Conventional wisdom says it takes a year for athletes to recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Mikenna Ray, a defender for Albion College in women's soccer, didn't have a year after suffering her inury in September of her junior season.
With only her senior year left, Ray had unfinished business.
"It was the most devastating thing I've ever had to hear," Ray recalled about the moment the doctor gave her the diagnosis that led to surgery Oct. 18. "Because (a torn ACL) is every athlete's worst nightmare. Tearing the ACL is a hard recovery, but I didn't have another season.
"It was the first season-ending injury I've ever had," she added. "Mentally, it was hard to come to terms with it at first because I didn't know what it felt like to sit out for a season. To be on the sideline and watching everyone play.
"My mom has always pushed us to do more athletics – it's the lifestyle we grew up in," Ray continued, noting she has four siblings, including a sister, Mikaela, '18, who played soccer for the Britons. "We never have a season off. The Ray family has this toughness. We don't like to settle and we don't like to let things get in our way."
Albion's 2017 squad believed it could compete against the best in the region after taking down an Ohio Northern University side that went on to win the Ohio Athletic Conference championship, 4-0, in the opening match of the season. However, injuries to Ray and Jenna Urso, an all-Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association forward, and waiting for Samantha LaRocca to trust her ACL a year removed from surgery derailed many of the goals Albion had set for the season.
A disappointing season, combined with the difficulty to perform normal daily activities like doing homework and sleeping, took its toll on Ray emotionally.
"The rehab process was the hardest thing," she said. "There were days I would crutch into the athletic training room and cry to (then assistant athletic trainer) Casey Donovan. The first month of rehab I was trying to get range of motion back and trying to sleep because it was difficult to find a comfortable position."
Ray found comfort knowing she had teammates who had comeback from ACL injuries and receiving motivational text messages from teammate Riley Burnette.
Motivated by being ready to participate in the Britons' non-traditional training sessions in the spring, Ray was cleared for straight running in January.
"I was limited to non-contact play with some agility, but I would run around the (perimeter of the) field," Ray said about her activity in the spring.
The final mental hurdle Ray had to clear came in the first month of the season when she was frustrated at the prospect of not playing up to her ability. It was not until a set of non-conference matches in mid-September before Ray believed she was back.
"There was a slow progression of feeling more like myself, more in shape and playing the way I used to," Ray said. "I was on the attack. I was not hesitant for headers and making tackles. I never once thought about the knee."
With Ray and fellow senior Alyssa Brooks on the back line and senior Megan Bricely as the goalkeeper, Albion's defense was among the best in the MIAA. The Britons allowed just 11 goals in eight matches against MIAA rivals.
Albion achieved a 4-3-1 record against MIAA rivals and advanced to the semifinal round of the league tournament and Ray was singled out for an all-MIAA second team award.
"(Being told of my all-MIAA selection) was the best news I could have received," Ray said. "It was a sign that I made a difference. I made an impact on the game, and that's all an athlete can ask for."
Follow Albion women's soccer on Twitter (@AlbionWSoccer) and Instagram (albionwomenssoccer)