Resilience in the face of disappointment

Injury may have cut short senior Michael Alverson’s sensational soccer season, but it hasn’t diminished his spirit, his positive outlook or his commitment to his team


Dave Winter

Michael Alverson celebrates with teammates Silvio Guzman and Dash Levy after they clinched first place in the district with their 2-1 victory over the Anderson Trojans on March 12.

Thomas Melina Raab, sports editor

It’s a routine play. The ball’s in his sight. It’s simple — get there first and win it from the defender. That was the plan. He’d done it thousands of times before. He got there first. He won the 50-50 against the defender. He made another move towards the ball.

And then there was a pop. A jolt of pain. A rush of adrenaline and emotion. He felt the ground sweep out from beneath him as he fell to the ground.

There was a pop. A jolt of pain. A rush of adrenaline and emotion. He felt the ground sweep out from beneath him as he fell to the ground.”

He laid there alone surrounded by a field of green. The dark night sky above him encapsulated his view, with only the bright stadium lights shining down onto his motionless body.

As he looked up, wincing in pain, he saw the trainers rushing over to him. There was only one thought going through his head.

“Am I OK? Am I just making this up in my head?”

This couldn’t be real. He was in a dream, there was no way the pain he was feeling was real. He closed his eyes, but when he reopened them, the trainers were still there. The night sky above him seemed like an endless, dark void pouring down freezing rain. The pain hadn’t gone away.

But maybe he’d be OK. It didn’t hurt that bad. He couldn’t manage any movement out of his leg, but maybe he just tweaked something. 

That hope survived until he tried to get up. Any ounce of weight he tried to put under his leg, it just gave out. No amount of strength could be mustered from his muscles.

Scared and in pain, he yielded to the trainers who lifted him off the field and carried him toward the bench. As he took a seat on the cold, hard bench, he began to reflect. Reflect on what had just happened, reflect on what was to come, reflect on the ongoing game playing out in front of him. 

“Is it over? Is this it?”

There was nothing else to think about. All he could think about was the rest of the season. It had been so promising so far. Second place, firmly in the playoff hunt. It was going so well. Was this where it came to an end?

Senior Michael Alverson advances the ball by outflanking a Bowie defender during the Knights’ 2-1 loss in non-district play. Alverson set up sophomore Dash Levy with a beautiful pass that Levy converted into an early 1-0 lead, four minutes into the first half. (Naomi Di-Capua)

He sat there, reminiscing in the freezing cold. His mind filled with thoughts of the season ahead. That was all broken when he heard the trainer speak.

“It’s probably ligament damage.”

Those four words hit senior soccer team captain Michael Alverson in the face like a 10-pound weight. He couldn’t help it. He broke down in tears. That was his season. That was his life. Gone. He wouldn’t be able to compete as a high school soccer player ever again.

Michael was sent home as the game continued without him. When the final whistle blew, the Knights had taken the victory. With a 2-1 win against the talented Raiders team sitting right behind them in third place, they had lengthened the distance between them and the district foes who were chasing them in the standings.

When the final whistle sounded, the team had a reason to celebrate. And as they did so, thinking about the game they just played. But their leading scorer and one of their most vocal teammates wasn’t there with them. He was at home with an injury that would keep him off the field for what may as well have been an eternity.

Four words from the trainer hit senior soccer team captain Michael Alverson in the face like a 10-pound weight: ‘It’s probably ligament damage.’ He couldn’t help it. He broke down in tears.”

For the team, it was a step in the right direction. A step towards the playoffs, towards more wins and more celebrations. But Michael couldn’t make that step, he was stuck. There was nothing left for him to do. He knew his season was done.

The MRI was scheduled for the next day, and the results would make a world of difference. But Michael knew he didn’t have a hand in that difference. All he could do was hope for the lesser of the two outcomes looming over him.

He already knew his MCL was torn, but that could be it. That could be all that was wrong with his leg. That would be just six weeks of recovery. Six weeks and he would be back on his feet.

But there was one other option that was far scarier for him to contemplate: an ACL tear.

