With 28:20 to play in the first half against Belton last Friday, Copperas Cove senior center-midfielder Shelbie Letzer groaned in pain and fell to the grass.
She suffered a severe right ankle sprain the game before and re-aggravated it.
Letzer, Cove’s captain, was assisted off the field. On the sidelines, she was limping and wincing in pain.
A reasonable assumption, with just three games left on Cove’s schedule, and the Lady Bulldawgs eliminated from the postseason derby, was that this was a season-ending injury.
“But sitting on the bench isn’t my thing,” Letzer said. “I don’t like watching, especially when I feel I can be helping my team.”
At the 25:10 mark, Letzer told head coach Hagen Streckel she was ready to play, and Streckel put her back on the field.
A three-minute rest was long enough for Letzer.
“Shelbie doesn’t look at injuries like anybody else,” Streckel said. “To Shelbie, if a bone isn’t broken, she jumps right back into the game. All she wants to know is if she’s OK. Shelbie won’t let things like injuries slow her down. She never backs down from any challenge. I haven’t met anyone quite like her in a long, long time.”
Despite being marked by Belton the rest of the contest, Letzer played outstanding. She stopped numerous offensive thrusts by the Lady Tigers.
And it was Letzer who most often led Cove on its offensive charges.
“Yes, we lost to Belton (5-0), the best team in our district,” Letzer said. “But I believe this was one of the best games we’d played all year.”
Letzer’s career ends March 21, senior night, with a home contest against Temple.
Her legacy is secure.
She is the second-leading goal scorer in school history and the all-time leader in assists.
Letzer made First-Team All-Area and First-Team All-District in her freshman, sophomore and junior seasons. She will most certainly receive such honors again in 2014.
“Shelbie is very talented,” said Matthew Watt, Ellison’s head coach. “When you face Cove, Shelbie is the player you must key on. You have to try and stop her movements because she can shoot from everywhere. Last season, she beat us on this 25-yard blast. She’s their locomotive, she makes them go.”
In a 2013 road contest against Temple, Letzer broke a scoreless tie with a 40-yard torpedo, propelling the Lady Bulldawgs to a 3-1 victory.
“That goal and that game is my favorite memory of high school soccer,” Letzer said. “It shocked everybody that we won and it sent us to the playoffs.”
Streckel said Letzer is a natural leader.
“Simply by her presence on the field, she seems to challenge all her teammates to step it up,” he said. “She forces our opponents to step up their efforts, too, because they have to defend her. She is so accurate with her passes and her shots. Her soccer thought pattern is at a very, very high speed.”
Letzer will play this fall for Incarnate Word in San Antonio on a full soccer scholarship.
“Shelbie will be so hard to replace,” said Cove assistant coach Pat Rox. “She has been the heartbeat of our team. She makes every player around her a better player.”
“Shelbie will excel at the collegiate level, too,” Watt said. “She’ll acclimate herself quickly and she’ll do great.”
Letzer and her teammates will face Watt’s Ellison Lady Eagles on Tuesday at Ellison.
“Never mind my ankle,” Letzer said. “I will be playing in both of our last two games. I expect us to go out with a bang. I want us to play these last two games like we know how to play. And, of course, I expect to win.”