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Valley Center’s Taylor Bruckner battles through to keep playing soccer

By Joanna Chadwick

Slowing down Valley Center junior defender Taylor Bruckner is no easy task.

“She’s fearless out there,” coach Matt Coleman said. “She’s an intelligent player. She’s a pretty special person to have on our team.”

But Bruckner has had two knee surgeries that threatened to end her career.

Neither one did.

“I haven’t coached anyone like her before,” Coleman said. “Just the toughness that she brings on top of the two ACLs that she has had, and she’s currently playing with a broken wrist right now.

“But every day she’s there to compete. Never backing down. I know it’s hard going through injuries, but her attitude is always, ‘I’ll be back, I’ll be fine.’ It’s rare to see someone like that.”

Bruckner tore her right ACL and meniscus heading into her freshman season during club soccer when another player knocked knees with her.

“It sounds kind of bad, but I was thankful it happened the year Covid happened so I didn’t miss my freshman season,” she said. “I was still able to interact with the team. They included me with what I could be part of.

“I started playing club a year from when I tore it.”

It wasn’t an easy process, though.

“I never had a serious injury that took me out for that long. No one I knew at the time had an injury like that and could help me get through it,” she said.”

Nearly a year later, she returned.

But midway through her sophomore season against Eisenhower, she tore the left ACL.

“I went up to clear the ball, to win the ball from someone else,” Bruckner said. “I got kneed in the back of the knee, so another contact collision. With that one, I just kind of knew.”

While Bruckner went back into the game to play for a bit, when her knee kept shifting, she knew she was done.

Bruckner was back in five months.

“I knew what I was doing,” she said. “I knew I could walk on it right after surgery. I dropped crutches as soon as possible because they suck. And as soon as I could get my foot on a ball, I did.”

Did she push herself too fast?

Sure.

“I found out my limits very quickly doing the amount of exercise and (physical therapy) I could,” Bruckner said. “I ended up jogging within a month, and within two, sprinting and slowly increasing what I could do.”

Being back on the field has been awesome for Bruckner.

“We have a group of girls on the team — Coleman is a great coach, and I probably wouldn’t have played again if it wasn’t for him and the team,” she said. “But I’m glad they pushed me to play again.”

Bruckner takes seriously her role as the center back defender.

“We’re playing a freshman goalie, and she was kind of nervous, so Taylor said, ‘you’re good. I’ve got you,'” Coleman said. “We’ve had no problems. They’d do anything for Taylor.”

But while shielding the keeper in the season’s second game, Bruckner suffered her wrist injury.

“I rolled over her to protect her, and I landed wrong,” she said. “And I still do it. I’ve done it multiple times.”

Bruckner’s high school career ends this season, though.

She’s planning to graduate in December and start her studies to be a nuclear engineer.

“When it comes to school, I’m ready for the next step,” Bruckner said. “With soccer, that’s the one thing that really held me back from making my final decision.

“Maybe next year or the year after, I’d love to play college soccer.”

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