By Oluwaseun Adeniji
BALTIMORE COUNTY, MD -- September 2, 2017 was a rainy day at CCBC Essex Stadium with temperatures in the mid-60s as the Knights prepared to host Sussex County Community College.
In the 35th minute of play, freshman Erin Moran put the Knights ahead 1-0 after stealing the ball, taking a few touches and beating the Skylanders' goalie with a beautiful left-footed shot.
It was a moment more than 700 days in the making.
Moran first arrived at CCBC Essex in the summer of 2015, having recently graduated from Perry Hall High School.
She would fracture her foot less than a month later during a preseason game and miss the entire season.
Fast-forward to March 2016.
Moran, a two-sport student-athlete, heads to a local recreation soccer game to fill in for a friend after lacrosse practice.
During the soccer game, she was pushed off the ball and her left knee took the brunt of the force, leading to a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
She would miss spring lacrosse and a second season of soccer that fall.
Moran's first official collegiate game came on August 26 at home against Rowan College at Burlington County. She had two shots in a toughly contested 1-0 loss.
She admitted that her first game back was a bit frustrating, but Moran learned from the experience.
"I think as the season progressed, I improved and built up my confidence in the process," said Moran, who is majoring in fine arts with a concentration in graphic design.
Moran would follow up the Sussex game with two goals against Harcum one week later, and a six-goal performance against Cumberland County College on September 16.
"It felt very good and I was really excited," Moran said about the Cumberland game. "I couldn't thank my team enough for helping me out and getting the ball to me."
She finished the season with 31 goals, which tied her for fourth most in National Junior College Athletic Association Division I women's soccer and ranks 7th in all of NJCAA women's soccer.
Moran was also selected Maryland JUCO Athletic Conference Women's Soccer Student-Athlete of Month for September. She scored 19 goals and had three assists for 41 points in the first nine games of the season.
"I was so excited to be selected for women's soccer student-athlete of the month," Moran said. "It was such a surprise and I was so honored to receive the certificate."
Moran worked hard to get ready for the 2017 season.
She attended extra preseason practices, practiced on her own and set up additional practices with outside coaches. Her coach, trainer, and teammates all contributed to her confidence.
"I was really nervous [early on in the season] because I didn't want to re-tear my ACL," Moran said. "I had to work really hard and push through it."
While she remains apprehensive about getting hurt again, Moran is still determined to play.
"I don't think about it during a game," she said. "If you get scared, you'll get hurt."
Moran's comeback season culminated with All-NJCAA Region XX Division I first team and All-Maryland JUCO first team honors.
Giving back is its own reward
Moran wants the world to remember her as someone who is always positive.
Although she battled injuries two seasons in a row that did not stop Moran from giving back.
Since fall 2015, she has missed just one student-athlete trip to volunteer at local elementary schools.
Moran worked with children at Colgate Elementary School (Dundalk, Md.) for two years and is doing so this year at Mars Estates Elementary School in Essex, Md.
"Erin is a great role model and perfect example of the impact student athletes have on younger generations," said Rocco Geppi, CCBC Essex Athletic Operations Assistant. "She is responsible, committed, and does a great job connecting with the children. Many of the children that we visit have been dealt some bad hands; Erin has a way of making them feel loved, which is all they really want."
Both schools are in Baltimore County and are Title I institutions, which are schools that are "impacted by poverty" and receive "customized support" to accomplish objectives like school improvement, student achievement, and parent, family and community involvement.
"I love it. It is really fun and I enjoy it," Moran said.
It has also had some unintended rewards.
"One boy and I were playing lacrosse, and I had a game right after we left the school," Moran explained. "He gave me all this advice while we practiced and warmed up before the game. It builds confidence and it makes me feel good about myself. It makes me feel like I'm making a difference."
Moran received the 2015-16 CCBC Essex Female Student Community Service Award for her dedication and community involvement.
There's no 'I' in Team
Moran knows that soccer is by no means an individual sports and relies on her teammates.
One does not score over 30 goals without a little help from friends.
"Lindsea really works hard up there," Moran said about her teammate Lindsea Webb, who has had multiple ACL tears. The common injury has created a bond between the two forwards.
"My team has helped me so much," Moran said. "I get so excited when they score."
Her teammates this season assisted on 21 of Moran's 31 goals.
Freshman Bailey D'Amico (Perry Hall) had the most assists on Moran's goals with five and sophomore Tianna Hapsis (Perry Hall) had four.
Freshmen Alexis Corbitt-Fennekohl (Loch Raven) and Mia Mangione (Friends School of Baltimore) each had three.
All in the Family
Moran's parents signed her up for soccer at a young age, and despite the setbacks, she continues to play.
Maybe that's because the Moran's household is vested in sports.
Her father played soccer, her mother played volleyball in high school, and her brother currently plays recreational soccer.
Moran's parents have attended every game of her career.
In an age where technology is king and family dinners at the table are nearly extinct, the Morans can always connect through futbol.
"We all really bond over [soccer]," Moran said. "It's really exciting because they come to my games and we get to talk about it. It has definitely brought us closer as a family."
Moran expressed the importance of never giving up and says the greatest advice she ever received was from her father:
"You can do anything you set your mind to. If you think it, you can do it. Plan."
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