Last winter, the Michigan women’s soccer team elected
Stephanie Boyles to be a captain. But two weeks before she was set
to return to Ann Arbor for preseason training with the team, Boyles
tore her ACL during summer club competition. Forced to sit out the
entire season, Boyles has become the most spirited leader on the
team.

“I watch the game from a different view,” Boyles
said. “I look at different things now — not the
technical and tactical things, (but) playing for fun, being
positive, building self confidence, encouraging and working on
things other than soccer skills.”

By encouraging her teammates, Boyles has adapted to her role as
captain.

“The team elected her captain because she has leadership
qualities,” Michigan coach Debbie Rademacher said.
“She’s vocal, she sets the tone when she trains. She
has good insight, good things to say. That’s what I think
draws people to her.”

While she has kept her spirits up, standing on the sidelines has
been bittersweet.

“It’s really hard (to watch the team play),”
Boyles said. “Fighting adversity is the hardest thing in any
aspect of life. But I think, especially being a player your whole
life — not really having to step back and look at the big
picture — you really learn a lot about yourself and a lot
about your character. (You see) the importance of the game and why
you do it.”

As an observer, Boyles cannot fully experience the highs that
accompany winning, but she is also less affected by the lows that
come with losing.

In terms of ups and downs, the Wolverines (6-3-1 Big Ten, 10-7-1
overall) have experienced a stark contrast in their results from
month to month.

During September, the Wolverines went 7-0-1 and rose to No. 13
in the country. In those eight games, Michigan’s offense
often gave its defense a lead to work with, making the
latter’s job a little easier. The results spoke for
themselves as the Wolverines outscored their opponents 18-5.

But, in October, Michigan’s bubble burst. The team
struggled to a 3-5-1 record, including a four-game losing streak.
The losses began to mount and the effect was seen in all aspects of
the game. The offense struggled to convert scoring chances and the
defense did not hold up. Michigan was outscored 13-7.

Michigan is hoping to reverse its fortunes with the start of a
new month. The Wolverines are the third seed in the Big Ten
Tournament and will face No. 6 seed Wisconsin tonight in Columbus.
Having fallen out of the national polls, Michigan needs a strong
showing to earn an NCAA Tournament bid.

Like the team, Boyles has been down at times, but keeping a
positive attitude has helped her through her rehabilitation. In two
weeks, she will progress to short periods of running. By December,
the junior expects to be able to run as far as three miles. Boyles
aims to be back to 100 percent by February.

“(Rehabilitation is) no different than how much you put in
on the field,” Boyles said. “You put into it what you
want to get out. So, if you put a lot into it, everything will go a
lot better.”

Boyles can also look to the example of teammate Therese Heaton,
who missed much of last season with nagging shoulder and calf
injuries.

“She’s like my best friend, so we talk about it all
the time,” Boyles said. “That just goes to show you
that somebody can fight for so long and have one thing happen after
the other and come back and be absolutely remarkable.”

Despite the difficulties Boyles has faced, she feels the new
perspective she has adopted will help in her return.

“It comes with fighting back and (not) taking things for
granted,” Boyles said. “When I do get the opportunity
(to play), I will cherish it a little more.”

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