Injuries can be a cruel reality check, as Sara Walker could tell anyone.
The senior defender’s descent from high school star to banged-up backup is proof the injury bug can hit at any time.
“I’ve had injuries and stuff that prevents me from playing,” Walker said. “Adversity has been there. You just try to deal with it.”
“Try” is the right word. Walker’s setbacks include a torn quad early last season, just as she appeared poised to break out.
And while Coach Brent Anderson has been dipping into the team’s considerable depth, that has not kept him from missing what she brings to the field.
“I love having her out there because she brings this great service out of the back line,” Anderson said. “She can pick out players on the run. She can open up the field with a great cross. She just opens up the attack for us.”
This season has been kinder to Walker. She’s played in 16 of the Wolverines’ 18 regular season games, though her 504 minutes played are less than half the time she logged in her tantalizing freshman campaign (1,095).
Anderson admitted that others stepping up while Walker was out have impeded her from regaining a prominent role.
“She struggled a little bit last year, came in with some injuries and had a hard time getting back into the lineup,” Anderson said.
It’s a steep enough fall to deter almost any college athlete. Just don’t look for any signs of bitterness from Walker herself. Rather than dwell on the playing time missed, the former Arizona standout values the memories made in her career at UVU.
“You can say you won this game by this much, but you won’t remember that in 10 years,” Walker said. “I just love how close my teammates are, how awesome we play together. With all the adversity that we do have together, we push through it.”
The adversity seems almost cruel compensation after a high school career that was as close to flawless as possible. At Catalina Foothills in Tucson, Walker didn’t lose a game her final three years, helping lead the Falcons to three straight state championships.
Her individual and team accomplishments had several other Utah colleges and BYU-Hawaii inquiring after her post-high school availability. She chose UVU.
“My parents had a rule that we had to leave Arizona,” Walker laughed. “I was planning [on] leaving anyway.”
The clincher was, as it was for many of her teammates, Coach Anderson. Walker cited Anderson’s ability to relate to his players and his encouraging, but realistic, expectations from each individual.
And while Anderson may have expected more time playing instead of rehabbing, he shares Walker’s positive outlook on a career that produced as much off the field as on it.
“Sara Walker is a great student athlete,” Anderson said. “She’s made a huge contribution to the program.”