Unbreakable McKenzie Meehan overcame two brutal injuries to become the most decorated forward in program history.

T

he first thing McKenzie Meehan remembers was the shattering sound behind her. Then there was the sharp pain that shot up her right heel as she stumbled forward. Two steps later, she collapsed onto the floor of her upstairs bedroom.

In the unlikeliest of freak accidents, a full-length mirror that had been hanging on Meehan’s wall for nearly two decades came crashing down, unprovoked, on her dominant kicking foot. It didn’t make any sense. The 19-year-old forward had attended monthly camps with the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) for the entire year and, just two weeks prior, received the call that she had made the final U-20 roster. Meehan was slated to leave for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in less than a week. Plus, she was fresh off of one of the best seasons in Boston College women’s soccer history. Of all the times to get hurt, why now?

Her twin sister, Madison, BC ’16, and her friend, Mikayla Williams, rushed to her side as they assessed the damage. Meehan had been showing them her brand-new USWNT gear moments before, and was about to fetch some cleats from downstairs when the mirror fell.

At first, it didn’t seem too serious. Blood wouldn’t stop gushing, but Meehan wasn’t screaming or writhing in pain. When they decided to drive her to Urgent Care, she was able to limp to the car. At the hospital, doctors removed shards of glass from her heel and estimated that Meehan’s Achilles tendon was 15 percent torn, although they wouldn’t know for certain until the MRI results arrived on Monday. Ten stitches later, the crisis seemed largely averted.

Meehan’s mom, Mary Lou, wasn’t convinced. For a second look, she brought Meehan to a foot doctor who happened to be a friend of the family. His prognosis was far more grim. It wasn’t just a cut, he said, but a severe Achilles tear with a lengthy recovery time. A couple days later, the MRI confirmed their worst suspicions: Meehan’s Achilles was 85 percent torn. She needed surgery.

As the three accompanied Meehan out of the doctor’s office, reality began to set in.

“We were walking to the parking lot at one point and it was all hitting us, like, ‘This can’t be happening,’” Williams recalled. “She was about to leave for camp in a week or so. Even thinking about it, it brings back a lot of tough memories.”

In the parking lot, Mary Lou smashed a water bottle against the concrete in frustration and broke down in tears. She knew how hard her daughter worked to get to this point in her soccer career. She knew that she would have to miss the opportunity of a lifetime due to circumstances out of her control.

But Mary Lou, along with the other three women in that parking lot, knew something else. Meehan would be back. And she wasn’t going to lose a single step.

"We were walking to the parking lot at one point and it was all hitting us, like, ‘This can’t be happening.' Even thinking about it, it brings back a lot of tough memories." Mikayla Williams, Meehan's friend

B

efore her freak injury, before her forays with the USWNT, even before she became an Eagle, Meehan was an absolute beast in high school.

At LaSalle Academy in Rhode Island, she racked up a 76-0-7 record alongside her sister and led the Rams to four-straight Division I state championships. After her junior season, she was named Rhode Island Gatorade Player of the Year and an NSCAA High School All-American. As a senior, she captured those same honors, plus scored 80 goals to lead the entire country. In 22 games, she recorded an unreal 16 hat tricks.

Meehan eventually chose BC because of its proximity to home, the University’s reputation for great academics, and the elite competition in the ACC. The fact that Madison would be joining her in Chestnut Hill was the cherry on top.

Under head coach Alison Foley, Meehan accepted a limited role in her rookie season. The 5-foot-5 forward played in every game, but only started six matches. Still, her impact was felt across the conference, earning All-ACC Freshman honors after finishing third on the team with nine goals.

In 2013, Meehan’s sophomore year, Foley handed her the reigns. Meehan scored, kept scoring, scored some more, and didn’t stop until she had carried the Eagles all the way to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. In the postseason, she elevated her game, tying the program record with her 18th goal of the year in a first-round win against Northeastern. Meehan found the back of the net again versus No. 10 Nebraska, breaking the school record for goals. And against Illinois in the Sweet Sixteen, she increased that program record just for good measure.

By the time BC was finally eliminated by Florida State, Meehan had finished with an ACC-leading 20 goals, nine of which were game-winners.

The breakout season turned heads within the soccer community. Following the season-ending loss to the Seminoles, Meehan was selected as a member of the U-20 National Team for the CONCACAF Championship. There, on the pitch in the tropical Cayman Islands, she stayed scorching hot. Meehan tallied a tournament-high six goals, guiding the U.S. to a 4-0 victory in the title match and receiving Co-Golden Boot honors for her effort.

She couldn’t wait to return to international play. But because of the Achilles injury she suffered that summer, she had no choice but to sit and wait. And rehab.

Most Achilles tears are the result of the tendon popping while extending in an athletic motion. Oddly, Meehan’s recovery was exceptionally smooth because the broken mirror caused a clean slice through the connective tissue. After a full year of living on the Eagles’ bench and in the gym, she was ready to return.

“It gives you a different perspective on things,” Meehan said of her time on the sidelines. “It makes you realize how much you love the sport. You can also learn different elements of the game by watching rather than playing.”

In her first game back, she picked up right where she left off against rival Boston University in a 2-1 win. Meehan scored both goals, including the game-winner in the 79th minute. It would be one of four multi-goal games for BC’s star attacker in her redshirt junior season.

Once again, she led both her team and the ACC in goals scored, totaling 17 goals and five game-winners en route to All-ACC First Team honors. Along the way, she broke the program’s record for most goals scored with her 40th career goal in a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh. In the offseason, she enjoyed another stint with the USWNT. Naturally, she entered her final year of eligibility with lofty expectations—but without her best friend. Madison, who had been with her every step of the way, on and off the field, was graduating and moving to New York City to work as an investment banker.

Nonetheless, it didn’t take long for Meehan to shatter another school record. The redshirt senior subbed into a September match against Pitt in the 75th minute with her team leading 2-0. Eight minutes later, Gaby Carreiro sent a low line drive into the box and Meehan dove in between two defenders to head the ball into the twine. The goal upped her career point total to 118, the most in program history. It also made her an easy selection for The Heights’ Female Athlete of the Year award.

“McKenzie’s diving header goal to break the scoring record was nothing short of spectacular, which summarizes her career,” Foley said.

I

n the second-to-last game of her collegiate career, Meehan went out with a bang in the most unfortunate and fitting of fashions. Just six minutes into the contest at Virginia, she caught up to a through ball and staved off two defenders on a breakaway toward goal. As she approached striking range, Meehan planted her cleat and fired. Her ankle snapped. The shot hummed past the Cavalier goalkeeper and into the corner of the net.

Any injury is poorly timed, but again, this seemed plain wicked. Meehan was so close to swapping her title from student-athlete to professional soccer player. The 2017 National Women’s Soccer League Draft was only two months away. Now she needed her second surgery in as many years.

Meehan, luckily, knew the ropes of rehab. She mended her ankle and fibula, and by the time the draft came around in January, Sky Blue F.C. took a chance on her with the 34th overall pick. They, too, knew what Mary Lou, Madison, and Williams had known before: If anyone could overcome an injury, it’s McKenzie Meehan.

Featured Images by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Editor

print

About Riley Overend

Riley Overend is the Associate Sports Editor for the Heights. He hails from the Bay Area, and likes to think of himself as a Kanyesseur. You can follow him on Twitter at @RileyHeights.