Record-breaking comeback: DWU's Weidler returns from injury to set goal-scoring record
A few tears emerge when Alyssa Weidler talks about Dakota Wesleyan University’s career goals record.
It’s the product of the toughest year of her life. A year ago, after tearing her left ACL and meniscuses, she nearly wrapped up her degree in sport, exercise and wellness and walked away from the game. It would’ve been the end of a prolific career, albeit ending in heartbreak during the first game of her senior season.
Instead, her family convinced her to gut out the rehab and stick around for a redshirt senior season. Rather than heartbreak, it’s been a comeback for the ages.
“It was probably the toughest thing I’ve ever done, like mentally and physically I’ve never been so low in my life,” Weidler said. “To have to go through something to bring me back a year later to where I was a year ago, there were so many days I wanted to quit, but I knew I couldn’t.”
The lows brought by rehab and missing the entire season have been supplanted by all-time highs this year as she became DWU’s all-time scoring leader with 39 goals.
Weidler kept an open mind when she decided to return, getting cleared for contact only a week before preseason. Despite being a first-team all-GPAC member as a junior, she faced the same initial mental hurdles many athletes do when returning from a career-altering injury.
As soon as she stepped on the field during her first practice, though, she was ready and as confident as a former all-GPAC member should be.
“That’s remarkable,” DWU coach Clayson Glasgow said about her comeback. “She put in a lot of hard work in the last year. … Her determination, her will to come back after a year and be even better than what she was, it’s all on her dedication. Her ability to overcome is amazing. She’s actually looking better than she did the last few years.”
If you watch her composure with the ball in the attacking zone, her striking ability and positioning, it’s like she never left. She scored in each of her first two games, but it took until a hat trick against Hastings (Neb.) in DWU’s third game for her to feel truly back and be less hesitant on plays and tackles.
Weidler has 10 goals in nine games, including two goals at Mount Marty on Wednesday to vault her into first place on DWU’s all-time scoring list. She has 39 career goals.
“It means a lot to me,” Weidler said with a pause as tears started to emerge. “The past year has been rough and being able to come back from an injury and see one of my goals from freshman year come alive means a lot to me. I’m very passionate about it.”
Weidler vividly remembers the first time she thought about the goal-scoring record. She and Glasgow were in his office talking about her freshman-year goals.
“I had a goal to score five goals in my freshman year,” Weidler said. “And he goes, ‘No, no, no. Why don’t we shoot bigger.’ I was like, ‘OK, let’s break the record then.’ Then it became my career goal here.”
Weidler scored five goals in 12 games as a freshman, setting the groundwork for continuous improvement through her career. She added eight goals as a sophomore, and then doubled her output with 16 goals during her junior season.
She credits the jump to working on technique during the offseason. It led to all-GPAC recognition, an honor she holds close to her heart since her older sister, Sarah, made the all-GPAC first team in 2010 with the Tigers.
As the goals piled up, what figured to be a prolific career when she committed to DWU started to show signs of something even more special.
“I always knew coming in that she would be a force to reckon with,” Glasgow said. “If you would have asked me if she would be able to break the record, I probably would’ve said, no. … Every year, you see she’s growing and getting better. And, ‘Hey, maybe you can do this. Maybe you can break this record.’ ”
She broke it.
Weidler started to keep track of her progress only five goals prior. She credits her teammates, but it’s also been her ability to find ways to score even as goalies yell at their defenders, “Watch No. 11!” She still commands attention on the field.
Weidler, who is a personal trainer at Anytime Fitness, plans to return to school in the future to become a sports nutritionist. After sports nearly got taken away from her, she wants to make sure she remains in sport.
“Sports are a big part of my life and my family’s life,” she said. “And that’s the way it’s always going to be.”