Sporting KC

St. Louis soccer player makes comeback

Updated: 2013-07-24T05:02:35Z

By REBECCA FITZGERALD

The Kansas City Star

Thrown from an all-terrain vehicle then buried underneath it, the first thing that came to Ali Wallner’s mind was whether she would be able to walk again and play the sport that she loves.

Wallner broke her pelvis in five places on July 1, 2010. An external fixator was placed to stabilize the bone structure.

Wallner faced a long recovery: 20 days in the hospital. A wheelchair for three months. Two and a half months of crutches. Playing soccer wasn’t anywhere in sight.

But Wallner didn’t stay away from the game and her teammates.

The day after she was released from the hospital, Wallner drove with her mom and twin brother to the Overland Park Soccer Complex to watch her teammates compete in the US Youth Soccer National Championships.

She sat in her wheelchair, cheering on her teammates and giving them advice, motivation, whatever they needed. What could’ve been a completely upsetting experience was enjoyable for Wallner.

“I was glad to at least be a part of it,” she said. “It’s a cool experience whether you play or not.”

More than three years later, Wallner is no longer sidelined, but playing on the same fields.

The St. Louis-based Lou Fusz Wipke team is back for its second go at the US Youth Soccer National Championship Series.

“It’s definitely a challenge (with) the best teams around,” Wallner said. “You know every game going into it, it’s going to be a good game, so you have to go out and play your best game every game. That’s what we are trying to do.”

Lou Fusz Wipke fell to Team Chicago ACA Botafogo 2-1 on Tuesday in a round-robin match. Chicago reached the National Championship Series by winning the National League Red Division title. Lou Fusz Wipke finished second in the National League Blue Division.

Wallner made a handful of saves in the first half, including one from Chicago’s Bryce Banuelos during a breakaway in the 34th minute. Tristin Stuteville split time with Wallner, taking the box in the second half. Hannah Leinert scored the lone goal for Lou Fusz Wipke.

After the summer select season, Wallner will head to Rockhurst University for her freshman year.

She found her way to Rockhurst, a Division II school, after women’s soccer head coach Greg Herdlick contacted her while she was recovering.

Even though Wallner’s health was still on the line, Herdlick offered her a spot on the team.

“He kind of stuck out on the limb, thinking I would get back to being the player I was or better. He at least took a chance with me,” she said. “He was one of the only coaches who did that.”

Herdlick’s confidence in her allowed Wallner to trust him and inspired her to get back on the field.

Wallner is among four Lou Fusz Wipke players headed to Rockhurst in the fall. Kristin Wolff, Alexis Boschert and Jamison Wipke will also play soccer for the Hawks.

To reach Rebecca Fitzgerald, send email to rfitzgerald@kcstar.com.

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