American Heritage senior midfielder/forward Zandy Soree takes an elevated health risk every time she steps on a soccer field. But the alternative would be even worse, at least for Soree.
“The thought of not playing,” said her mother, Nadia Soree, “made her miserable.”
The crisis started last February, when Soree, a University of Central Florida recruit, collided with another Heritage player during a drill. Soree developed a massive blood clot — called deep vein thrombosis — down her entire left leg.
“Her leg turned blue,” Heritage coach Cindy Marcial said. “They didn’t know if she was going to lose her leg.”
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Hospitalized for a week, Soree’s body dissolved most of the clot.
“But even after several procedures, one of my veins is still chronically blocked and will always be,” said Soree, who has a 4.3 grade-point average and is well versed in her medical situation.
While hospitalized, doctors also discovered that Soree has May Thurner Syndrome, a rare condition in which the left common iliac vein is compressed.
Before the collision, Soree had never experienced any symptoms, probably because she led an active lifestyle with soccer. But after the clot, doctors could not guarantee that she would ever be able to play again.
In fact, Soree had to stop playing for seven months while she was on blood thinners, and, during that time, she had to try to regain the blood flow she had lost.
“When I first started, I could barely walk around the block because it hurt so much,” Soree said. “So I started with the stationary bike, and I was able to eventually build up to 40 minutes, twice a day.
“Then I tried running, and I was only able to get a few houses down the street, adding a little distance every week.”
By October, she could finally run three miles, and this season she has resumed her stellar career, producing 20 goals and 14 assists heading into the regular-season finale Saturday.
Heritage (14-1) will begin district playoffs next week and is a favorite in Class 3A to win its fourth consecutive state title.
Meanwhile, UCF has stood by the 17-year-old Soree, honoring the scholarship offer. Soree, whose father is from Belgian, will play for the full women’s Belgian national team this spring in the Algarve Cup before heading to UCF.
Her mother said it was “frightening” when her daughter was hospitalized but added that continuing to play was Zandy’s decision.
“There’s still a bit of a risk if I get another big hit,” said Soree, who wants to study nursing or special education at UCF. “But the risk is not that high, I don’t think. … I wear padding on my left leg.
“I don’t think most people understand the severity of the pain I play with — it’s the worst pain I’ve ever had. It starts about five minutes into the game, and it lasts until the final gun. But the love I have for this game is greater than any pain.”
With district playoffs set to begin next week, here’s a quick look at some of the top teams in Broward:
▪ Class 4A St. Thomas Aquinas (17-0-1), ranked No. 1 in the nation by Maxpreps, tied Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, California) 2-2 on Dec. 18 but is otherwise perfect. Aquinas beat Heritage 1-0 on Nov. 9. Every other Aquinas win has been by at least two goals.
▪ Class 4A Archbishop McCarthy (15-2-1) is ranked 10th in the state and 21st nationally. The Mavericks are led by Florida Atlantic recruit Abby Rivas, who has 13 goals and 9 assists; and Amanda Perez, who has 20 goals and eight assists. The Mavericks lost 5-0 to Aquinas earlier this season and will likely face the Raiders again in next week’s district final.
▪ Class 2A Cardinal Gibbons (12-1-2, ranked 27th in the state) has earned the No. 1 seed in District 14-2A. The team is led by senior midfielder Mackenzie Crittenberger, who has 12 goals and six assists and is being recruited by Albany, College of Charleston and others.
▪ Class 2A Pine Crest (12-1-2) lost the tiebreaker to Gibbons and will be the second seed in the district. Pine Crest, ranked 16th in the state, posted rare wins over Gulliver and Delray American Heritage this season. Pine Crest standouts include Jordan Elliott, Autumn Clark, Sophia Danielsen and Isabelle Turner.