The time of her life
by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor
Photos: Jeffrey T Barnes, Sports Union
As an athlete you never know when your career might end. You could have a 20 year career or it could be done in a blink of an eye. That’s why you try and cherish the moments like it could your last.
For former University at Buffalo soccer player Carissma Cutrona though her career had ended during her senior season. That’s when she tore her ACL for the second time. Going through the rehab once was tough enough both mentality and physically, but then she had to go through it a second time.
“I honestly wasn’t sure if I was ever going to have an opportunity to play competitive soccer again. Recovering from a torn ACL twice was really difficult. “Between the rehab process and the limited opportunities for female soccer players to play competitively outside of college and the NWSL, there was a lot of uncertainty. But I always knew in the back of my mind that if there was an opportunity to play I would absolutely take it,” stated Cutrona. “Going through a career-ending injury was devastating. I had already gone through one torn ACL right before my freshman year so in my mind I had already gone through and come back from that injury. When it happened again, it was just heartbreaking. For me, I already knew what to expect in terms of the physical side of recovery. But the mental side of injuries can be just as difficult if not more. For a while after my injury I resented soccer because of how traumatic it was for me to go through that career-ending injury. But of course I couldn’t stay away for too long. Once I was fully recovered I joined a coed team and regained that same love and passion for the game that I’ve always felt.”
When FC Buffalo was thinking about starting up a women’s team in the summer, Cutrona was one of the first people the team was looking at. They knew about her career at UB and though she would be a great fit for the squad.
The only question now was was Cutrona interested in getting back on the pitch. After all, it has been a few years since she played, and done all the rehab.
“When I found out that FC Buffalo was going to add a women’s team to the club I was truly so excited. After college I wasn’t really sure if there would be opportunities to continue paying at a high-level, so when I heard about the FC Buffalo Women’s team I was so happy to have that opportunity and couldn’t wait to get started,” stated Cutrona. “I’ve played every level of soccer in Buffalo so being able to continue my journey here at this level is really special.”
What was even more special was the fact that she was going to be playing with some of her former teammates from high school and college. Playing for this special FC Buffalo team was almost like a reunion of sorts.
Maybe that’s why this team jelled so quickly. A lot of the girls have been standouts in the Western New York soccer circles. Cutrona played with a bunch of them. The ones she didn’t play with, she played against while in high school and college.
It’s like this team was one giant family.
“Being able to play with so many former teammates is incredible. I have some of my former Williamsville South and UB teammates on the team. There’s even players who I never got to play with but have previously played against. It’s so special to all come back together at this point in our careers and play with each other. I know these moments are short-lived so I am cherishing each time I get to step on the field with my teammates,” stated Cutrona. “Buffalo has so much local soccer talent. Our team has girls who just graduated high school all the way up to late twenties. It’s cool to see the mix of local young talent and local experienced talent on the team. I’m happy that FC Buffalo now has a women’s side so the Buffalo community can see all the talent this area has to offer. I think it’s really important for younger teams to come out to the games so that they can see competitive soccer in person. We hope we are inspiring the next generation of young soccer players to one day represent Buffalo and wear the blue and gold themselves.”
When Cutrona stepped back on the pitch for the first time all the emotions started coming back. While most players might be worries about reinsuring themselves, Cutrona had faith in all the work she had put in off the field was going to pay off.
The first time she took a knock, or a hard tackle, Cutrona didn’t even flinch. She just kept on going full speed ahead.
“I wasn’t too worried that my knee would not hold up physically. I had confidence in all the rehab and preparation I had done to get back on the field. For me, it was more so the mental hurdle that I had to work through,” stated Cutrona. “Obviously, I don’t want to go through a torn ACL or any other major injury again, so being fearless on the field again takes time. I feel like now I’ve gotten to a point where I’m not thinking about my knees or getting hurt, I’m just playing freely.”
Playing freely she has.
When Cutrona scored her first goal of the season you could see all the emotion of the past ACL injuries just go by the waist side. It was site to be seen. In fact, every time you see a picture of Cutrona with her FC Buffalo jersey on it’s just pure joy.
She is having the time of her life, and enjoying every minute of it. Cutrona knows how fast a career can come to and end. She had it happen once in college. Now she is living in the now, and making every moment count.
“There was definitely a lot of emotions running through my mind. First, I was stoked because it put our team ahead in that particular game. On a personal level, it was a moment I’ll never forget. To come back from the injuries I’ve dealt with during my career and score in a semi-pro league is something I’m very proud of. It brought me back to all the moments during college that I scored and made me feel like my old self again. Scoring is something I’ve always loved to do, so I really enjoy any time I can help my team out in that way,” stated Cutrona. “It’s hard to describe the pure joy I have been feeling while playing this summer. My injuries have truly made me appreciate every moment I get to step on the field. I know there are not a lot of people who have torn both their ACL’s and returned to play competitive soccer. I’m thankful for the healthy recoveries I’ve had and still feeling that same love for this game just as much as I always have. It has been quite the journey. I don’t take one minute of being on the field again for granted because I know in the blink of an eye it could change. The atmosphere at games, having my family and so many friends able to watch, and playing with my amazing teammates is so much fun. This has been an experience that I will never forget and I hope it lasts for years to come.”