Senior Weekend Holds Special Meaning to Craig

Oct. 18, 2012

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Lobo Women's Soccer - Final home weekend in the Mountain West
Who: Lobos host Air Force (Friday, 5 p.m.) and Wyoming (Sunday, 11 a.m.)
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This weekend, the University of New Mexico will say goodbye to a special group of seniors. Kelli Cornell, Rachel Montoya, Sinead Fleming, Natalie Jenks, Stephanie Rowe, Lauren Irwin, and Jordan Craig will be playing their final home games at the UNM Soccer Complex this weekend. These seven seniors (the eighth, Shelbie Luna, is injured and will be back next year) have seen the program win 45 games in three years, win two regular season conference titles, and one conference tournament title.

This group have been a part of the greatest four-year history in UNM soccer history, and all have contributed, from Cornell, Fleming and Irwin anchoring a defense to a school record five straight shutouts and a scoreless streak for the ages, to incredibly clutch goals, such as Jordan Craig's overtime winner at Texas, or Natalie Jenks' game-winner 19 seconds into the conference tournament championship game last year. There have been tremendous highs, with both Montoya and Rowe scoring both goals in separate 2-0 wins, and there have been hard times, perhaps none more than when the team came together and dedicated the 2011 season to Rachel Montoya's father George.

UNM's seniors

However, the story of Jordan Craig returning from two redshirt injuries, missing all of last year with a second ACL tear, is the focus of this guest piece from Lobo junior midfielder Brianna Webster.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ by Brianna Webster, special to
An energetic, playful 3-year-old boy sprints through the airport terminal shouting in delight that he recruited a fellow chaser in his game of tag. Right behind him strides a small, petite Texas girl wearing all-red Lobo gear and a mischievous grin. To the screams of excitement by the boy, UNM soccer player Jordan (Jojo) Craig scoops up little Cristiano and tosses him in the air. As the fidgety toddler squirms to get out of her grip, she says, "You won't be quicker than me for a while!" And she's right.

Craig's speed and finesse with the ball can drive defenders into the ground. Her experience and knowledge of the game equal her talents as a player. Craig's sixth and final season as a Division I student-athlete at the University of New Mexico has landed her in the small percentage of players who utilize their two potential redshirt years.

The 23-year-old with a vibrant, youthful personality has met great adversity during her college years. Her first injury occurred before freshman year even began; she tore the ACL (a major ligament) in her left knee on Day One of preseason, which automatically meant a red-shirt season and a minimum seven-month recovery. This allowed her to focus on other things, such as getting stronger in the weight room and improving on her fitness. "It changes your perspective... You realize this could be your last game so you're going to work for it every single time," Craig says, recalling her transformed attitude toward playing each soccer match.

The next injury arrived in time for her senior year. With a starting position lined up and an exceptional semester of spring training behind her, Craig tore ACL number two in a friendly small-sided soccer game on a sunny July morning. At this point any average athlete would give up on the student-athlete life and say, "There goes my soccer career"--but not her. Craig's attitude inspires. "I want to play and finish it out. I don't want to end on the sidelines, even if I'm not 100 percent next year," she said. "You can never go back to soccer. This is your last opportunity to play. You can put your life on hold for a year."

Craig took two heartbreaking injuries and turned them into lessons. Patience and perseverance can reap large rewards. This attitude has helped her to accomplish a lot. Next up after Craig's final season of Division I soccer? Physical therapy school. And her history with injuries should assist her to find common ground with her future patients.