On January 22, five thousand miles from home, Alexa Hoover collapsed.
She had a 2-on-1 opportunity — a chance for an easy goal.
With the opposing goalkeeper bearing down on her, Hoover attempted to maneuver around the threat.
She planted, and then shifted left.
Something felt off.
Hoover took another step; her knee wobbled.
A sudden wave of pain rushed through her body, forcing her to pass to a teammate to finish the scoring attempt.
Her knee throbbing as she lay on the turf. Trepidation starts to set in.
"' Oh my gosh,' she thought, "' this better not be me.''
* * *
Ask Alexa Hoover and she'll say that field hockey is her life, yet studies remain the main focal point.
An honors student at Methacton High School, Hoover has taken a liking to the sciences — recalling an anatomy class she had taken in which she had done better than most of her older peers.
Her perseverance has landed her a spot at the University of Pennsylvania —the first choice of four Ivy League schools she wanted to attend.
Failure is not a word In Hoover's vocabulary. For the last 17 years, success has become the gold standard for her. With every trial looming around her, she has put forth her motto of "trying her best to be the best.'
She admires her parents, yet is admired herself. Her youngest sister Olivia has followed in her footsteps in field hockey, and as a person. Mentoring her sister in her front yard, where her father had built a net to practice on, Hoover has tried to instill that success takes time; skill alone will not help you; they must be fine-tuned and sharpened over time.
"Alexa has always been a good kid, a hardworking kid both in school and on the field,' her father Rick Hoover said.
At the age of four, Hoover's path to field hockey was by coincidence — a Plan B to get herself involved in the realm of athletics.
For Hoover, soccer became the ideal sport to play as a child. What child hasn't played it?
However, traveling to the local Audobon YMCA with her parents, her eyes weren't the only ones that saw the sport enticing. The spots filled up, leaving the young Hoover forced to try something new.
Field hockey presented itself as a quick alternative for the youngster. Her parents forgone the soccer route, letting Hoover become a fledgling field hockey player.
"I thought I was good for a little kid,' she said.
She looks back at her middle school days with indifference as the shoddy grass fields, filled with divots and valleys, plagued the game. Her talent level was heads and tails above the rest — she had been one of the only ones who had been in the game for years. Her ignorance to the game was deleted; she yearned for a better chance to compete.
The middle school season wasn't enough for the young Hoover. She took to indoor for the Limerick Vipers in the sixth grade, and when the going got tough, her parents where there to guide her through.
* * *
Hoover's knee started to swell. She sat there, waiting for her teammates to come to her aid. Her tournament, in Hamburg, Germany, came to an abrupt end — and a question mark loomed large over her future and her senior season at Methacton.
She was carried off the field. She had hoped that nothing to this magnitude would happen to her. The injury was a jarring uppercut to a career that had been predicated on dedication and maximum effort.
She knew how all of the players she had played against that suffered the same fate had now become a striking similarity to her own trial.
Her coach came over and asked Hoover whether she wanted her to call her mom. Hoover declined.
"I don't know if I can not break down crying,' she said.
It would be her coach's duty to relay the news for the emotion that had built up was too much to bear.
* * *
In eighth grade, playing for the futures national field hockey U-14 team in regional play, Roxanne Hoover wanted her daughter to stand out from the rest. With all of these talented players surrounding her daughter, how could more attention be drawn to the rising star?
Roxanne Hoover and Alexa's solution was simple — a fluorescent neon green headband would surely make her stand out. The headband, bold and vivid in its traffic vest green color would become her trademark.
As a freshman at Methacton High School, Alexa was thrown into the fray early. Anxiety replaced the security that she had throughout her years on club teams and her years at the YMCA. Her level of play was high-quality, yes, but could it compare to the level of competition she would face in a stiff PAC-10 slate?
"I say my heart was beating really fast,' Alexa recalls. "I can't believe this is really happening, starting varsity as a freshman.'
