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The Daily Tar Heel

Keeper's rehabilitation ends in goal

Goalkeeper Jacob Wescoe came back from a leg injury to earn a starting spot for the UNC men?s soccer team.

During spring practice after his sophomore season North Carolina goalkeeper Jacob Wescoe collided with a teammate and was sent to the hospital at 7:30 a.m.

Wescoe had broken his fibula and torn every ligament in his ankle. The doctors gave him a 23 percent chance to play competitive soccer again.

If he could even recover" the rehabilitation process would take at least a year.

""It was hard at first" the senior from Raleigh's Garner High School said. I've gone through a lot of injuries in high school and my first two years here" but nothing like that.""

He underwent three reconstructive surgeries"" the last of which was an experimental operation.

""Playing was no longer my main goal. I was trying to get back to a competitive level. There were a lot of moments of doubt"" he said.

Wescoe beat out the three other goalkeepers on the roster and won the starting spot. He had never played in a game until this year.

And since August, he has led the Tar Heels to an undefeated 5-0-1 record. He has 16 saves so far, including 5 saves against powerhouse UCLA. Wescoe was named ACC Co-Player of the Week and to the Soccer America National Team of the Week after the first-ever game action the senior saw in his tumultuous career.

It's a fairy-tale ending for Wescoe, but the road to this point hasn't been easy, as he spent the past three seasons buried at the bottom of UNC's depth chart.

And while he was undergoing physical therapy, the Tar Heels were struggling, missing the NCAA tournament in 2007 for the first time since 1998.

Then Tyler Deric, the All-ACC Freshman goalkeeper from a season ago, left the team before the 2008 season, which left the window open for Wescoe to claim the starting spot.

The result of his journey is both remarkable and improbable.

It's a testament to his will" character and discipline to fight through all of this and come back coach Elmar Bolowich said. Jacob by last spring" we had virtually no hope of him ever playing again because of the severity of his injury. We didn't know if and how Jacob would bounce back.""

And the senior speaks of nothing but competing and says his personal goal for the season is doing anything he can to help his team.

""That's been my focus for the three years that I've been here and now that I'm on the field it hasn't changed. I just want the team to succeed"" Wescoe said.

The Tar Heels are on track to have a better campaign than the 2007 season. They have already scored 14 goals and conceded only four goals in six games.

But when the rubber hits the road with ACC competition, Bolowich's squad will be tested. And during that time, the coach will turn to the senior goalkeeper for leadership.

Our motto is" ‘Get better every week"'"" Bolowich said. ""Jacob strikes me as the one who says" ‘OK the team needs me now and I am ready to be there for them.' I think he's there to say ‘I'm part of something bigger than myself" and when they call on me I will be ready and do my part.'

""He represents that motto and that's why he is a positive role model. That isn't seen by everybody else who just watches games from the stands.""

Now" every time Wescoe takes the field" you can bet he appreciates every step of the road he took there.

""This has been an awesome experience surrounded by great people and a great coaching staff"" Wescoe said. I love this University and I've loved every second of it.""

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