Jessica Silva has had several shoulders to lean on during her long recovery.
After earning a starting midfielder spot as a Franklin College freshman during the 2014 preseason women’s soccer camp, Silva suffered a severe leg injury in the fourth game. Her teammates provided an immediate lift.
“If I didn’t have their support, I would still be down on myself,” the Center Grove High School graduate said. “They supported me in the hospital, supported me at my house after the injury. They are the most supportive group of girls I’ve ever encountered.
“Even their parents, everyone was supportive.”
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In an injury compared to Indiana Pacers forward Paul George’s, which had happened several weeks earlier, Silva dislocated her left ankle, tore deltoid ligaments in that ankle and broke her left fibula with 1:03 left in a 1-0 loss at DePauw on Sept. 17.
“I was going to take a shot; a girl came in on my left side while it was planted and just took the ankle out,” Silva said. “The dislocation caused the fibula to break.”
It took about a half-hour for the ambulance to arrive.
“Jess came in and surprised us with her work last fall and had been playing the vast majority of every match as a freshman in an integral and crucial part of the field,” Grizzlies coach Justin Sullivan said. “The team and the program rallied around Jess’ injury and didn’t lose a game after that until the (Heartland Collegiate Athletic) conference championship game.”
Often, the social media account for the team would read #SilvaStrong and Playing for Family. T-shirts were made sporting Silva’s name, her number last season and “Family.” The Grizzlies fell to 2-2 following Silva’s injury and finished 12-3-4, the best in the program’s history.
Silva gradually was cleared to do more and more this summer and got the green light to scrimmage in July. She is still being limited by the training staff in how many minutes she can play to ease her back into shape.
“She’s been busting her butt to get back to full fitness by the season,” said Sullivan, whose team starts preseason camp Aug. 19. “She was able to sprint this summer, which I was able to watch once or twice with our athletic training staff.”
Silva said she drew inspiration from George’s recovery in time to see action late in the season for the Pacers.
“Then I was kind of bummed he was back earlier than me,” Silva said. “Then I realized his (injury) was a little different, and he’s a professional athlete. I realized I just had to be patient.”
When Silva has played in pickup games with her teammates, Sullivan has heard rave reviews on how she is playing.
“I know there is some hesitancy with her being able to get in on a tackle on the left side of her body,” Sullivan said. “That’s just a mental hurdle she is going to have to overcome.”
Silva said she is concerned how she will play when she returns to action.
“Physically, I’m pretty much there,” she said. “Mentally when I go in for a tackle or some kind of contact, I kind of back down a little. For me, I may not be the most skilled on the field and have the same skills I did, I truly believe I will always want to be the hardest working player on the field. That’s something I control.”
That aggressive style earned her a starting spot. Silva scored two goals in the first four games.
“Jess works hard to win,” Sullivan said. “She would go through people in the tackle to have success or better our chance to win. Getting that back in her game is going to be necessary for us to reach her goals and Jess to reach her goals.”
Name: Jessica Silva
High school: Center Grove
Honors: Earned academic all-state soccer honorable mention as a Center Grove senior
College major: Biology with minor in Spanish. She is interested in pursuing a career as emergency room doctor.
Favorite class: “I like biology and the labs that come with it.”
Favorite vacation spot: “Anywhere that involves a beach, so Florida.”
Favorite musician: Luke Bryan
Favorite TV show: “Gilmore Girls”