Lyndhurst’s Uhlick overcomes major obstacles to shine as netminder

Photo by Jim Hague/ Lyndhurst senior goalkeeper Amanda Uhlick.


By Jim Hague

Amanda Uhlick had a perfect life before last March. She was a happy-go-lucky junior at Lyndhurst High School, a standout girls’ soccer player and versatile member of the Golden Bears’ track and field team. She had it all going for her.
That was, until that one fateful day last March, practicing the long jump for the track team.
“I don’t know what happened,” Uhlick said. “I sort of landed funny. I can’t even describe the feeling.”
Lyndhurst head girls’ soccer coach Kim Hykey, who also serves as an assistant track coach, was standing nearby when Uhlick went down.
“I heard her scream and I remember thinking that it didn’t look good,” Hykey said. “She was screaming in pain. Amanda’s a very tough kid, but when I heard her screaming, I knew it was serious.”
Uhlick kept the faith that the injury wasn’t too severe.
“I was hoping it was maybe an MCL and that I wouldn’t need surgery,” Uhlick said. “But the doctors said that I tore my ACL bad. When I was told I needed surgery, I thought it was one of the worst days of my life.”
Unfortunately, for Uhlick, it would get worse before it would get better.
Two weeks after having the first surgery, Uhlick developed a serious staph infection in her leg, an aggressive infection that left Uhlick with a high fever. She needed another emergency surgery to clean up the infection and basically save the leg.
“I had the fever, the chills, everything,” Uhlick said. “I was scared. After the first surgery, I thought I was getting better, but as it turned out, I was getting worse.”
For six weeks, Uhlick received care from a visiting nurse, complete with intravenous antibiotics.
But in June, while undergoing physical therapy, Uhlick’s knee locked and a third surgery was needed to remove scar tissue.
At that point, doctors informed Uhlick that her soccer career was more than likely over.
“I was still hoping to play, but I really didn’t know what was going to happen,” Uhlick said.
“Anything that could go wrong did go wrong,” Hykey said. “I felt so bad for the kid.”
Hykey didn’t know what to think about Uhlick’s future. The player and coach kept contact over the summer, but there were no guarantees – except one thing. Uhlick was not going to be able to continue as a goal-scoring forward, where she played the last two seasons for the Golden Bears, collecting 19 goals.
“I wasn’t ready to count on her to be ready for the season,” Hykey said. “I had to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. She was second on our team in goals last season. It was going to be hard to replace that goal scoring. But we all wanted Amanda to come back.”
“If I wasn’t going to be able to play soccer, I was going to be frustrated beyond belief,” said Uhlick, who understood that regular rehabilitation for a torn ACL is usually anywhere between six-to-nine months. “I couldn’t do anything at all about the time frame. I knew I needed to run and I couldn’t even walk. I really thought that I wouldn’t be ready in time for the season.”
Hykey had an idea.
“I think after talking to her and her doctor that it was going to be that Amanda would have to be a goalie or nothing,” Hykey said. “Because she was a goalie before, I thought she could do it.” Hykey recalled when Uhlick was a freshman, she played half in net and half in the field.
“She was great then in goal,” Hykey said. “It wasn’t like she never played there before and had no experience in goal. It wasn’t like we were going to teach her a totally new position.”
“My coach told me that I should try to be a goalie,” Uhlick said. “We needed a goalie. Our goalie last year had graduated. It wasn’t a bad idea. I played goalie all my life before high school. I was definitely ready for it. I knew that if I tried to run even a little bit, there would be some discomfort. But I could play goalie.”
Uhlick continued to rehabilitate her knee with drive and determination. Nothing was going to stop her from returning to the soccer field. She spent tireless hours strengthening the knee that she almost lost.
“At first, I was a little shaky,” Uhlick said. “It took a while for me to feel confident again to dive after balls. But a lot of it came back naturally.”
Now, one would wonder if Uhlick ever played another position.
Last week, Uhlick collected three more shutouts in games against Queen of Peace, Rutherford and Waldwick, giving her 11 on the season, tying a school record in the process. She made a total of 25 saves in those three games, including several of the diving variety to keep the Waldwick game a scoreless deadlock after two overtimes, enabling the Golden Bears to improve their seasonal record to 15-3-1. Uhlick had 11 saves in the Waldwick match.
And for her efforts and her tremendously inspirational story, Uhlick has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Uhlick also creates a little slice of history at the same time, becoming the first brother/sister tandem to ever earn Athlete of the Week honors. Her older brother Chris, a former baseball standout at Lyndhurst, earned similar honors back in 2006. Chris Uhlick went on to Pace University.
Hykey is amazed with the way Uhlick is playing in goal.
“You would never know she went through anything by the way she’s playing,” Hykey said. “She’s able to do things that most goalies cannot. She’s not going to make any excuses because of her knee. She just wants to play. She wanted this more than anything. Soccer has always been her thing and she didn’t want to lose her senior year. She’s done everything right in order to play and she’s proven to be a true competitor and a true athlete.
Added Hykey, “She also has a heart that most kids don’t have. She has a passion and a desire to play. I knew by the type of kid she is that she would be willing to handle it and compete. She’s really proven herself to be a good goalie. She’s always been aggressive and you can’t teach that. She has a natural instinct. But I don’t know if every kid could have gone through what she has and made it. She’s absolutely someone who is special.”
Uhlick is somewhat surprised with what she’s been able to achieve, through all the adversity and hardship.
“I am amazed,” Uhlick said. “It’s been great. I actually asked if I could go on the field for a bit, just to see how I could do. But I know my importance to the team right now is in goal. That’s where I play.”
Uhlick plans to attend William Paterson University next fall and begin the school’s highly respected nursing program.
“So I don’t know if I’ll be able to play in college,” Uhlick said. “We’ll see. But if I do, it will be as a goalie.”
Regardless, it’s been a remarkable comeback for a young lady who almost lost her leg just six months ago.
“I’m blessed to be able to play,” Amanda Uhlick said. “It’s been a miracle.”

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