Comeback from injury helps Latrobe’s Yurko appreciate soccer

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Tuesday, August 29, 2023 | 4:06 PM


When she took the field for the first time in seven months, the feeling was indescribable for Ava Yurko.

Butterflies. Chills. Pure goose flesh.

The rising junior at Latrobe last played a soccer game in September, when she tore the ACL, LCL and meniscus in her right knee, ending her high school season.

When she came back to play for her Riverhounds Academy team and ran onto the field in May, emotion overtook her and perspective leaned in.

“All my teammates clapped,” Yurko said. “I was back out there. The one thing you realize is how much you love the game. And you realize how quickly it can be stripped away. I think about that a lot.”

Now healthy and wearing the knee brace that represents the battle she’s fought, Yurko is focused on helping Latrobe to another lengthy postseason run.

Yurko last year missed out on the first playoff win in program history, and the first PIAA playoff appearance. But she thinks the team can have similar success despite lower roster numbers (19) and the loss of two standouts to injury.

Ella Bulava is out for the season with a torn ACL. Robin Reilly is out until mid-September with an ankle injury.

Both were hurt during club season.

Yurko came back, and the other two went out.

“I know how determined Ella is; We play for the same club (Riverhounds),” Yurko said. “We lost some big pieces, and it will be hard to fill their shoes. A lot of underclassmen will have to step into bigger roles.”

And Yurko likely will see in increase in offensive touches. While she helped to build offense from the back in the past, she could be utilized more at the top of the formation.

“Ava is a powerhouse,” Latrobe coach Jamie Morrison said. “We’d like for her to rally us and push her forward as much as we can. She is a very key piece for us.”

Yurko’s injury occurred in a game Sept. 16 at Franklin Regional. She planted her right leg, then turned to face the other side of the field, where the ball was going. Her leg didn’t move with her, and she heard the proverbial “pop.”

“My leg was shaking,” she said. “I knew something was wrong. It wasn’t like it was really painful.”

Yurko had surgery Oct. 21 and was cleared medically April 11.

She played for the Riverhounds on May 6 before logging a full 80 minutes of action May 21.

Her timeline was an open book. From rehab and training, to returning for club season, Yurko has been diligent in charting her progress on social media.

The journey continues with her comeback.

“It’s something where you celebrate every milestone,” she said. “You take things for granted, like walking up stairs. I have a great support system. “I posted everything because there are other players who go through this. At the beginning, it’s like the end of the world. There were a lot of nights where I was really emotional. You’re not the only on going through this, and you can come back.”

Yurko returned in seven months. She said doctors told her the usual prognosis is eight to nine months.

“I feel lucky,” she said.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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