Starting every game that year, Hoover displayed early signs of her scoring touch, netting 12 goals in her first campaign. Playing of a slew of future college talent — Kelly Kruk, Asia Crawford, Lexi Tasca to name a few — the Warriors edged Phoenixville to set a date with Owen J. Roberts in the PAC-10 final.
The final didn't go in Methacton's favor — a 1-0 loss to the Wildcats — and brought a bitter end to her freshman campaign.
Her sophomore year became a rebuilding season. Despite Hoover added to her stat sheet with 21 goals, Methacton finished fourth in the Liberty Division at 7-5-1, which also marked the last season that head coach Jill Palmer would pace the sidelines for the Warriors.
* * *
"It was devastating news to find out that she tore her ACL,' Methacton head coach Sarah Quintois recalls from that January evening.
Quintois, who joined the Warriors' coaching staff in 2012, had seen Hoover and the Warriors finish at 6-6-1 in the Liberty Division that year — a slight decline from the last, yet it held extreme promise.
Hoover had emerged as the team's primary scoring threat, scoring 34 goals, while also becoming the voice of the program.
"Alexa is a great leader, she is very motivated,' Quintois said. "I think she inspires other players to play at a higher level.'
So when Quintois had learned about Hoover's injury, she was adamant that she could overcome it.
"I knew if anyone could recover from an injury such as that, it would be Alexa,' Quintois said.
Quintois' assertion would be answered.
Hoover would remain in Germany with her team for two days after her injury. Flown back to the United States with her team two days later, Hoover's wheelchair turned the corner where she met face-to-face with her mother for the first time. Tears welled up as both fought back the urge to let them cascade down their cheeks.
"It was hard,' Alexa Hoover said.
Hoover was taken to Childrens' Hospital of Philadelphia; however, a full ER sent them traveling to another hospital where she was told that her knee was too swollen to have an MRI.
Days passed before Hoover could get her MRI — the results of it were expected. Her ACL was torn in half while also partially tearing her meniscus.
Placed under the care of Dr. Michael Ciccotti of the Rothman Institute, Hoover's surgery and rehabilitation would confirm Quintois' beliefs in the athlete's never-quit demeanor.
Ciccotti had Hoover on a regimen of two weeks of physical therapy before the surgery to boost recovery time. His method proved vital as, despite the tear, had full mobility of her knee before surgery.
Following the surgery Hoover was asked to go to physical therapy three times a week — she went four. Healing quicker than expected, Hoover was put into a brace and told to start weight training to build the muscles around her knee back up.
Hoover heeded her doctor's word. She continued going to therapy once a week, but started her weight-training regimen. The process was strenuous — her resolve however, was inspirational. With adversity staring directly into her eyes, Hoover wanted her career back.
"I want this back, I want it back to normal.'
* * *
Francis Scott Fitzgerald puts it simply in his book "The Great Gatsby'; "Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.'
This fall, Hoover starts again. Her knee is back to normal — maybe even better than it was before.
Hoover's jet-black brace clashes with the green shorts and shirt she has donned — her neon green headband radiant in the landscape of the Pope John Paul II campus during the Warriors Sept. 23 clash with the Golden Panthers.
Hoover plants and stutter-steps to the right, avoiding an on-coming collision with the goalie before stuffing home the first of her four goals on the day — a familiar sight among many, unfamiliar with the ones who don't know how much she overcame to get back to the position she's in now.
"She did everything and more to train and overcome any obstacle,' Quintois said. "She was working ahead of the schedule that her doctors had for her. She really just pushed herself beyond what was expected of her to recover from this injury and be ready for this season.'
The injury is a distant memory these days.
The Warriors are in a fight to claim the No. 2 seed in the Liberty division and return to the prominence they had when Hoover was a wide-eyed freshman — a student of the game who didn't yet know the overtime rules at the varsity level.
Alexa Hoover had adversity tear her down, but she's built herself back up.
"She's a fighter,' Quintoinis said. "She's a competitor. She wants to win.'
And winning a grueling battle to return to top-notch form is just the start for Hoover.