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Soccer: Ragin' Cajuns Eight For Eight: Kimberly Grasso
With eight home matches and eight seniors on the 2017 squad, RaginCajuns.com will be profiling each senior heading into home weekends. This weekend senior Kimberly Grasso will be featured.
LAFAYETTE – A warrior's mentality isn't earned, taught or given. It just happens. You're either ready for battle from the start, or you get swept up by the forces around you.
Louisiana senior Kimberly Grasso has never been swept up by anything or anyone and her warrior mentality has been a part of her since day one, her love for the game of soccer and dedication to her craft has only been strengthened by the warrior she's become.
"My toughness and warrior mentality comes from the love for the game, and I'm always going to work hard," said Grasso. "I'm not afraid of anything and I don't back down from anything on the pitch. I just go out there and do it."
Fortunately for Grasso that mentality helped her through one of the toughest moments in her career, a missed 2016 season to injury, and because of it she's back on the pitch playing twice her size and making a difference for the Cajuns.
Grasso's love for the beautiful game started young, having begun playing at the age of three. And almost immediately she was making an impact on the pitch.
"My mom accidently signed me up for a team that was in an older age group then I was in at the time," said Grasso. "But once I started playing with them, they said that I could stay on the team since I did so well. Soccer, it just came naturally to me."
She played softball as well, a game she enjoyed because of her parents love in baseball, "my family are big baseball fans." But when she entered high school Grasso knew what she wanted to do and began to focus on just one game, soccer.
Grasso stopped playing softball, "I stopped playing softball my freshman year of high school because I wanted to focus on soccer," and developed her skills on the pitch taking her toughness and warrior mentality to the field becoming a solid player at Vandebilt Catholic High School.
With several offers on the table Grasso knew that she wanted to come to Lafayette to play her collegiate soccer.
"I felt like this school was the perfect distance from home and I just felt like it was a good fit here in Lafayette," said Grasso. "I've been coming here, playing tournaments and attending camps, long before I even enrolled. I really enjoyed it here and I like the campus and the coaching staff we have here at Louisiana."
Grasso hit the ground running, playing center mid for the Cajuns, and in her freshman year she started in 16 matches, logging 1,371 minutes, which was fifth highest on the team. She tacked on 29 shots and was overall a force to be reckoned with for the anyone facing the Cajuns.
"She's always been one of the best center midfielders on the field. Kim always gives everything, and she's a little warrior out there," said head coach Scot Wieland.
Her sophomore season went much like her freshman season, and she was recognized for her efforts.
Starting in 12 matches, racking up 1,118 minutes and scoring five goals to help the Cajuns set program records in goals (47) and points (121), Grasso was awarded with three postseason acknowledgments.
She was named 2014 Louisiana Sports Writers Association First Team, 2014 NSCAA All-South Region Third Team and 2014 All-Sun Belt Conference Second Team.
"Kim's all been that All-Conference type player. She got the recognition that she deserved after her sophomore season in 2014," said Wieland.
Part of that recognition comes from the fact that she's a force in the air, coming in at only 5-3, she seems to win almost everything she comes across overcoming her size.
"Since the day Kim stepped on our field she was one of the best players we have in the air," said Wieland. "It's just something that she's good at. She always battles and nine out of ten times she wins the balls she goes up to get."
"I've got a great ability to jump pretty high," said Grasso. "I've always loved getting up and getting in there, because I know that if you go in soft, for a header or anything, you're going to get hurt."
It's a testament to her mentality as a warrior to go up and get those headers and during her junior season she started in 19 of the Cajuns 20 matches and played a team-high 1,631 minutes. She scored five goals while ripping 45 shots that saw 24 go on target.
Everything was set up for her to have a great senior season, but right before the start of the 2016 fall camp, her toughness and dedication was tested.
"We were practicing and I intercepted the ball," said Grasso. "And as I went to make a cut back, my ankle decided to not come with me and I rolled it.
"From there I fell on the back of my leg, and I just heard it crack. Right then and there I knew that something had broken.
"I found out that I had a spiral fracture in my fibula at three different places. On top of that my ankle had shifted and I tore some ligaments in there, getting two screws in my ankle and six in my leg."
And just like that, her senior season was done.
But Grasso didn't think it should end that way, in fact she knew it couldn't and wouldn't end that way. She had unfinished business on the pitch.
With massive amounts of rehab in front of her, the warrior in Grasso came out, and she took a redshirt and began to work her way back to where she once was.
"I just knew that being the player that I was that, this injury wasn't going to stop me from being the player that I was," said Grasso.
"People told me that I need my leg and that I don't want to injure it again and things like that. But I felt like that I owed it to my team and myself to prove that I can get back out there and play again."
Knowing what could happen didn't stop her, and Grasso began playing again during the 2017 spring season. But it wasn't until this past exhibition season did she see some quality game time.
"It's been tough for her to come back with the break that she had," said Wieland. "The fact that she's dealt with that kind of injury and has come back still plugging away says something about her as a person."
This season, with six screws still in her leg, she's played in every game for Cajuns and she's logged 175 minutes. During the Cajuns 2-1 loss at Lamar she had the assist on the Cajuns first goal of the 2017 season and has made her presence known every time she steps onto the field.
Kim brings more than just the experience to the team," said Wieland. "She's loved by everyone on the team and she does everything that you ask her to do.
"In five years, I've never seen her be negative. And I'm glad that she's come back from her injury because she wasn't done being a part of the Cajuns."
For Grasso quitting was never an option. And with this being her final season in a Cajuns uniform she's ready to finish strong.
"Soccer wasn't and isn't something I'm done with."
A warrior's mentality has lead Grasso back to the pitch and she's not ready to stop being a force for the Cajuns just yet.
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