The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

Barnes continues to improve after ACL injury

Zenaya Barnes, a 5th year forward, dribbles the ball pass University of Illinois Springfield players Sunday afternoon at Lakeside Field. The Panthers won 3-0 against the Prairie Stars.

Injuries are an unfortunate reality in the world of sports. Not many people know that more than Zenaya Barnes, a forward for the Eastern Illinois women’s soccer team.

Barnes tore her ACL in her left knee in April 2022.

Barnes was sidelined for 10 months and returned to action last spring. A normal ACL recovery can range from nine to 12 months.

“I was able to get games in during the spring,” Barnes said. “Something that has helped me get back was staying on top of my rehab. Also reminding myself that I’m just getting back into playing so to not be so hard on myself.”

Barnes also shouted out her teammates, citing their supportive words and willingness to fill in and step up for her as what kept her motivated throughout such a difficult process.

“They’re patient when I make a mistake, and they’re so supportive,” Barnes said.

The coaches also made an impact on Barnes’ recovery, including Head Coach Dirk Bennett and assistant coaches Deanna Hecht and Kayla Baird.

“Our head coach has been amazing,” Barnes said. “He’s been so patient and understanding with whatever I need when it comes to my injury. We have two new coaches on staff, and they also have supported me well throughout the length of my rehab. If I need a day off, it’s okay. I’m the type of player to want to be at 100 percent and not put my team at risk so they help with that.”

Barnes said her play style changed post-injury, and she noted that her play style would be described by others as “physical and aggressive.”

Barnes said finding that aggressiveness would be something she’d have to work hard at getting back.

“Being able to use my body when I play lets me protect my knees and my ankles and my hips,” Barnes said. “I think being more aggressive helps me protect the ball and my body.”

Barnes spoke on how she kept her mental health stable through her injury.

Zenaya Barnes, a 5th year forward, said it felt amazing to score her first goal back after tearing her ACL in 2022. (File)

“In the beginning, it was definitely hard,” Barnes said. “Especially when I found out I tore it. This is my second ACL injury, so I know the grind that it takes to even be able to walk again and regain the range of motion. I know what milestones I should be at during this specific time of the injury. What kept me in it was the fact that I had done it before. I know I’ve put in the work before. It was hard mentally, and it’s always going to be, but I had the right mindset, and I knew it would be okay.”

Barnes scored her first goal back from her injury against the Chicago State Cougars on Sunday, Sept. 10 at Lakeside Field.

Barnes talked about how it felt to score her first goal after the injury.

“It felt amazing,” Barnes said. “It gave me the reassurance that I can do this. It gave me the confidence to keep going. I had scored in practice but scoring in the game was what told me I could keep moving forward and recovering and improving.”

Barnes also touched on her team and her thoughts on the season.

“We have a solid team this year,” Barnes said. “We’re young but we have a lot of talent. We’re improving every game and every practice and it’s showing, so I feel pretty good about this team. Our freshmen came in mentally ready. We’re all on the same page; it’s awesome.”

When asked about the season ahead, Barnes spoke with excitement for the future.

“Coach has plans for us,” Barnes said. “I’m excited to get after it. More training, more fitness, more preparation. Doing what we need to do to be the best we can be.”

Barnes’ injury had left her feeling uncertain about her playing career.

Her previous injury concerned her, and she didn’t know if she’d be able to touch the field again.

Through her perseverance and hard work, she recovered from her injury. Now, she’s looking towards finishing out the season strong playing alongside her teammates.

Maurice Phipps can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].

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Maurice Phipps, Sports Reporter
Maurice Phipps can be reached at [email protected] or 581-2812.

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