have to rehab her knee to prepare for the upcoming season. “Rehab was a really tough process. Good, but tough,” Koehl said. “It was six months of intensive training, but it was definitely good for me.”

Koehl received a medical redshirt from the NCAA and would start her academic junior year as a redshirt sophomore on the field. During the 2014 season, Koehl played 22 games and recorded five points on the field. She contributed to a 16-6 Redbird team, which again won the Missouri Valley.

This year, Koehl has stepped up her game. A role change has boosted the St. Charles, Ill. native into the top scorer for the ’Birds and into a leader on the team.

“It’s surprising, I’ll be honest,” Koehl said. “I didn’t really expect it. I don’t think anyone really expected it. It’s new, but I like it, it’s fun.”

With the role change, formerly occupied by Rachel Tejada, who led ISU in points every season she played, Koehl has a team-leading 12 points through 15 games this year, including five goals.

“Rachel played my position before,” Koehl said. “So I’m sort of playing that role now where I’m supposed to score. I really like it.”

Koehl has enjoyed her time back on the field and has really embraced her new role on the team as a leader and scorer. She has made a big difference for the team offensively this season.

“She’s been really impactful in our attacks,” ISU head coach Eric Golz said. “She’s been very versatile for us. She’s dangerous all over the field. Lauren’s on a hot streak right now scoring goals. It’s helped her as an individual gain some confidence, and I think it resonates through the rest of the team.”

“Lauren is somebody who shows up and does the right things everyday,” Golz said. “She trains hard and trains well on a daily basis. She’s one of those people that leads by example and I expect her to keep doing that.”

Koehl and the Redbirds have three conference games left in the season. After the regular season wraps up, they will compete in the MVC tournament and possibly the NCAA tournament. The goal is obvious and has remained unchanged for Koehl and the ’Birds.

“We want to finish strong,” Koehl said. “Hopefully I can get as many goals as I can, but we want to win conference and get to the NCAAs.”

Joe Rodewald is a sophomore sports reporter at The Vidette. He can be reached by email at jrodew@ilstu.edu and found on Twitter @joerodewald7.

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