Warrior Run graduate Madi Welliver has, unfortunately, had her fair share of injuries to her knee. It was after the COVID-19 spring season in 2021 that Welliver played summer basketball and tore her ACL, LCL and meniscus going for a simple lay-up.
Given her prior experiences, Welliver knew right away what happened to her knee and, more importantly, what it meant for her career.
For someone who grew up loving the game of soccer and playing it her whole life, it dealt her a huge curveball in her playing career. Welliver was one of the area’s best goalies in the 2010s, becoming the state’s all-time shutouts leader in girls soccer when she graduated with 60 in 2016.
Welliver truly believes that all things happen for a reason, and in this case, that reason was to give her one last chance at playing soccer. While some may have not wanted to play after an ACL, LCL and meniscus tear and reconstruction of their knee after that, Welliver wanted to give her final year of eligibility one go around and leave it on the field.
It resulted in not only Welliver being able to start every game this past fall for Misericordia, but for Welliver to be part of an NCAA Division 3 championship team that made it to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
“Looking back at everything now, I truly believe in the saying ‘everything happens for a reason,’ and God’s plans were much greater than what I had planned for myself,” Welliver said. “If it weren’t for my injury and my change of plans, I would never have had the chance to play for Misericordia, the No. 1-ranked team in Division 3, win a MAC Freedom Championship and make a deep run in the NCAA national tournament.”
Welliver and Misericordia came just shy of reaching the Final Four, but in her own words, this run and her final season playing out the way it did was something Welliver would have never imagined a year ago.
“After my injury, I felt as thought my college soccer/basketball careers were over given the circumstances, but throughout my recovery it left a very strong feeling of being unfinished,” Welliver said. “As an athlete, injuries are always a part of the sport, and unfortunately, I have had my fair share of season-, and what seemed to be at the time, a career-ending injury.”
Welliver admitted that she was a little hesitant at first to go back to school and play college soccer again. It was in June she sent out emails to any college coach that offered the graduate program she was looking for and had an open spot for a fifth-year keeper on the team. The passion was still inside of Welliver to play the position she became outstanding at, and the embers were lit.
“I felt this was a shot in the dark, given most schools would be entering into preseason in a little over a month,” Welliver said. “When I had sent the email to coach (Mark) Stauffer at Misericordia, I was honestly shocked to get a call the same day. After our conversation, I knew that this was the best fit for me, and I am so unbelievably grateful that he was willing to add me to his program.”
And no doubt the Cougars were beyond grateful to have Welliver and her talents. This past fall, Welliver started all 23 games in goal for Misericordia, recording 1,647 minutes. She allowed just eight goals against, posted 37 saves with an 0.822 save percentage, went 21-1-1 and had six shutouts.
For the former Defender goalie, winning the league title was a physical reflection of the hardwork and commitment her and her teammates put in.
“Holding on that championship banner was a moment I’ll never forget and difficult to put into words because everything that had happened over the past year was more than worth it,” Welliver said.
Welliver was tested throughout the year, and likely had a little fear in the back of her mind every time she dove or slid to stop a shot with her knee injuries. But despite that possible fear she may have had, Welliver never backed down from an opposing team and Welliver was more than tested as the Cougars played one of the most difficult schedules in Division 3.
“I truly am grateful to have had the success I have experienced, but I know that I could have never have done it without everyone else,” Welliver said. “This season meant so much more to me than ever before, and I wanted to give it everything I had, for myself and my teammates.”
Welliver’s collegiate playing career is wrapped up, and as for if she’ll play again at the semi-pro or professional ranks remains to be seen. She competed last year in goal with the Williamsport City Lions in their inaugural season. But Welliver isn’t leaving the game of soccer. She will join Misericordia’s staff as a coach and give back to the game in a different role.
“Coaching is something I have always enjoyed, as it allows me to stay involved with the sport and impact younger athletes. Even though I have never formally coached a soccer team, I am excited to learn more about the game and work with athletes at a high level,” Welliver said. “This opportunity allows me to continue building relationships with my current teammates, and be a small part in building upon the Misericordia women’s soccer program.”
So is she nervous to get into coaching after playing for the better part of two decades and making that transition?
“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about this new role. Most of my focus growing up and into college was on basketball, both playing and coaching, so I never got to experience the true playing/recruiting process as a soccer player,” Welliver said. “Knowing that I still have a lot to learn, I am grateful to have coach Stauffer as a mentor and excited to learn about the game from a new perspective.”
Injuries can unfortunately completely derail a career and end someone’s playing days prematurely. For Welliver, her injury simply redirected her path.