Nov. 13, 2009

By Dan Hicklin
Special to NCAA.com

EASTON, Mass. – Courage comes in many forms and can be found anywhere you'd care to look.

Consider the case of Jaci Moulton, who wears many hats for her UMass-Lowell team.

Need a goal in a crucial spot, she'll get it for you.

Need a kick in the pants, as senior co-captain, she'll give it to you.

Need some inspiration, she's got that covered, too.

Painfully.

And with a shredded ACL flopping around inside her gimpy left knee.

She'd get that balky joint taken care of but Moulton is a little busy right now, what with Sunday's impending National Championship clash with Bloomsburg and all.

She'd rather run on one good leg with her Riverhawk teammates, than sit out this championship quest.

She's been disapponted twice before, and wasn't going to let anything like a torn ligament keep her from ending her Riverhawk career on top.

“I wasn't just going to stand there,” said Moulton, a psychology major from Baldwinville, Mass., “and watch this go down. Not in my senior year.”

Moulton suffered her gruesome injury back on Sept. 10, in a game against Stonehill.

While trying to split the Skyhawk defense, Moulton became airborne, then hit the turf with a thud. She knew right away that something was terribly amiss.

“I remember,” she said, “I just twisted it up in the air and I fell wrong.”

The season was already too far along for Moulton to apply for a red shirt year, so she immediately set about rehabbing the knee.

“Yeah, I worked really hard with the trainer,” Moulton said. “I knew I was going to come back.”

Two weeks later, she was back on the field, just in time to help Lowell on its path to a seventh straight National Semifinal appearance.

“When she scored her first goal after she got back,” said senior defender Laura Sullivan, “I almost started crying on the field.”

Despite strong objections from Moulton, Hlebichuk a lid on her playing time. At least early on.

There were, after all, much bigger games still to be played.

“I remember her being upset with me,” said Hlebichuk. “I said, 'Jaci, we can win through the conference'. What's most important is that we get you back to where you're playing 70 minutes in an NCAA tournament game.”

Hlebichuk admitted that she had her doubts, too.

“You say these things,” she said, “and whether or not they're going to happen, you don't know. But you use it like a glimmer of hope to keep you motivated. So for it to happen is fantastic.”

Remarkable, too, was the sight of Moulton, left leg held stable by an imposing looking hip-to-calf contraption, scoring a crucial goal in the Riverhawks' 2-1 Semifinal win over Stonehill, Friday.

Scoring it, ironically, on the same field where her career was nearly snuffed out two months before.

“It definitely shows a lot about her work ethic,” said teammate Sammy Macy, who herself has come back from ACL surgery. “Her determination. It's what we look for in a captain, and she does a perfect job of it.

“For someone like Jaci to be on the forward line, scoring goals in an NCAA Semifinal game, shows a lot about Jaci. Nothing can get in her way.”

To Hlelbichuk's way of thinking, the courageous comeback by Moulton will have a long lasting effect on her squad.

“It's like a testament to her dedication,” she said. “It's going to affect this program for years to come, because everyone's going to know the story of Jaci Moulton. Scoring a goal in an NCAA game without an ACL.”