Lexe's goal - Tucson News Now

Lexe's goal

Tucson, AZ (KOLD) - It was the first goal.

Not just the first goal of the game. Not just the first goal for Arizona. Not just the first goal for Arizona in the Wildcat’s first game of the 2016 season.

It was Lexe’s first goal since returning from injury. And that made it especially significant.

Flash back one year. 12 minutes into Arizona’s first game of 2015, Lexe Selman-Richards’ season ended.

“They’re center back was about to clear the ball,” said the senior midfielder. “I did something I’ve done a million times. I just stepped. Took a lunge step trying to block it. Right when I planted, it just went.”

More specifically, her knee ligament went. The diagnosis? A torn ACL.

“ACL was the first thought that came to my head but the whole time up until my MRI I’m thinking, ‘Oh maybe I’m the exception, maybe it won’t be me.’ But it was.”

Four years earlier, a short while after she led Alta High School to the Utah state championship then accepted an offer to play for Arizona, Lexe had similar thoughts. Only this time, they were about the blood tests.

“I was getting tests done for the dorms,” said Lexe. “You have to have certain shots and be immune to chicken pox. I went to the doctor. They said let’s do a blood test. That’s how they found out. I had cancer.”

Acute myeloid leukemia. Blood cancer.

“I was scared,” said Lexe.  “Cancer’s a scary word. That first time when they’re telling you, ‘Hey you have cancer,’ in my head I’m like I play soccer. I’m healthy this isn’t supposed to happen to me.”

But it had. What followed was three rounds of hell. A particularly poisonous treatment that, at one point, had doctors questioning whether Lexe would make it through alive.

The loneliness sunk in.

“There was one time I was on a machine that breathed for me,” said Lexe.  “I had a tube down my throat. I couldn’t eat anything. I hit rock bottom.”

Amazing, the power of positivity. As told in many of these stories, with the support of loved ones, Lexe rose up.

“My family was amazing,” said Lexe. “They really helped me stay positive and kept me motivated through all of it.”

The fight to survive cancer was unrelenting. Yet as she battled, the world moved on.

Seven months after the diagnosis, the Arizona coach who had offered her a scholarship, Lisa Oyen, resigned.

“All of a sudden, it was like I don’t even know if I’m still going to Arizona,” said Lexe. “I don’t know if they still have a spot for me.”

Shortly after Greg Byrne hired Tony Amato, Amato learned of Lexe.

“She was the first one I flew to see when I took the job,” said Amato. “I didn’t know the story. I just went. Met her parents, had dinner with them, sat in their house, asked a lot of questions and listened.”

What he heard was the description of a young woman who defined the very characteristics he wanted to instill at Arizona. Strength. Values. Belief. It reinforced what he had already concluded. One way or another, Lexe was going to be a Wildcat.

“I don’t think it was ever a question,” said Amato. “It never came in my head, ‘How can she help us win?’ It was just, let me hear this story. If she can’t play soccer, I’m sure she can add to our program in some way.”

But Lexe could still play soccer.

After a round of chemotherapy, Lexe was back on the pitch. She wasted no time asserting herself. 30 seconds after the ball was kicked off, Lexe, the cancer patient, scored.

4 years after arriving in Tucson, she’s kept scoring. She has two goals so far in her senior season, 3 total in her Arizona career. She was a part of the attacking line in 2014 that set the school record for shots in a season (359).

Lexe is in remission now. Assuming all goes well, in a year she’ll be considered cured. If nothing else, the experience has given her a unique perspective on everything. One that came in handy when, with a wrong step, her 2015 season disappeared.

“It’s the only way to get through challenges like that. Have that positive attitude to keep you on your feet and keep you motivated.”

On the surface, her goal against Pepperdine was simply a strong Arizona start against a formidable opponent. Taken in a larger context though, it was tangible proof of the philosophy Amato holds dear. If you set out to accomplish something, with the right mindset, nothing can get in your way.

Not a torn ACL.

Not cancer.

And certainly, not a Pepperdine goalkeeper.

Copyright 2016 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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