“It’s a long recovery process, and day in and day out you have to do a lot of things that don’t seem like they matter in the moment,” Bozek said. “But over time, all of the rehab really makes a huge difference. It’s been a long road, but well worth it.”
The road — traveled diligently for over a year — reached a new plateau Saturday as Bozek stepped up for a penalty stroke in No. 3 UNC’s home opener against No. 9 Wake Forest (3-2, 0-1 ACC).
“I was a little bit nervous, to be honest,” Bozek said. “But (I was) happy I put it in.”
Bozek’s goal was a turning point in Saturday’s game, pushing the Tar Heel lead to 3-1 early in the second half. Her leadership on the field was a huge momentum boost for UNC (5-1, 1-0 ACC).
Emily Wold, one of Bozek’s closest friends, joined the team as an undergraduate assistant coach after her senior season. Wold views this first goal as the beginning of a huge final campaign for Bozek.
“I was so excited for her — a relief for her to know she’s still the same player, even after all she’s been through,” Wold said. “I would have loved to have played my senior year with her, but still being around it’s great to see how much of a leader she is.”
Leading both on and off the field has always been a trait of Bozek’s. But that year on the sidelines gave her a chance to really show how important she is for UNC .
“Nobody works harder,” Shelton said. “She’s been a tremendous leader for us. It’s been a long time for her coming. I’m proud of her — what she’s been through, the player she is.”
UNC claimed a 4-1 victory over Wake Forest and a 6-0 win Sunday over VCU (1-3) — thanks in large part to Bozek’s contribution on both sides of the ball. She even left her position up front to play some center defense against the Rams.
Bozek has come a long way during her journey. But through the hard times, she always knew where she would be standing this fall.
“I knew as soon as I went in the hospital — I knew I was coming back and playing,” she said.
“It was just a matter of when.”