Injury helps Fruci become a better player

The redshirt freshman forward is second on the team in scoring, with 10 points this season.

Paul Cordes

For one athlete, an injury the summer before what was supposed to be her freshman year turned into what she calls “a huge plus.”

Elena Fruci, a redshirt freshman forward on Minnesota’s soccer team, tore her ACL while playing with her summer team in 2005. She said it was a huge setback because she was looking forward to playing in the fall, but looked at it as optimistically as possible.

“The fact that it happened before the season started was a huge plus for me because I was able to deal with the fact that I wasn’t going to play,” she said.

“I got to work with the team, I got to know the team and I saw what was going on, so I was more prepared for my freshman year,” she said.

Coach Mikki Denney Wright was at the game where Fruci was injured and knew immediately there was the possibility that the injury was serious.

“We were disappointed, because we knew the impact that she could have had on our team that year,” she said.

However, Denney Wright also felt that the injury, though a setback, may turn out to be beneficial for Fruci.

“I think, long-term, that this was the best thing that could have happened to Elena Fruci,” she said. “She became a better student, a better person and a better player that year.”

It wasn’t as if she was a bad player before the injury either.

Denney Wright said that the Gophers recruited Fruci because she was a goal scorer. In 2004 – her senior year at Mahtomedi High School – Fruci was named an NSCAA/Adidas All-American, Minnesota’s “Ms. Soccer” and was named the Soccer Athlete of the year by both the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press. She has lived up to those expectations.

So far this season, Fruci has 10 points, second only to sophomore forward Lindsey Schwartz who has 11. Fruci is also tied with Schwartz for the team lead in goals with four.

Sophomore midfielder Clare Grimwood said Fruci’s dedication brings a lot more to the Minnesota attack and it has helped the Gophers a lot this season.

“I think that Elena Fruci has a personality trait that not everybody has,” she said. “And that is the fact that she always is so eager to learn more and get better. She is so dedicated to this Minnesota team.”

Denney Wright also said that she has been very happy with the way that Fruci has rebounded from her injury and Fruci’s work ethic during her rehab has helped her get to where she is today.

“She came back from the ACL and said, ‘I’m going to do more than they ask me to do,’ ” Denney Wright said.

“She is up in the morning doing fitness and then she’s begging us and her teammates to go out and shoot with her. That’s what her rehab was like. You just couldn’t pull her away.”

Even though she is second on the team in scoring, Fruci said that she is continuing her success beyond what she already has accomplished.

“My main focus is my consistency of play. I want to play just as good on Sunday as I do on Friday,” she said. “It’s exciting to have a good start to my freshman year but it’s still the beginning and I have to make sure that I keep it up.”

Consistency hasn’t been a problem this season as Fruci’s offensive output has been nearly equal. She had two goals on Fridays and two goals and two assists on Sundays.

Denney Wright said she doesn’t think that it will be too difficult for Fruci to keep building off of her good start, mainly because she sees Fruci’s drive to improve her game.

“She likes to hear the blunt truth, so she’s very easy to coach. You tell her something’s not good enough and she responds right away,” she said. “She almost seeks that out, which is unusual, but she can take it.”

So far this year, Fruci has been able to take what she learned from watching last year and turn it into her personal success on the field this year. That is something that sophomore midfielder Kelsey Hood has noticed right away.

“I think that she (Fruci) brings a dynamic piece to the team that we were missing last year,” she said. “She’s very creative and sneaky and has brought a very different texture to our offense.”