Cor Jesu Academy 2, Fort Zumwalt West 0

Cor Jesu Academy's Erin McGauley (15) pushes the ball upfield against Fort Zumwalt West High School during the MSHSAA Girls' Soccer Class 3 Sectional at CJA in Affton Tuesday, May 22, 2012. Cor Jesu topped West, 2-0, to advance to the state quarterfinals. Photo by Sid Hastings.

Sid Hastings

Erin McGauley knows all too well what the view from the bench looks like. A superb wing midfielder for the Cor Jesu soccer team, McGauley has spent her share of days glued to the pine, watching as the Chargers made mincemeat of one opponent after another.

It’s not like McGauley is there because of her play, far from it. She’ll take her talents to Xavier in the fall. Injuries are what have kept her on the shelf. Her freshman year, she broke her ankle. Last year, she missed most of the summer season with a fractured hip. This year, she missed a hearty chunk of the season with a nagging quadriceps injury.

Playing at the high level the 5-foot-8, 18-year-old McGauley routinely does, injuries aren’t just physically rough but mentally challenging. Almost any athlete who’s suffered an injury will tell you there is a moment of hesitation—a moment of doubt as to whether or not they are healed. Getting over that mental hurdle is often that most difficult part of the recovery process.

McGauley, for better or worse, has learned to deal with that challenge and continued to do what she does best: make her opponents miserable. “I’ve suffered a good amount of injuries in soccer,” she says. “I just don’t think about it.”

On the field, opposing midfielders and defenders have to know where McGauley is at all times. Fleet-footed with a motor that doesn’t quit, she gets up and down the sideline and is a force that can feed the ball into a dangerous position in front of the goal or keep it and attack. McGauley has tallied five goals and handed out seven assists. Strong numbers considering she missed all or parts of 10 games with her barking quad.

Cor Jesu, a whopping 20-2, displayed its depth and talent by continuing to pile on the wins even though one of its best players was injured. The Chargers, a final four team two years ago, have spent the season at or near the top of every media ranking and poll in the state. Cor Jesu has taken on all comers and save for games against Nerinx Hall and St. Joseph’s Academy, beaten everyone.

As good as the Chargers played with McGauley out, they are remarkably better when she’s available. It was her picture-perfect free kick goal in the district title game against Oakville that lifted Cor Jesu to an overtime victory and pushed the team into the playoffs. “It was exciting,” she says of hitting the winner. “You have to make the most of those opportunities. I was ecstatic.”

But as memorable as that moment will be, McGauley buried it in her mind and moved on to the next game. The Chargers are hunting the biggest trophy in the land this season. After being knocked out in the district semifinals a year ago, this year’s seniors came into the spring with a focused determination of winning a state title. “This is an exciting year for the entire team,” she says. “We’re all just great friends. We’re all driven by soccer.”

McGauley would love nothing more than to reach that plateau with her teammates. To do that the Chargers will have to empty the tank every chance they get. They never know when they’re next game will be their last. “My goal is to leave everything on the field,” she says. “As long as we leave everything out there, we’ll be OK.”