The Odom-eter keeps ticking

After recovering from ACL surgery, senior leads Placer’s push for playoffs
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Laurel Odom takes her soccer seriously. So when she landed awkwardly on her right leg and heard a pop in her knee last April during a match against Lincoln, Odom quickly realized her plans for the next year would take a detour. “It was tough because in that game we had a chance to make the playoffs,” Odom said. “And then I was starting to think about club soccer and if I did want to play college soccer, that summer was my opportunity to get recruited. At that moment, I knew that was not going to be a possibility. Powder-puff football, basketball — all that stuff was over with.” Perhaps the only bright side to Odom’s torn anterior cruciate ligament was she had one more year to suit up for Placer High. After major surgery and months of work to strengthen the repaired knee, she is back close to 100 percent this spring and the senior is on a mission to wrap up her three-year varsity career by leading the Hillgals to the playoffs. Odom joined an unfortunately large group on that fateful evening last spring. She was one of nine athletes at Placer to suffer a major knee injury last year. More than half of those were girls, which backs studies that show female athletes are at least four times as likely to suffer ACL injuries as male athletes. Rehabilitation from ACL surgery is a long, sometimes grueling process, but Odom said it was a small price to pay to get back on the soccer field. “I spent the whole summer doing rehab, “she said. “After playing soccer my whole life I had reached a peak and then I had to start all over again.” Odom’s heroic return hasn’t had a storybook ending — yet. The Hillgals are in fourth place in the Pioneer Valley League with a 3-3 record. The top three finishers in the PVL will go to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. The season’s success has been tempered by some frustration. “Our team is so talented, it’s crazy,” Odom said. “To see us not reach our potential, it’s frustrating to watch. I’m trying to be a good captain and push everyone to where they need to be. I think if we can all get it together, we can definitely make the playoffs.” Odom’s sense of urgency is rubbing off on her teammates. “She pushes us the most out of anybody on the team,” junior stopper Brook Bendorf said. “She keeps us in line when we’re all goofing around. I know she really wants to win her senior year and we all want to help her do that.” A play-making forward, Odom has three goals and three assists this season. “She’s really good at controlling everything up front,” midfielder Laura Nash said. “She’s one of the hardest workers on the team and she’s our captain. It’s really cool that she came back so quickly.” Odom’s repaired knee is performing well, but she doesn’t feel like the same player she was one year ago. “I’m not as fast as I was before,” she said. “I didn’t play club soccer at all this year, but just playing high school soccer, it came back to me pretty naturally. I don’t feel like I’m as good as I was.” Odom’s dream of playing college soccer is still alive. She will attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo next fall, where she plans to study nutrition. She has an invitation to try out for a walk-on position on the team and said she’ll be involved with soccer at one level or another throughout college. Her long road back to playing the game she loves only deepened her belief that participation is key. An excellent student, Odom is also the senior class president. “I love to preach about involvement,” she said. With her one month left on the Placer soccer pitch, Odom plans on doing all she can to get the Hillgals back to the playoffs. She was a sophomore when Placer last made the playoffs. The Hillgals were eliminated in the first round. “We want to go to the playoffs and basically we want to get back and be a competitor in this league,” Odom said. “For me, it’s a big deal. We’re a young team so it’s hard to say, ‘This is your chance to do what you want to do.’ But we’re working on making (soccer) a priority.”