When Mike McNeill tore his ACL in the second game of the season, the SF State men’s soccer team not only lost their starting goalkeeper, but also their captain. Little did the Gators know McNeill was just the start of a string of bad luck for players in that position.
McNeill, a kinesiology major who has been on the team for three years, tore his ACL and partially tore his meniscus in the second game of the season against University of Missouri-St. Louis. When McNeill went up to punch a ball out of goal, he landed with a straight leg and hyper-extended his right knee.
“This is a real blow. I was really looking forward to the season,” McNeill said. “This is the best team we’ve had and to not be a part of it is a real blow.”
McNeill is no stranger to injury. He picked up soccer at an early age in his hometown of Oakdale, Calif., and when he was nine years old had heart surgery. McNeill said by the time he had recovered he was out of shape but wanted to return to the soccer world, so his coaches stuck him in goal, which he came to love.
“(Goalie) is a stressful and contact position,” McNeill said. “But I like the responsibility of being that last man.”
Head athletic trainer Bryce Schussel said that a strained ACL, with surgery, takes anywhere from six to nine months to recover. Other injuries, such has a torn MCL, vary in recovery time from six months to a year.
With McNeill out for the season, the Gators turned to their two back-up goalies for assurance. Both Thomas Comer and Eric Scolman have been with the team for three years, but head coach Joe Hunter said they both had been on the sidelines a lot because McNeill was the starting goalkeeper.
In a twisted turn of events for the Gators, Comer took a blow to the head in practice two days after McNeill was injured. Comer was diagnosed with a concussion and was out for two weeks. Just days after Comer’s injury, Scolman went down in a game when he partially strained his meniscus.
“The other guys have had to step up,” Hunter said. “We’ve had these guys for about three years, and then boom! All of a sudden there’s three injuries in one week.”
Scolman calls his knee a “nagging injury,” but he has been the starting goalie for the past two weeks and was recently named California Collegiate Athletic Association athlete of the week. His impressive performance so far this season is what led to the honorary mention; Scolman has posted a 0.68 goals against average and has accumulated 29 saves, which has helped lead the Gators to their last three consecutive wins.