Kump Aiming for a Comeback Season

By Emilee White

During almost two decades as a coach at the college soccer level, University of Utah soccer head coach Rich Manning has seen players afflicted with different types of injuries, and he has watched how those athletes dealt with those frustrating challenges. One of the student athletes who Manning recently observed tackle the task of healing from an injury was freshman Natalie Kump, who spent her 2016 season as a redshirt.

A native of Nevada, Kump was recruited out of Canada, and she chose to attend the university that had always been on her radar — Utah. Kump went to all the U’s summer camps when she was younger, and she always knew in the back of her mind that when it was time to look at colleges, the U would be a top contender.

As Kump got older and had to decide whether or not to come to the U, she found her niche in both her studies and soccer in Utah, and her heart was set on representing the U. However, as she got ready to make the transition from high school to college soccer, injury struck. While playing soccer on her club team with a few of her teammates who she still plays with now, Kump hyperextended her knee. All it took was a hit, a pop and her ACL was torn.

“I was scared that I wasn’t going to be really a part of the team,” Kump said. “I was scared that I was just going to be an outsider. But then the more I got used to the idea, I thought I could use that year to get prepared for the next year, rehab really hard, and I can work really hard to come back stronger than I was before, so I took a turn and tried to make it into a positive thing.”

Recovery, however, was a long haul. Kump said rehab was probably the hardest thing she ever had to go through. Although Kump said her best friend is the team’s athletic trainer, for a year her time was spent going in every day, sometimes twice a day, to rebuild the muscles in and around her knee.

Frustrated with the circumstance she found herself in, Kump never lost faith and kept a positive attitude. She fought through the injury and was able to return to the field for Utah’s first exhibition match in August.

Not coming back the same was something Kump feared because she realized that sometimes when athletes come back from injuries, they aren’t the same as before. However, Kump felt stronger with speed and lifting. Now, Kump is moving onto the next step, which is working on getting her speed of play up to the college level. Manning couldn’t be more proud of her overcoming the injury and the aspirations she has.

“She went through some really tough times, but with her attitude and actions, she did everything we could ask of her,” Manning said. “She had laser-like focus on the next step whether it be treatment and rehab or fitness or getting her touch back. She never lost an ounce of enthusiasm. She just kept attacking every day, and I am really proud of her.”

Although Kump never physically played on the field last season, she never once felt left out of any team discussions or decisions. Kump said she realized at games people on the sidelines see things differently than the people on the field. At halftime, all those on the bench and those redshirting would chime in with their thoughts. That helped Kump feel a part of the team even if she couldn’t be on the pitch.

Kump has learned not to take her playing time for granted, and she knows her hard work this past season will pay off this year. Manning sees this as a perfect opportunity and time for her to grow.

“She is still a young player, and we want to get her some experience,” Manning said. “She’ll have some good competition for playing time, but I have confidence that she is going to continue to develop and grow, and my expectation is that she brings that character to the field each day.”

Manning added that Kump’s ball skills and vision are great assets to the team, and that will help her team create attacking opportunities. With a healthy Kump ready for the season, she is looking forward to getting out on the field and competing with her team as she plays the game she loves.

“I was on the sidelines with my team and I got to support them that way,” Kump said. “I’m excited this year to actually be on the field supporting them and being a part of the team camaraderie, and to be a part of the wins and the losses. I just want to go through everything with my team now.”

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