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Nov. 14, 2007

As the South Carolina women’s soccer team gears up for its NCAA Tournament match with Duke, sat down with four members of the team that have had to watch the historic season from the sidelines as Carolina’s biggest cheerleaders. The self-proclaimed “Crip Crew” consists of junior Danila Monteiro, sophomore Aly Shattls and freshmen Maggie Blackwell and Jessica Thomas.

Monteiro began the season in the starting lineup, starting 18 of 19 games to contribute seven goals and three assists for 17 points. Her season ended two weeks ago after tying for second on the team in goals, third on the team in points and fifth in the SEC with three game-winning goals. Fans would most likely remember her for her bright yellow shoes – in honor of her home country Brazil – and two-goal effort against Winthrop on her 21st birthday this season.

Shattls, a 2006 SEC Academic Honor Roll recipient, has missed the entire season rehabbing an injury. Blackwell and Thomas, both South Carolina natives, have also missed their first seasons at Carolina with preseason injuries.

GamecocksOnline: What is/was your injury and when did you get it?

Maggie Blackwell: My injury was a broken tibia of the right leg. I got it in the last ten minutes of soccer camp. I had a rod and two screws put in.

Dani Monteiro: ACL and MCL tear (left knee) 10/31/07 Halloween practice day!!

Aly Shattls: I tore my ACL over the summer while I was practicing for a team out of Atlanta.

Jessica Thomas: I had arthroscopic surgery on my right knee for a possible MCL tear, and severe tendonitis. I got this injury during camp in July.

G.O.: How did you get it?

MB: I got it by being kicked.

DM: It happened at practice after I challenged the ball in the midfield. Nobody touched me, and when I jumped, I landed awkwardly on my left leg. I heard my knee pop and I remember that I just started crying because I was in so much pain and also because I knew that my season was over and by that time I knew that I couldn’t help the team the way I wanted!

AS: When I tore it, we were just warming up for practice. I did a step over and it tore.

JT: I got this injury during a game at camp, and I was just passing the ball back and then I turned around to make a run. Once I turned I just fell down. I knew right then I did something. I wasn’t sure what but I knew I did something.

G.O.: What was your practice routine like in the beginning of the season? (What did you do while the team practiced?)

MB: While the team was practicing at the beginning I had to work on getting my extension back as well as just building some basic skills. I also worked on abs.

DM: My practice was normal. I was pushing myself to get back from my meniscus surgery that I had in the spring, and also I was working hard to get a (starting position).

AS: I wasn’t allowed to run then so I would bike, do body weight squats, leg lifts, and walk around the field.

JT: While the team practiced I would do rehab on the sideline. That consisted of doing certain exercises (Athletic Trainer) Stephanie Rosehart would give me. I would walk back and forth a lot using different methods like pointing my toes in and out, walking backwards, and walking on my heals. I would also walk steps and work on my balancing.

G.O.: What’s do you do in practice now?

MB: Now that I can walk I get to walk up and down stairs. I work on balancing a lot as well as getting to volley back and forth while balancing on my bad leg.

DM: Physically I’m not there anymore, but mentally I’m still part of the team, supporting my teammates and also spiritually with them on the field.

AS: Now I get to run, play around with the ball, run steps, and even warm up with the team!! Yay!

JT: Today (Nov. 13) was actually the first day I got to actually participate. Very exciting!!! I got to run with the team at the beginning and do non -contact drills. However once they start contact drills I usually have to jog around the field, do some sprints, and then do some passing and ball work.

G.O.: What has it been like on you personally to sit out a year that the team has done so well in?

MB: It’s hard to have to sit out during a season that we have done so well in, but I must fulfill my role as a supportive teammate. I know now that my role is to cheer my team on and be there to do anything they may ask of me, and even though that is not the role I thought I would fill it is a fun and exciting one. I am part of the team so I am happy for our success and do not feel as if I have missed anything.

AS: It is hard for any athlete to sit out of a sport they love to play. I am so proud of the team. They have done very well this season, and I know there is much more to come!

