Arm cast is not a deterrent for this soccer standout
LITHIA - It has been easy to spot Newsome High soccer standout Jackie Simpson during the past few seasons. The tall and physical senior has made her presence known wherever she has played for the Wolves in her career, dominating opponents in the air, on set pieces and winning possession. In the last few weeks, however, there has been no missing the Wolves' stopper. On her right forearm Simpson has had a four-week fixture of a pink and black cast immobilizing her wrist, thumb and a couple of fingers after suffering a tear to her ulnar collateral ligament during a match with her club team. Most often this type of injury would keep a player off of the field for the long 10-week recovery, but the Wolves senior isn't going to let a little cast stop her. Although, come game time it's not such a little cast.Simpson's pregame routine now includes wrapping the cast in layers transforming the small mid-forearm cast into what her and teammates have deemed "The Club Hand.'' To protect herself and opponents, the hard cast is wrapped with soft bandaging — including bubble wrap — causing her to make a concerted effort to keep the club out of the way. "It's so awkward," Simpson said. "When I'm shooting the ball I'm off balance and I don't ever forget it's there, but this is soccer and I just have to deal with it." She was held out by officials in the first game she tried to play with the cast with her Brandon FC club team, so she knew she needed to find a way to make the hard cast game ready. "I use bubble wrap, an Ace bandage and then wrap it again in a soft adhesive tape," Simpson said. "In my first club game with the cast they didn't let me play, so I was like 'No way.' The first time I wrapped it, it was 10 times bigger so now I think I have it as small and safe as possible." Wolves' coach Kelly Townsend had hoped to utilize Simpson as an attacking midfielder and capitalize on her knack for finding the goal, which included 13 goals last season in Newsome's Class 5A state runner-up run and 15 goals in her sophomore year. However, the Wolves' coach has needed Simpson helping out a young defense at stopper and Townsend said, as she expected, her captain gladly accepted the role. "Anywhere I put Jackie on the field she is going to make things happen," Townsend said. "Would I like to see her at center mid? Of course I would. Is that a reality for us as a team? No, we are much stronger with her at stopper." In tandem with freshman sweeper Karli Gutsche, the Wolves defense has been stifling allowing only four goals in the team's first 12 games. "With Karli right behind Jackie that center line is near impossible to break," Townsend said. "It's invaluable to have players like the two of them back there and gives this team a huge advantage." For Simpson, who plays center midfielder for her club team at Brandon FC, the transition to a more defensive spot isn't a limitation. And with the strength the Wolves have in the midfield including Caroline Evers and Maria Cate, Simpson said she is taking advantage of the chances she gets to push up on the field. "I thought I was going to play a little more center mid, but this is all about what is best for our team and not about me. As I go forward and step up, Caroline and Maria are more than willing to drop back and help so I'm more than happy with my role." The Wolves are again off to a hot start going 10-1-1 through the first dozen games and are looking to make another deep run into the region tournament trying to make it eight straight appearances in the region final and get back to the state final four.