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Senior signoff: Megan Edelman reflects on overcoming setbacks and winning championships

Senior midfielder/forward Megan Edelman chases a ball in a game against Oregon. (Juliet Zhang/Daily Bruin)

By Megan Edelman

June 10, 2024 4:17 p.m.

One of my first assignments in eighth grade was to create a vision board. It had a school, personal, family and post-high school section. In the center of the post-high school section was the UCLA soccer logo, and next to it I wrote, “I will work hard and deserve to be at their school.” I became determined to do that.

When I gave my official commitment to UCLA, I was in disbelief. I knew I was going to be part of one of the best women’s soccer programs, attend one of the best academic universities in the U.S. and follow in the footsteps of my mom, which was so important to me.

My freshman year did not go as envisioned due to the COVID-19 shutdown. When I first arrived, I was isolated and unable to enjoy the campus around me. All seclusion melted away when I met Jen Alvarado and Michaela Rosenbaum. We bonded immediately at every practice and realized this wasn’t going to be just a “trauma bond” friendship. We supported each other through all the struggles we faced, and I finally grasped that the strongest friendships endure despite adversity.

In August, we moved into De Neve, but this wasn’t the typical freshman dorm experience. Only athletes were there in single rooms. One dining hall was open with take-away meals. Training sessions required weekly COVID tests and sweaty masks. Again, loneliness seemed like it would be the running theme, but I became close —albeit not physically — to everyone around me. Our coaches did an incredible job making us feel safe and supported while also allowing us to stay at peak performance.

It was devastating when our fall season was canceled, but we did get a spring season, and I found myself starting the first five games. I even got Bruin of the Match for my first game! Although my playing time decreased, I was still thrilled to be a supportive teammate. The team continued to grind to eventually win the Pac-12 Championship then entered the COVID bubble for the NCAA tournament. It was rough, and my freshman year experience ended in a PK loss. But it wasn’t a loss in my mind. The challenges we overcame as a team were far more significant than any single game lost.

It was a quick turnaround from spring playoffs with the return back to a normal fall season. We won another Pac-12 title but lost in the first round of NCAAs, and soon after, we received the shocking news that we would have an entire new coaching staff. I was nervous to have to prove myself again but knew this was an ideal opportunity to reestablish myself as a player. My excitement rose when we learned Margueritte Aozasa would be our new head coach, as I recognized her from my club soccer days. It had been a few years, and I didn’t expect her to remember me. When we had our individual call, she said couldn’t forget me as a player. I felt wanted and special, especially in a group of the most exceptional players.

Big changes were coming for the better, and it showed. Our team was fit and connected, eager and determined, and I was back on the field and felt alive. I could finally see my original vision coming back to life. Within my first ten minutes of my fifth game, however, I landed wrong and my knee shifted. I immediately fell to the ground and couldn’t get up. I had torn my ACL – every soccer player’s worst nightmare. My soccer vision was ending, this time for real. But after everything I had been through, why would I give up now?

I got surgery three weeks later and shifted to a schedule of early morning rehab sessions before training, then back to rehab, while somehow fitting in classes between. The only thought on my mind was to be ready for my senior season.

I’m so grateful for my parents for everything they do and especially what they did during this time. They came back and forth from Northern California to drive me between practices and tend to my injury. The team and coaches shared the same support and cured my despair with care packages and get well texts. I would have never fully healed if it wasn’t for the love they gave me.

Forced to be benched, I took on a new role: biggest cheerleader. My longing to be with my team on the field never diminished, but I saw a new perspective. They played to their fullest ability for me and our shared objective to win a natty. We climbed the NCAA bracket, beating one team after the other, and soon enough, we were in the championship. When Mari scored the game-winner in overtime, a flood of emotions hit me. This was the best moment of my life. Everything happens for a reason, from my ACL tear to the new coaching staff. But trusting the process, we achieved our goal – my lifetime soccer goal.

The fairytale ended, and I had to return to real life. I continued my rehab regime but started to feel purpose again. I ran, slower and more cautiously than before, but I finally felt like I had freedom back. Within eight months, I was cleared to play – stronger both physically and mentally. I never realized how much I could miss soccer until I was finally able to set foot on the field and compete.

By the time senior year approached, I still hadn’t scored my first collegiate goal. Then in a game against Utah, America sent the perfect ball across the box for me to tap in a one-time finish. I’ll never forget that moment; the pure bliss that came from seeing the ball hit the back of the net. Everything the vision board outlined came to a full circle. Everything I hoped to achieve from a college soccer experience came true.

Saying that my time at UCLA was the best experience would be an understatement. Words cannot express how grateful I am for the academic and athletic opportunities UCLA provided, but more so the everlasting memories and friendships.

Leaving UCLA with four rings is incredible. Each one represents the hard work, dedication, and resilience of our team. They are more than just symbols of victory; they are a testament to the bonds we’ve formed, the challenges we’ve overcome and the unforgettable journey we’ve shared together.

I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to have played at UCLA. Thank you to my coaches, trainers, teammates and everyone who has supported me throughout this journey. Your belief in me and constant encouragement have been invaluable. I am proud to be a Bruin and will always carry these cherished memories.

The biggest thank you to my parents. They were my biggest fans, supporting me whether I was playing on the field or on the bench, and helping me through my injury. I wouldn’t have been on the UCLA soccer fields without their incredible support. And a huge thank you to my grandpa, Ernie, who watched every game and recorded every minute I played at UCLA.

I am excited to start my next chapter as a Pepperdine Wave while getting my Master of Science in Business. Here’s to the next adventure, and forever Go Bruins!

Edelman played for UCLA women’s soccer from 2020 to 2023.

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