When Emily Haugen was 13 years old she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in one of her knees. Two years later, she tore the other.
ACL injuries are common in athletics. They’re also, depending on the severity of the injury, extremely painful and debilitating. More than anything, the type of injury that Haugen faced twice, as a young teen, put her through a gauntlet of rehabilitation and forced maturity that may have changed her life forever, and for the better.
That’s precisely why Haugen wouldn’t have had it any other way. Hindsight is 20-20, but after the senior year Haugen enjoyed with her teammates on Lambert’s soccer team, there’s no questioning her fate.
The Longhorns finished the season 20-3, with their third loss coming in the state championship game against Grayson. It was the farthest the team has ever gone in its youthful existence.
Haugen was a figurehead of that season, scoring 13 goals and offering 20 assists. From afar, you never would have guessed she had scars below both of her knees. The fleet-footed forward was constantly slipping past defenders, streaking down the sidelines and striking fear in opposing goal keepers.
“Emily exploded on the scene this year,” Lambert head coach Scott Luthart said. “She’s always had pace, she’s always been able to finish, but there was a confidence that just took off. The willingness to take on defenders one on one.”
Haugen believes her senior season was a culmination of habits that she didn’t learn on the soccer pitch, but rather in physical therapy.
“The physical therapy was eight months and I worked out every single day to get my knees strong enough to prevent more tears. Then my mom gave me an extra trainer. I never really worked out my muscles or anything before, so a lot of that stuff ended up helping me become a better athlete,” Haugen said.
Question: What does receiving the Forsyth County News Player of the Year award mean to you?
Haugen: “I feel like I wouldn’t have been able to get to this position without my coach or teammates, but it means a lot because it shows what I’ve done throughout my whole life is for something.”
Q: What was your senior season like, considering the success you all had?
Haugen: “It meant so much. At the beginning of the season we set eight goals. The first five were becoming close, like a family, maintaining grades, then getting county champion and then region champion and then making it past the first round of the playoffs. That was really big for us.
“Our last goal was to win a state title, even though we didn’t do it it meant so much to make it that far. Girls soccer doesn’t get that much attention generally, but as people saw we were doing well we had a lot of fans show up. There was so much support, and that was awesome to see.”
Q: What are your plans in college?
Haugen: “I’m going to the University of Georgia and want to focus on physical therapy. Since I was in therapy, I just liked seeing the feeling on people’s faces as they got better. I saw a lot of people go through what I went through. People come back and see their therapists. You have an impact in people’s lives.”
Q: So are you going to try to play for UGA’s club team?
Haugen: “Yes, I’ll try to play club. But I’m also looking forward to meeting new people and having a life not taken over by soccer. Just focusing on school and the social life instead of having events every single day, it’s going to be a lot different and I’m excited for that.”