By Tim Smith
On September 4, the Cedarville women’s soccer team took the field against West Virginia Wesleyan for the second game of the season. Sophomore Sara Olivarez started the match in the midfield for Cedarville, and she was ready to play her best. But late in the second half, Olivarez went down.
The problem was not evident right away, but something was wrong with her right leg. The expectations were optimistic that she would probably miss only two or three weeks of action. But when the results came back Olivarez found out that she had torn the ACL in her knee.
Olivarez was surprised, but she’s familiar with this type of injury. She went through the same injury last year in her left knee. Soccer has taken its toll on Olivarez throughout her life, but the story starts much earlier than soccer at Cedarville University.
Living the Soccer Life
“I started playing soccer at a very young age,” Olivarez said. “It was something that I enjoyed and could do with my friends.”
But as Olivarez grew up, soccer became less of an enjoyable pastime and more of a necessary chore.
“My last three years of high school, my view shifted,” she said. “I didn’t really enjoy soccer. I felt like it was something that I had to do in order to go to college.”
At the end of her high school career, Olivarez tore her ACL on the soccer pitch. So going into her freshman year at college, she knew that it would consist of lots of rehab and watching the team from the sidelines. Looking back on her freshman year, and knowing that she would experience a similar situation this year, Olivarez recognized the lessons she learned and the trials she conquered that will set up her focus for the present.
“Soccer has often felt like what my life needed to be, in order to go to college and be successful,” she said. “But I have truly learned that soccer is more than just a game.”
Being sidelined for an entire year, Olivarez had to learn how she could still interact with the sport that she couldn’t physically play. One of those ways was using her time on the team as a way to witness to others.
“At the college level, you are put on a bigger platform,” she said. “After each of our games, we give notes to girls on the other team and just talk to them and witness to their lives. It was such an eye-opening experience, seeing that soccer can be a way to witness to others even when I’m not playing it.”
Support Through Christ, Community
As she came to this realization, it impacted not only how she interacted with others but also her own relationship with God.
“It was a big realization through this whole process that I just have to give it to God,” she said. “I have to trust Him above all things.”
As she focused on this, she relied on scripture to remind herself of this truth. For Olivarez, Psalm 13 stood out among the rest.
“Psalm 13 has been a big help for me through all of this,” she said. “I have to remember that I have to trust God in this life, but that the Lord also has something greater than I can ever imagine waiting for me in the next one. I need to depend on Him for strength. There is no way I can get there on my own. And that’s a lesson that has to carry over to when I’m healthy, just depending on him every day.”
Along with finding comfort in the scriptures, Olivarez has found overwhelming support in the community of Cedarville University and the soccer team.
“Thankfully, I had a lot of people there to support me,” she said. “Actually, our team manager from last year went through a very similar situation, and she was super supportive and helpful.”
Despite not being able to perform on the pitch, Olivarez said she still created lasting and meaningful relationships with her teammates.
“The community and the team have been huge support systems for me,” she said. “Obviously it’s not the ideal situation that I’m in, but the girls have been awesome through it all. I’m so thankful just for the love that they have shown me and the help that they have been through this trial.”
Making an Impact Where She Is
If you asked Olivarez in high school what her first two years of collegiate soccer would look like, she would not have dreamed that it entailed persevering through two ACL tears. But she still desires to make an impact in the role she has.
“For one, I need to be an encouragement on the team,” she said. “I know how hard it is to be on the sidelines when you want to be out there on the field, but I have to encourage my teammates where I am at and help them in that way.”
Along with being an encouragement to the team, Olivarez recognizes that, though she is not playing at the moment, she is still a team leader.
“I want to work hard and show others that, though I’m not on the field, I am working hard to get back,” she said. “I hope that they can see that and it will inspire them to work hard with the abilities they have to play right now and use their opportunities now.”
Ultimately, Olivarez wants to give all the glory to God. She wants to focus on spreading His name and truth through her present trials.
“I want to focus more on witnessing after the game when we talk to the other team,” she said. “I want to try and be more intentional and actually share the Gospel with them. I want to keep the right mindset through this trial and use it to point others towards Christ. When they look at me and think I’m strong and doing well, I can point them to Christ to show them that He is the reason why. I can be a door that people look through and see Jesus.”
These are her main goals for the season, but she does have one other wish for this year.
“A quick and speedy recovery,” she said with a smile.
Tim Smith is a sophomore biblical studies major and staff writer for Cedars. He loves football, 3 Musketeers candy and primarily speaking in movie quotes.