SHERIDAN — Zoie Jones won’t brag about it, but her teammates will implore her to play more. On long bus trips, Sheridan’s goalkeeper doesn’t forget to pack her ukulele to provide the Lady Broncs with some musical entertainment.
Jones started playing the ukulele two years ago. It wasn’t out of curiosity or a strong desire to play an instrument, but rather as a way to relieve stress during a hip injury that forced her to step away from the pitch for some time.
“When things get hard now, I just kind of remember what it’s like not to be playing soccer at all,” Jones said. “It makes me love (soccer) even more and just appreciate everything about it.”
Jones didn’t play soccer as a junior. The star underclassmen was tasked with rehab after tearing her labrum during adult soccer at the YMCA. Initially, Jones didn’t pay the discomfort any mind. She thought her hip flexor annoyance was just that — an annoyance.
When the discomfort grew and started hampering Jones’ ability to move in net, that’s when she elected to pay Sheridan Orthopedic a visit for an official diagnosis.
The X-rays revealed a torn labrum and Jones, not wanting to hear that kind of news, searched for a second opinion. Another source confirmed the injury, and Jones had to trade the grass stains and goalie gloves for bed rest and a ukulele.
“Watching her overcome that and the character she displayed in doing so, that was tremendous,” Sheridan head coach Kevin Rizer said.
Jones couldn’t participate in any sports — basketball or soccer — during her junior year. She sat and watched from the sideline and gained a different perspective. Not only did her longing for the playing field make Jones appreciate the sports even more, but it taught her a lot about the game.
Jones grew as a leader and understood what her team needed from her during her comeback senior season. Rizer — who took over the head coaching position with the soccer program this spring — is especially grateful for all of those intangibles Jones picked up in her year off the field.
“It helped me not just being a new coach, but putting in a new defense,” Rizer said. “Having someone back there who will make those saves, as our backline and midfield is kind of learning how to play this new defense, is huge. It has been incredible to have someone like Zoie, and more importantly she’s a great communicator and she’s an incredible leader.”
Jones has propelled the Lady Broncs to a couple early-season wins, including a 5-0 conference victory at Cheyenne South. It doesn’t take the casual fan long to hear Jones as she’s constantly barking out alignment critiques and words of encouragement as the backbone of Sheridan girls soccer.
“As a keeper you have a different view of the field because you’re behind all of it, so you can see things other players can’t see,” Jones said. “… I’m really trying to utilize the position that I’ve been blessed to have. That’s why I’m vocal.”
Jones believes she’s operating at about 80 percent health. She would like to personally improve her distribution of her goalie kicks along with other smaller tweaks in her game.
Jones is 99 percent sure her soccer career will continue at the collegiate level over at Sheridan College this fall.
A severe hip injury nearly derailed Jones’ soccer career. However, the crippling injury that cost Jones a full year of eligibility couldn’t keep her down. It allowed her to grow as a soccer player mentally … and it gave her an added talent in the ukulele.