First-year keeper takes a break from the field
Not fifteen minutes into his match debut on Aug. 27, first-year goalkeeper Ryan Doyle (‘27) found himself sitting on the turf, looking down and exclaiming, “Oh, my leg is broken.”
Charging well off his goal line to disrupt a breakaway attempt, Doyle slid and collided with Corban University striker Irwin Leon at full pace. There, just outside the box, he prevented the goal but sacrificed the unity of his right tibia and fibula.
Although Doyle doesn’t recall, Corban's trainers immediately rushed to aid him, with Willamette's not far behind. After supplying Doyle with an air splint, trainers waited for the paramedics to arrive. Upon arrival paramedics re-splinted the injury, Doyle explained: “They drugged me up so I couldn’t feel the pain … And then they put me in the gurney and basically pushed me off the field.” Doyle was then taken across the road to Salem Hospital while the Bearcats tied the game 4-4, due in part to his save.
Soccer aside, Doyle has been adjusting to his recent injury well, but not without the help of his teammates, friends and Willamette staff. Coordinator of Student Engagement Quinn Nottage has been a driving force in getting Doyle the modifications he’s needed to successfully navigate his injury during his first few weeks at Willamette. The night after the game, Nottage submitted a Care Report, which went to Assistant Dean for Community Care and Inclusion Justin Leibowitz. As per university protocol, Leibowitz then took that information to coordinate accommodations. For Doyle, this meant receiving a wheelchair from the athletics department, flexibility from professors and the assignment of a dorm on the first floor.
Alongside the necessity of caring for injured students, Nottage noted the importance of providing for those around the injured who may be affected emotionally. In this case, Nottage remarked, “It’s shocking [for other players] when it happens to someone, knowing ‘it could have been me.’ Going back into [the] sport, it's important they’re not always thinking about those things.” Nottage, among other Willamette staff and players, also went to visit Doyle in the hospital in the days after the break to provide support for him during his healing journey.
Recovery for Doyle will be a long road that does not involve his participation in soccer. In the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), Division III athletes are eligible to redshirt under the circumstance of an injury, i.e., Doyle’s situation. “Redshirting” is when a college athlete takes a year off from playing but still maintains the ability to play four full seasons, therefore staying at their university for an extra year. As long as he is enrolled in an NCAA school, he can play soccer. Additionally, according to Nottage the NCAA requires its athletes to be insured by their school, so Willamette’s athletes have a policy that works in tandem with any personal insurance they may have.
With the help of his community, Doyle will move into a boot, onto crutches and eventually back onto the field. In the meantime he can be seen on the sidelines, cheering on his fellow Bearcats.