A year ago, for the first time in her life, Titans defender Jazzmin Mancilla was incapable of doing something she’s done since she was 3 years old – play soccer.
In the 2016 season opener of what was supposed to be her senior year, Mancilla made a tackle in Titan Stadium against St. Mary’s University and came out of it feeling excruciating pain.
“I literally told myself that I should probably scream because no one is going to take me serious if I don’t because I don’t usually get injured,” Mancilla said. “It was kind of nerve-wracking, and next thing I know everyone is out there crowding me trying to figure out what’s going on.”
Pain doesn’t usually keep Mancilla down on the field. She immediately knew she was seriously injured even though she was unsure of how it happened and had to watch video to refresh her memory.
Despite not remembering exactly how she injured her right leg, Mancilla recalls her parents’ reactions.
“My dad stood up at the top of the stands and was just like ‘She’s going to get back up, she’s going to get back up,’ and my mom was just automatically in tears,” Mancilla said. “They rushed down from their normal spot and came and looked at me, and all I could do was just try to smile it off and just be like ‘I’m OK, I’m going to be OK,’ even though I knew I wasn’t going to be OK.”
Through the pain, the Titans defender still put a smile on to hide the pain when every athlete’s worst fear was confirmed – she had suffered a torn ACL.
For Mancilla, the hardest part of being injured was not the injury itself, but how drastically it changed her plans. Hours prior to her ACL tear, Mancilla was excited and emotional to step on the field for her last season opener with the team.
“Realizing that I had so many plans for that year was the hardest thing for me,” Mancilla said. “This was supposed to be my senior year.”
A torn ACL normally requires an athlete to be on the shelf for at least a year. Knowing this, Mancilla was redshirted for the remainder of the 2016 season. With the support of Titans Head Coach Demian Brown, the kinesiology and health science major was given a year to focus on her school work and getting healthy.
Mancilla felt grateful to have the support from her CSUF athletic trainer Charles Dean III and physical therapist Nathan Longcrier who kept her spirits up throughout therapy and continuously reminded her of her ultimate goal of being back on the field.
Aside from her mom and dad, boyfriend Dustin McNicoll was also one of Mancilla’s biggest supporters throughout her recovery time.
Due to helping his parents move, McNicoll was not in attendance when Mancilla was injured, but the couple always shared a phone call after every match and McNicoll immediately knew something was wrong based on the sound of Mancilla’s voice.
“I wanted to know what her game plan was, what were the next steps and what it was going to take to get back out on the field,” McNicoll said.
Mancilla’s next step was treatment and rehabilitation. Her only job was to focus on herself and therapy. She was able to take classes during the time she would normally be practicing alongside her teammates, and afterward, she worked on getting healthy.
Over time, being away from her teammates became another hardship Mancilla had to endure.
“There were times when I felt really lonely, I felt disconnected,” Mancilla said. “It’s something you don’t know until you are in that situation, how much of a disconnection there is with the team.”
When times were tough and Mancilla thought about her team training without her, she continued to remind herself that her way of supporting her team was getting healthy and back out on the field as soon as she could.
Mancilla began her recovery journey unable to lift her leg. Every other week she gradually reached new milestones like standing and walking.
“I feel like I’ve just been able to see how hard I can really push myself and how far my body is willing to go,” Mancilla said. “There were so many times that I had just wanted to quit, and I didn’t think I was going to get through it.”
Still, Mancilla pushed on.
After passing two physical tests, Mancilla got the message that she would start Aug. 25 in a match against Brigham Young University.
“I was super duper excited. I got the news, and I copy and pasted the message to my mom, my dad and my boyfriend,” Mancilla said.
Her father and boyfriend were immediately excited for her, while Mancilla’s mother was slightly confused until receiving clarification.
“My mom called me and she was laughing, and I said ‘What are you laughing about?’ And she said, ‘Oh, honey, I thought you were going to start your period, not the game,’” Mancilla said.
That match marked the first of nine total starts Mancilla would have in the regular season and the first of 16 game appearances since her injury.
In her third start, the Titans defender contributed an assist and in her sixth appearance on the field, she scored her first goal of the season.
“I went from starting and playing almost every game my first three seasons to a season-ending injury in my home opener my senior year, so it’s been a ride, been a lot of tears, but it’s very humbling,” Mancilla said.
Being part of a winning team continually drives Mancilla. On days when she feels tired, she pushes herself by thinking about her teammates and how they are working just as hard as her.
It is that mentality that brought Mancilla the success she’s achieved today as an athlete and as a person.
“She handled everything better than what was to be expected,” McNicoll wrote in an email. “I loved watching her react and deal with this injury. It was awesome to see pure joy in her face and in her voice every time she reacted to a new milestone. She has shown me that no obstacle can stand between yourself and your goal.”
Mancilla and her teammates won the Big West Championship on Sunday and will compete in the NCAA tournament on Nov. 11 for the fourth Big West title and NCAA appearance she’s been a part of in her five years as a Titan.
5 years, 4 Big West tourney titles/NCAA berths, 3 peat, 2 goals, 1 new acl. What a blessing it’s been so far. Thanks Fullerton????? pic.twitter.com/ncSFQuqNhV
— Princess Jazzmin (@jazzAYYEE) November 6, 2017
Despite all she’s has been through, Mancilla’s injury has not diminished her enthusiasm or how she plays. She continues her therapy exercises on her own whenever she can, even while she’s watching TV, but her year-long ordeal didn’t make her adapt to a more tentative playing style on the field.
Mancilla only knows one way to play.
“If I don’t go in hard, if I don’t get into the tackles I need to, if I go in half way, I’m going to be the one getting hurt,” Mancilla said. “I mean there are still some times where I think I’m more timid. I don’t go in as quickly or as recklessly as I would have, but I still make sure I get in as hard as I can and I’m not the one on the ground at the end of the day.”
Yaresly Sanchez-Aguilera contributed to this story.