One of the more common drastic injuries in sports, it would devastate him. Six months was the recovery time. It was all he could think about as he was helped onto the table in the MRI room. It was all he could think about as he slowly moved into the mouth of the buzzing, whirring machine that would decide his fate.

As scared as Michael was to learn the decision that loud machine would make the next day, he was ready. He had already come to terms with the ending of his season. He’s never been the kind of guy to let things affect him too much. This time wouldn’t be any different.

When he got home from school the next day, he was already prepared for what was to come next. His sister was there, waiting for him, with the worst news she could have possibly given him.

“It’s your ACL.”

But somehow, Michael was OK hearing that. He had been ready to hear it. He knew that the next six months of his life would be spent recovering from this injury, and he knew that he would never compete on the soccer pitch again as a member of the McCallum Knights.

An emotional Michael Alverson embraces teammate Dash Levy after the final regular season game against Anderson. In Alverson’s absence, Levy stepped up and was a huge part of the team’s late season success. (Dave Winter)

He was ready for what was to come. He knew he had to stay tough among hard times, that he couldn’t let this put a damper on his ever cheerful demeanor.

In the weeks since the incident, the team had missed him greatly. Their leading goal scorer was missing, and it had shown. They’d tied games they felt like they should’ve won, and won games by a smaller margin than expected.

But in the five games since Michael’s departure from the team, they’ve still managed to go 4-0-1. They struggled a little bit in many of those games, but in most, they ended up with another mark in the win column.

But those five games were a prelude to the game that mattered most. In the team’s final game of the regular season, they visit their crosstown rivals, the first-place Anderson Trojans. No game thus far had bigger playoff implications. Not only was it winner-take-all between the two teams atop the district standings, but it was a rematch of a tense 80-minute match with heated words exchanged between fans and players alike.

He was ready for what was to come. He knew he had to stay tough among hard times, that he couldn’t let this put a damper on his ever cheerful demeanor.”

The Knights lost that first meeting between the two teams 4-2, but they had kept their heads high, looking forward to the rematch with confidence. Without one of their best players though, that confidence was less certain. But it seemed fate decided to offer them an equalizer when the Trojans had to sit one of their better players after he received a red card in the previous game. The news of the suspension helped the team restore its high expectations. 

Those expectations were realized when the Knights emerged victorious in a tight 2-1 matchup. The long season had all paid off; the district crown was theirs.

The bench, the players on the field, the fans in the stands—everyone exploded in joy, cheering in victory. Michael was standing there, watching as the scene around him unfolded. 

As everyone cheered, his eyes began to water. What he was experiencing was so bittersweet. He desperately wanted to be out there as king of the district, but he couldn’t be happier to see his team celebrating, knowing that their hard work had paid off.

Just as he had three weeks prior, sitting on the bench after he went down, tears once again formed in his eyes. These weren’t the same tears though. The first tears were desperate. These were happy, proud tears. He still wished he was out there, but he couldn’t help feeling overjoyed to be a part of something so special.

Fast forward to Tuesday: Michael just had his surgery. It was the first time he’d ever gone under the knife, but he wasn’t scared. He’s ready. Ready to start the real road to recovery. Ready to be one huge step closer to getting back on the pitch.

These weren’t the same tears though. These were happy, proud tears. He still wished he was out there, but he couldn’t help feeling overjoyed to be a part of something so special.”

Michael misses the way it was before. He misses running, tennis, volleyball; he misses just walking normally.

Above all, he misses soccer. He misses running after the ball, sprinting down the sideline. He misses what it felt like to be on one of the best Knight teams in school history.

But through it all, he’s been tough. He’s been resilient. Every day, he’s come to school and put smiles on other people’s faces, just like he had before it all happened.

Tonight, the team has their first round playoff game against the Wolves. Last year, they lost 4-0 at those same hands to end their season. They’ll be trying to come back from that loss, but this year they’ve been wildly more successful thus far.

As they attempt to avenge that season-ending loss, Michael is at home attempting a comeback of his own. As the players take the field tonight, he’ll be laying in bed, recovering from surgery.

He may be missing on the pitch, but his teammates know he’s really there with them in spirit even if he isn’t there in person.