JT: I am extremely happy the team has done so well this year, however it has been pretty tough to just sit on the sideline and watch. I know I contribute a lot on the bench by encouraging the team, but I still just wish I could be out there. It has honestly been mentally harder than anything. I have learned a lot though from this injury and not getting to play, so in a weird kind of way it has been kind of good for me because I have learned so much this year just sitting and watching.

G.O.: What’s your best memory from this season?

MB: My best memory thus far was when I actually got to walk and not crutch down to the field during the Winthrop game, and especially to be able to walk with the rest of the team to toast my school (during the alma mater).

DM: Scoring two goals on b-day and scoring against LSU (that was one of the best games that I played for USC).

AS: My best memory this season is beating UNC. I don’t think I will ever forget the feeling after we won that game.

JT: My best memory of this season would have to be just recently when the whole team met in the locker room to watch ESPN to see if we made it to the NCAA Tournament. Once it showed our name and we did it was the real first time I felt like we all united in a way. We all jumped around and screamed; it was one of the best feelings I have ever had.

G.O.: (Dani) You had a great season before coming down with your injury. After helping the team get so many big wins, what did you feel when all you could do was watch the end of the season and the SEC Tournament?

DM: I felt so happy when the coaches told me that I could travel with the team to the SEC Tournament. That wasn’t a hard decision to make in staying or traveling with them. I was so happy in being there and also supporting the coaches and teammates that I love. That was one of the challenges that I had to win, to watch the game from the sideline, being strong and not demonstrating for anybody my weakness. Of course I was sad, but at the same time I had a job to do, supporting the one’s that still can fight and take SC as far as we could make it.

G.O.: Have any of your teammates helped you through the process?

DM: Yeah…all them helped me a lot. They text me, call me and bring me a lot of support. (Ashley) Kirk, Dabba (Amanda Dabbenigno), Aly Shattls and Brooke (Jacobs) are the one’s that know what it is to go through the whole process of surgery and therapy, and I really appreciate my teammates being there fore me.

AS: Everyone has helped me with my injury. My roommates have been very supportive. Plus, there are about four other girls on the team who tore their ACL, so they have been through it and have helped me get through it.

JT: Other players have definitely helped me with my injury. It just so happens another freshman (Maggie Blackwell) got hurt around the exact same time as I did, which is terrible but also a little bit helpful just because we both knew how we felt. And we could really relate to each other with sitting out as incoming freshman.

G.O.: (Aly) You fought hard to rehab yourself. What drives you to work hard in practice despite not being able to participate?

AS: I think I like to work hard with my rehab because I love playing soccer, especially with the girls on our team.

G.O.: For the freshmen, do you feel like you missed out on anything by having to stay in Columbia while the team traveled?

MB: I don’t feel like I have missed out on anything because the girls fill me in on all that is missed. I feel like I have bonded with the team and that they think of me as a teammate even if I am not there. Trust me I am by “gametracker” when they are away listening to everything that is happening.

JT: Being an incoming freshman and not being able to travel as much has been hard but in a different way. I have at times been very frustrated at the fact I cannot travel because it gets lonely staying here and not being able to go physically with the team. I however have grown from this experience and understand that things happen whether good or bad and sometimes you just have to do what’s best for you and the team, and the fact I had to stay behind and do rehab in result helped me and the team as well.

G.O.: If you could have played in one game this year, which one would it have been and why?

MB: If I could have played in any game this year it would have been the UNC game. Yes, I am so happy for our team to beat the defending national champions but I would have also liked to have a part in that game more that supportive teammate. I would like to have seen how I personally compare to the players on the defending national champion team.

DM: For sure against Georgia in the semi-final of the SEC tournament. Why? Because they beat us before and I know that I could contribute with all of my heart and passion that I have for soccer to get Georgia back for the loss that we had in the (regular) season.

AS: I would have to say I would have loved to play in the UNC game because we made history with that game. It would have been an experience of a lifetime. However, even though I didn’t get to play I still felt a part of the win because the girls on the team really help me feel that even though I don’t get to play, I am still a part of the team.

JT: It would have definitely been our first game when we played UNC Chapel Hill. I say this game because first and for most it is Chapel Hill, and it would be amazing to be able to say I actually got to play against that team on that field and not only that but WIN!