With ACL injury behind her, Carissima Cutrona takes center stage for UB women’s soccer
UB women’s soccer team has relied on a tough defense and star goalkeeper this season, but it’s Carissima Cutrona who has carried the load offensively.
Cutrona, a sophomore forward for women’s soccer (6-6-2, 3-3 Mid-American Conference), proves a team can’t win if they can’t score. Two years removed from ACL surgery, the training wheels are finally off for Cutrona this year. She leads the team with eight goals this season and is finally having the breakout season that many anticipated from her when she was a two-time All-American at local Williamsville South high school.
It has been a long journey back for Cutrona, who tore her ACL during her senior year of high school and has slowly worked her way back ever since. Last year, head coach Shawn Burke eased Cutrona back in to the fold by playing her at midfield where she had three goals.
“I have been playing soccer since I was five years old… not being able to play it for a long period of time was very tough,” Cutrona said.
Cutrona chose Colgate University out of high school, where she redshirted her freshman season as she recovered from her ACL tear – one of the sports most gruesome injuries. She still attended practices because being around the game is what motivated her to get back on the field. She continued to rehab her injury and made a full recovery by the 2015 season.
After her redshirt season, she decided to return home to Buffalo with four years of eligibility remaining.
When she first started playing after the injury, she was cautious. She needed time to mentally move past it.
Whenever a player is coming back from a major injury, there is a period when they try to find their confidence in their game again, Burke said.
But since the injury, Cutrona has done nothing but prove herself. She has showed her skill on the field as the leading scorer this season and her leadership abilities are what made her a captain.
Each passing game would not only help rebuild her confidence, but improve her play as well. She started to trust her leg and was moved from midfield to the forward position for the 2016 season. That’s when she was given more opportunities to score.
“Every time I step on the field, you never know if it is going to be your last so you have to give it everything,” Cutrona said.
That is the mentality she carries into every game. She now plays better than ever before and doesn’t even think about her knee on the field.
Cutrona feels that scoring gives her and her team confidence. As a captain, she wants to lead by example, something Burke feels can only help the team.
Burke said Cutrona has become a more dangerous player. She has a knack for finding spots the other team’s defense isn’t covering. Her awareness makes it easier to find these opportunities without having to control the ball for long periods of time.
Now the only weight on Cutrona’s play is the pressure, something she gets from both being a leader and scorer for the team.
But it is not an obstacle.
Cutrona said she loves the pressure and she is more comfortable on the field then she has ever been. Even Burke said she puts more pressure on herself than needed, but that pressure helps her thrive.
“She wants to be great. And when you want to be great, you are willing to do whatever it takes to get results and win,” Burke said.
Burke feels she has always been willing to put in the work and now it is paying off for the whole team. She has had a season that has put her in the running for MAC offensive player of the year, he said.
Cutrona hopes her play will only help the team win the MAC championship.
Thomas Zafonte is a sports staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org