A series of mysterious ailments cost Cheryl Nelson three-quarters of her Frontier League soccer season.
The West Valley junior is now attempting to make up for lost time.
Back in the lineup for the final three matches of the season, Nelson scored six goals, five coming in wins over Colville and Cheney.
“She scored them in no more than 45 or 50 minutes of playing time,” said coach Dirk Linton.
Last year Nelson was the Eagles’ third-leading scorer, behind Katie Snow and Dawn Salfer.
With the prolific trio returned, WV expected to improve on last year’s 4-2-4 third place Frontier finish.
Late last summer, however, Nelson inexplicably lost 20 pounds.
Three weeks later while driving a car she suffered a severe headache and blacked out. She passed out again when she got home.
Tests from a spinal tap revealed nothing, but the patch leaked.
“Liquid was draining out of my brain,” said Nelson. “I couldn’t walk, talk or open my eyes.”
When she was able to sit up three days later she underwent therapy to walk again. By the start of the season, Nelson was watching practices while briefly confined to a wheelchair.
“It was frustrating in the chair,” Nelson continued. “I just wanted to run out there.”
There have been no explanations for her maladies. The tests proved negative and doctors assume, said Nelson, she suffered a severe migraine headache.
Equally mysterious was the sudden weight loss.
“Fat wasn’t staying in my body,” said Nelson. “They checked everything, diabetes, drugs and a chemical imbalance. They asked if I had an eating disorder and it wasn’t that. They have no idea what happened.”
Three weeks ago she was cleared to practice and after 10 days was eligible to play.
“At first I had to pace myself,” said Nelson of her return. “My back is still hurting a little and I’ve lost a lot of strength in my foot.”
You wouldn’t have known it by her two goals at Colville, the hat trick in a showdown for third place against Cheney or her efforts in the season finale Tuesday with Pullman.
West Valley again finished in third place, with an 8-1-3 record, one point away from a league title.
“Not having Cheryl hurt us,” said Linton, “mostly because we couldn’t move people around. I figure the spinal tap cost us the championship.”
Linton added that since her return he played her only half a game, but she had a big impact.
“She doesn’t look real physical but she plays extremely smart,” he said. “She meets the ball when passes come in and beats the keeper to it.”
If Nelson didn’t get a shot, she was quick to find Salfer, who did and scored five times herself.
“Our scoring punch is back. It’s what we needed with those ties,” said Linton.
Nelson said it is just a matter of playing her hardest and now helping her junior-oriented team in the playoffs this weekend.
“I’m catching up for what I missed,” Nelson said.
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