Injury doesn’t deter Wagner

by Paul Cordes

After a 10-day stay in the hospital for a collapsed lung this summer, sophomore Kaitlin Wagner has made a full recovery and is working to make a statement on the soccer field this fall.

The midfielder on Minnesota’s soccer team has already equaled her scoring totals from last year with five points. She is third in scoring behind redshirt freshman forward Elena Fruci and sophomore forward Lindsey Schwartz, who are tied for first with eight points each.

Wagner’s injury occurred while playing for the Minnesota Lightning in the W-League (an elite women’s league organized by United Systems of Independent Soccer Leagues) this summer. On the first day of practice, Wagner had trouble breathing.

“I tried playing but I couldn’t breathe deeply and I had to turn around to this new coach and tell him that I couldn’t breathe,” Wagner said. “I was really worried he was going to think that I was the biggest baby ever.”

Wagner ended up in a hospital with a spontaneous pnuemothorax, or collapsed lung. Instead of playing all summer, she spent her time recovering and preparing to make a comeback for the Minnesota season opener.

Coach Mikki Denney Wright found out about Wagner’s condition but was confident that if anyone could make a comeback, it would be her.

“Coming into the season, I knew her confidence and play wasn’t where she wanted it to be,” she said. “But the truth is she just worked herself to the point that she was back.

“I think it’s going to make her a better person for having to come back from something like that.”

Wagner came back after that and came back strong. She has two goals already this year, one of which was a game winner against Army in the Gophers 1-0 victory.

And if anyone has been able to see Wagner at her best, it would be sophomore midfielder/forward Marti Klinsing. Klinsing played soccer with Wagner before and during high school. At Wayzata High School, Wagner, Klinsing and redshirt freshman Elise Bjerkenas made four state tournament appearances and won a championship in 2002.

“She is really well-rounded and she stays composed and focused,” Klinsing said. “Regardless of what teams bring, she is always one of the most composed and positive girls on the field.”

With all the respect she has gained from her teammates, Wagner has assumed a leadership role on the team as well. Wagner was voted part of the four-person leadership team and, although she is not always the loudest or most boisterous player on the field, Denney Wright sees her as a strong leader.

“She’s a quiet leader and she likes to lead by example,” Denney Wright said. “I think the team recognizes that and admires her because she takes ownership and responsibility for her own actions first.”

Denney Wright said that Wagner has played wherever the coaching staff has asked her to play and that she never wants to come off the field, which is one of the main reasons Minnesota recruited her.

Wagner also sees herself as a leader by example.

“I think my leading qualities are just how hard I work and the effort that I give on the field,” she said. “I also think I’m really an easy person to come to, so if someone has a problem with something, they can come to me and I can address it to the coaches or captains.”

Through her drive, leadership and effort, Denney Wright said, Wagner is a well respected and hardworking young player who is pivotal to the team.

“After a game, Kaitlin’s always the first one to say, ‘What can I do better?’ ” Denney Wright said. “She comes and watches film; she’s very hard on herself, sometimes almost too hard on herself.

“I’ve never seen Kaitlin Wagner walk off the field satisfied with her performance. She always wants to get better.”