As soon as Mikayla Grocki tried pivoting during a soccer scrimmage in March of 2018, she knew something was wrong.
Playing for her club team, The Classics Elite Soccer Academy, Grocki experienced intense pain when she planted her foot and turned. That’s when she knew her right leg had just given out on her.
An official diagnosis revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament, a broken femur and a nine-month recovery timetable. To make matters worse, she suffered the injury right before the peak signing period for women’s college soccer, meaning she was going to miss her best opportunity to impress college coaches.
Grocki was devastated. Ever since she began playing, she had dreamed of playing college soccer. But it looked like this injury was going to spoil all those years of hard work.
“For awhile, I was really down on myself,” Grocki said. “I (thought), ‘I just blew my chance; I will never be able to play in college.’”
Which made Monday’s signing ceremony at the Our Lady of the Hills’ gym all the more special. The recent OLH graduate didn’t just recover in time to play in her senior season, but she also managed to impress during a Creighton soccer camp in late July. On Aug. 2, she received a call from Creighton’s coach, inviting her to join the team as a goalkeeper. She signed her letter of intent and left for Omaha, Neb. later that day, becoming the second player from Kerrville to commit to Creighton. Tivy graduate Jenny Grissom signed with the Jays in November.
“If you are talking about an underdog-slash-comeback story, this is it,” said OLH girls soccer coach Jorge Salinas, who has coached Grocki since she was 7 years old. “She should have been done playing soccer after that injury, having to rebuild the knee. But, she bounced right back and got back in it. Now, she’s moving on to a D-I school. That’s phenomenal.
“There’s no words to describe it. Every time, I think about it I get emotional because I’ve seen her since she was little, and it was devastating when I heard that she had torn her whole knee.
She knew, I knew, her parents knew that her soccer career was probably done.”
And that was a real shame, especially since Salinas had been witnessing Grocki do special things on the pitch since she was 7 years old. He still remembers her first goal, when she dispatched the ball in the upper corner from near midfield.
“The parents from the other team, the players from the other team were just kind of like, ‘What just happened?’” Salinas said. “That was her first goal and I thought, ‘She has a lot of potential.’
From there, Grocki continue to thrive. She was a first-team, all-state midfielder during her junior season, helping lead the Lady
Hawks to their first TAPPS state title.
And she then overcame her biggest obstacle as a senior. At first, it looked like she wasn’t going to be cleared to play until halfway through her senior season, but she worked hard to finish her physical therapy early. She scored four goals, dished out six assists and recorded 79 saves when she played goalkeeper. Even after the season had ended, Salinas continued training her at goalkeeper.
Still, she wasn’t attracting much interest from college coaches, so she planned on attending Creighton as just a student. After all, she loved the campus and had family in Nebraska, so Creighton was a perfect fit.
But she noticed that the soccer team hadn’t recruited a goalkeeper in two years, so she emailed coach Ross Paule, asking if the Jays needed another goalkeeper. Paule invited her to attend a camp in late July, and the rest is history. There, she recorded 121 saves during the keeper tryout. Sixteen months after suffering that gruesome injury, 16 months after fearing her soccer career might be over, Grocki had just earned an opportunity to pursue a lifelong dream. She began training with the team on Tuesday, ready to achieve her next set of goals.
“I’m trying to get a starting spot as soon as possible,” Grocki said. “I want to work hard, get up there and make sure the coaches know I’m always there to work.”