By Chantal Guerrero
It’s difficult enough to rebound from one anterior cruciate ligament tear, but five?
Senior midfielder Tessa Piety has had six surgeries to her knees, including five repairs of her ACLs, three in the left knee and two in her right. Pain affects her every day.
And she’s still playing. In fact she’s started all 15 Berry matches in this her senior season.
|Chantal Guerrero, columnist|
Most athletes would have quit, especially in Division III, where soccer is not a route to a professional playing career. Piety is showing passion and heart.
She comes from a large family. A really large family. In fact, Tessa has 28 brothers and sisters ranging in age from 17 to 50. That’s not a misprint: 28, many of them, like Tessa, adopted. She says she has felt loved and supported, and that she enjoyed growing up in a home where there was always a lot going on. From this family, including her parents Ken and Linda Piety, she draws her strength.
“I have four siblings with disabilities, two in wheelchairs and two who are mentally challenged,” said Piety, who is from Knoxville, Tenn. “I used them as my inspiration, because I have the opportunity to get back and run.”
Tessa played a season on a torn ACL, which is a testament to her physical strength. She is also known for playing with heart, for playing so hard that she can barely walk off the fields.
Her teammates and coaches seemingly can’t speak about her without bringing up her focus, drive and devotion. Head coach Lorenzo Canalis said she is in the gym every morning at 6 a.m., working to strengthen her battle-worn body.
“There is nothing but respect from me,” said Canalis, who has guided the Vikings to a 9-5-1 record. “That is something that very few people that I have coached in 30 years would be willing to do, and I can’t think of any players that I know that would still be playing after all those injuries.”
Though the way Tessa pushes herself inspires sophomore forward Beata Brock, it’s the way she cares for and loves her teammates that impresses her most.
“She writes me letters once a month to encourage me,” said Brock, from Chattanooga. “She is always asking how can she can help, when I feel as though I should be the one helping her because she’s got so much on her plate.”
This concern for those around her has been noticed before. As a senior at Christian Academy of Knoxville, Tessa received the school’s Service to Humanity Award. She was cited for being “the protector of the weak” and for finding “ways to bring everyone into the group and to feel accepted,” according to the school. She’s helped her family run camps for children with disabilities, host missionaries and church musical groups, and feed Iraqi refugees during Thanksgiving. In fact, Tessa put in over a 100 hours of service each year in high school, which earned her a President’s Volunteer Service Award.
Her determination will serve her well in her chosen field: working for the FBI. A government major, Tessa says she looks forward to a life beyond soccer. She said she wants to focus on things that she feels she’s neglected in life.
If the FBI doesn’t work out, she might turn to another of her dreams: The reform of mental healthcare so that people who cannot help themselves get the care they need.
I don’t think this is the last time we will be inspired by Tessa Piety.