By Ryan Kaczmarski
Lindsey Mikula knows that success does not always come easy. The Rocky River native has overcome injuries in both her high school and college careers to become a crucial part of Baldwin-Wallace College’s success in women’s soccer.
The two-year college letter winner has played soccer almost her whole life, starting when she just was three years old.
“It (playing soccer) was just for fun and something to do as a toddler,” Mikula said.
She started her career by playing in the recreational league at the Rocky River Recreation Center. She then started playing travel soccer in Rocky River when she was in second grade and stayed in the program through eighth grade. When she was in fifth grade she added playing premier soccer as well as travel soccer until she was in junior high.
“I would have to say that premier soccer was the most important youth soccer I played because premier soccer programs are a higher level than just playing travel soccer,” Mikula said. “It (premier soccer) also helped because when our fall soccer season ended, we would train and participate in leagues and tournaments.”
This brings us to her first injury. She strained her right anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her freshman year at Rocky River High School.
“I was very discouraged,” she said. “Coming into high school as a freshman, I really wanted to make the varsity team, and having a knee injury was a minor setback in my playing.”
This first injury had major repercussions on her style of play, as she would now be playing with a knee brace.
“I definitely changed my playing style because I wore a bulky brace that semi-restricted my abilities and the mobility of my knee,” Mikula said. “The physical therapy for this injury was almost every day right before practice, which helped me be able to play with the brace.”
She played two injury-free seasons for Rocky River until she tore her left ACL in her senior season.
“I was even more discouraged than before,” she said. “I knew this was my last season as a Rocky River Pirate, and I felt like I was letting my team down, because I was one of the captains.
“When I went to the doctor, I was told that I should have surgery but I was very stubborn and just asked for a brace so I could play,” Mikula added. “I did my physical therapy through the Cleveland Clinic in Westlake and was back in action in no time.”
After her senior season, she became more aware of what could happen to her if she did not have surgery to repair the torn ligament.
“I went to another doctor who performed surgery on my knee on Jan. 6, 2009,” she said. “I was told that the recovery would be six months with physical therapy (at University Hospitals in Westlake).
She said that her inspirations to keep playing soccer after the injuries were her friends, family and teammates.
“I loved my teammates and never wanted to let them down,” Mikula said. “They encouraged me to keep my head up and be strong. Also, my love for the game kept me working hard to become strong and healthy again.
“I would have to say that head coach Patrick Hopkins and former boys coach Patrick Gillespi really kept me motivated during my years at Rocky River High School,” she added. “They knew I was discouraged about my injuries and really helped me pull through the best that I could.”
She played four years of soccer at Rocky River and earned three varsity letters. As a sophomore, she was first team All-West Shore Conference and third team All-Greater Cleveland. As a junior, she was first team All-WSC and second team All-Greater Cleveland. In her senior year, she was a team captain and second team All-WSC and honorable mention All-Greater Cleveland. She finished her high school career with 18 goals and 16 assists. She was also a three-year honor role student, Pirate of the semester in 2008 and received the Patrick Burke award.
With her high school career over, she decided to attend B-W and continue playing soccer at the collegiate level. She decided on B-W so she could keep her focus on academics while still playing varsity sports.
“I did not want to go to a Division I or a Division II school because I did not want soccer to become a job,” Mikula said. “Division III was a perfect fit because we take soccer seriously and work hard but are able to focus more on classes.
“Being at B-W has honestly been an amazing experience, both as a student and an athlete,” she added. “B-W has an amazing academic program and the professors get to know you on a personal level, which can help a lot in the classroom.”
As a freshman in 2009, playing in college for the first time, she started for the Yellow Jackets at midfield for seven games before suffering yet another season-ending injury.
“I tore my right ACL as a freshman 10 games into the season, and I could not believe it,” Mikula said. “I was able to recover in nine months and was back on the field for my sophomore year and have been injury-free since then.
“My parents (Melvin and Mary Mikula) have been there for me through everything and they have supported me the entire way,” she added. “I appreciate them so much because they have helped me overcome my injuries and they come and support me at every game they can attend. I could not have done this without them.”
As a sophomore at B-W, she played in all 21 games and started 19. She took 32 shots, scored nine points with four goals and one assist and had two game-winners. This fall, she started all 20 games for the Yellow Jackets and took 16 shots and was credited with one assist. She has earned three varsity letters.
“I am proud to say that my experiences with the coaching staff and my teammates are unforgettable,” she said. “Baldwin-Wallace is a perfect school for me. I could not picture myself anywhere else.”
She plans on going into the business world after graduating and possibly becoming a coach or assistant coach for a soccer team.