Favorite athlete: Serena Williams
Favorite team: Tottenham Hotspur
Favorite memory competing in sports: Winning against Neshaminy in the last 30 seconds on a PK
Funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: Making up a team dance to Shakira’s “Waka Waka” during preseason
Music on mobile device: Everything but country
Future plans: Go to medical school then get my PhD in something environmental
Words to live by: “Do what makes you happy.”
One goal before turning 30: Go to Mardi Gras in New Orleans
One thing people don’t know about me: I can tie shoelaces with my toes.
By Mary Jane Souder
Maddie Karabell just might be the definition of a perfect teammate.
Mention the district playoffs, and the Pennsbury senior cannot hide her enthusiasm. Ask what being part of the soccer team has meant, and she’s clear - it’s been unmistakably significant. There’s nothing unusual about that. Until you consider the fact that Karabell has been sidelined the past two seasons with knee injuries.
It was heartbreaking enough that she missed her entire junior season with a torn ACL and meniscus, but it was nothing short of devastating when – after a rigorous rehab and training – she re-tore her meniscus and is once again watching her team from the sidelines.
“In the offseason, we were playing in summer leagues, we’re having workouts, and she’s at everything,” co-coach Kaitlyn Battiste said. “She put herself through a lot of different fitness steps. She was pushing herself. All along she kept saying she was going to do as much as she could.
“She didn’t know what her role was going to be. She still wanted to be a part of the program, and she said, ‘I’m fine just being part of the team.’”
Karabell admits had some concerns even after receiving the green light to start running and resume normal activities in April.
“I did just because I knew I was injury prone,” she said. “And my doctor warned me that it could happen again, but I just really wanted to play through my senior year and just finish it out as a player, not a manager.
“I worked a lot on getting my core strong, so I had a good base. I felt pretty confident about my strength. It’s just that I hadn’t gotten my wind back because I wasn’t allowed to run until April.”
The combination of working out on a bike and periodic mile runs took care of that, and by August, Karabell was ready for the rigors of her final soccer preseason.
“We had done a couple of the practice running tests the week before, so I was feeling pretty confident about being able to stay with all the girls, keep up my strength,” she said.
By the second week, Karabell was no longer feeling so optimistic.
“I think I just wasn’t ready for every single day, two-a-days,” she said. “I didn’t really take into account how strong we went into preseason, so that was probably where it went wrong.
“I started feeling this really shocking pain through the back of my leg. That kind of scared me a little bit, but I kept going until the second week of September. I went to the doctor, and he was like, ‘No way, you cannot go back on the field again.’ He kind of threatened me a little bit and said, ‘If you’re going to keep on going, you’re going to have to get a meniscus transplant from a cadaver.’ I’m kind of a germophobe, so I didn’t really want that to happen. As much as I love the sport, I wanted to be able to walk and run and all the fun stuff in my college years.”
Karabell had surgery to repair her meniscus on Sept. 19.
“It went better than it did last year, which is good,” she said. “I think I came in more prepared mentally and physically.
“I kind of knew what I was sending myself into. He repaired the meniscus the same as he did the last time but no ACL this time, which was nice. It was a shame and very upsetting to me at the time, but I’m glad I was still able to come to all of our games.”
A manager last year, Karabell is happy to be watching from the bench this time around.
“This time I want to sit back and watch from a player’s point of view, not just tallying up everybody’s assists and stuff like that,” she said. “My teammates include me in everything.”
And Karabell will forever have the memory of seeing action in several varsity games this season before she was sidelined.
“I remember the couple of games I was at as a player, waiting anxiously for my name to be called so I could get a couple of minutes in,” she said. “Even though I’m not on the field, it really is still great watching them do their thing.
“It really does feel like you’re out there, and when they’re celebrating with you, it really feels like you’re part of the win.”
Karabell’s team-first attitude is not lost on her coach.
“She’s a sweetheart,” Battiste said. “She wants what’s best for the team. She loves the game, she loves being around the girls, she’s just a champion for her teammates.”
Karabell has been playing soccer for almost as long as she can remember. She started at YMS Yardley, and it was love at first kick.
“My brothers played it too,” Karabell said. “Saturday mornings were our soccer days.
“I just continued to play. I got into travel when I was around 10, and that’s when I actually met a lot of the girls I play with now. I just really loved it every year and I stuck with it.”
Karabell took ballet lessons for four years in elementary school and ran track in middle school. Neither stuck.
Soccer was Karabell’s passion, but she wasn’t quite sure about trying out for the high school team.
“All the girls were so amazing,” she said. “I heard about all the seniors – they were on YMS Explosion, which is an amazing team. They’re pretty much famous around here.
“I was kind of small, and I didn’t really have a lot of experience playing with girls that were much bigger than me. I was nervous I was going to be trampled.”
Karabell – who is now 5-1 but says she was 4-11 in eighth grade – opted to try out. It’s a decision she has never regretted.
“I loved being on the team, I loved being part of something at high school,” she said. “I felt like it was the next level for me in sports.”
As a freshman, Karabell suffered a contusion in her left knee, but sophomore year she was healthy. The summer entering her junior year she suffered an injury while cutting to her right in a game. She knew immediately it was probably serious.
“I was going on a three-week trip to Brown – I was taking a class there,” she said. “I just put off getting it checked in the hopes that it would right itself.
“After I came back, I was trying to train for preseason, and I realized this was not going away and I needed to get it looked at.”
She had surgery in August to repair both the ACL and meniscus in her right knee. Unfortunately, this year was a similar story, but although sidelined, Karabell is enjoying her final soccer season.
“My first outing post-surgery was our Neshaminy game at Heartbreak Ridge,” she said of the Falcons’ 2-1 win. “I’m so glad I went. The two goals Rosie (Bostian) had were gorgeous. It was completely amazing.”
As for her future, Karabell has her sights set high. Vanderbilt is her top college choice, and she plans to major in environmental science with the goal of becoming a double doctor.
“I want to get my MD and then get my Ph.D in something,” Karabell said. “Ever since I was a little girl, I always wanted to be a doctor. That was something I always fixated on it as a kid – it was the reason I got these good grades and stuff like that.”
As for becoming double doctor, Karabell has her reasons.
“If you’re a doctor and that’s all you do and you’re practicing for years and years, sometimes it’s hard to get a research facet in there,” she said. “If I get my doctorate, I can do whatever I want.”
For now, Karabell is enjoying her final high school soccer season. Although it’s not the ending she’d anticipated, it’s an experience she wouldn’t have wanted to miss.
“My first couple of years I was really excited about being an upperclassman and participating in soccer,” Karabell said. “Even though I didn’t get to do a whole lot of that, just being there and being with the girls and getting to do as much as I could – that was really, really nice.
“I never really thought that I was gong to continue with it in college just because I was so injury prone, but I’m really glad I got to finish out my soccer career at such a high level and with really insanely talented girls in a great program.”