At 7 a.m. sharp Wednesday, Ally Cook will go under the knife at Mary Washington Hospital for a procedure to repair a deformity in her right heel.
Some 12 hours earlier, playing in the final game of her Chancellor career, Cook coaxed a surgical performance from her afflicted limb. Locked in a scoreless second half against rival Courtland, the senior prepared to uncork a free kick from 35 yards out.
Chancellor coach Klint Jackson instructed Cook to aim high—for the football goalposts—and she complied. The ball hooked and hung in the air, finally skimming over the keeper’s fingertips for the lone goal in Chancellor’s 1-0 victory.
“The moment when I scored, time stopped,” Cook said. “I will always remember that feeling. Hugging all my friends and teammates, because we worked our butts off for this game.”
Injured coming into the season, Cook had been logging partial minutes for the Chargers (5-6-1, 3-2-1 Battlefield). But shortly before Tuesday’s game, she approached Jackson regarding her playing time.
None of Chancellor’s seniors had experienced a win over Courtland, and for Cook, the potential for one trumped the inevitable pain.
“She told me she wanted to do whatever it took to win,” Jackson said.
And she did. From her perch at center back, Cook staved off countless Courtland incursions as the Cougars (6-3, 4-2) desperately sought an equalizer over the final 25 minutes. Behind her, freshman goalie M’laya Ainsworth clawed her way to a clean sheet with 10 saves.
Cook, who will play at Division II Wheeling (W.Va.) Jesuit next fall, opted to sacrifice the balance of her senior season in hopes of being ready for the start of conditioning. It’s safe to say her teammates supported the decision.
The asphalt path leading to Chancellor’s pitch was chalked with messages of “We love you, Ally” and “Get better soon.” On the fence behind Chancellor’s bench, her first name was spelled out neatly with plastic cups.
“She’s cried, she’s had some rough times, and she’s gotten through it all,” said senior striker Brooke Burrell, one of Cook’s best friends on the team. “I’m going to miss her so much,” Burrell said. “We’re all going to miss her.”
But everything ailing Cook melted away as her teammates swallowed her in Chancellor’s postgame huddle.
Jackson first addressed the significance of a statement-making victory amid a season marked by unrealized potential; versus King George earlier this season, the Chargers enjoyed a 30-6 advantage in shots—and lost: “You just put us on the map as a team to beat.”
Then, beaming, he turned to Cook.
“The girl scores a goal on her way out,” Jackson said. “You can’t write it any better than that.”