For seniors like Polytech’s Boyce, final season would have meant a lot

Madison Boyce (15) was a second-team All-Henlopen North selection as a defender for Polytech High last season. Delaware State News/Andy West

WOODSIDE — The physical wreckage was bad enough.

Madison Boyce tore a couple ligaments and dislocated her right knee cap when she collided with another player during a soccer game four years ago.

But, in some ways, the psychological damage was even worse.

After Boyce had her knee surgically repaired, doctors told her she was more likely to dislocate that knee cap again.

“I was scared to do it again,” said the Polytech High senior. “It really got to my confidence level.

“I wasn’t as confident as I used to be. … In the beginning, I would really get in my head. I was cautious when I went in for a tackle or something like that.”

Still, after a year of strengthening her knee, Boyce got back on the field for the Panthers as a sophomore. She was good enough to earn second-team All-Henlopen North honors as a junior defender last spring.

And she was really excited for her senior season and the chance to play on a veteran Panthers’ squad.

However, like the knee injury her freshman season, the coronavirus pandemic took away this season, too.

Like most high school athletes, Boyce doesn’t have any plans to play in college. She and her teammates weren’t favored to win a state title, either.

On the other hand, Boyce had worked really hard to play the sport she’d loved since she was little. She wanted to take the field again with her friends.

“I was really looking forward to this season,” she said. “Pretty much everybody on the team had some travel experience. It was supposed to be a really good year for us — the best year that we had.

“That’s what it makes it really hard because we’d all been talking about this year for all of high school.”

Boyce (center) overcame a ser Submitted photoious knee injury as a freshman in high school.

The other seniors on this year’s Polytech roster included Alyssa-Lynn Brown, Sarah Fox, Jenna McDuff, Jennah Morris, Emily Rodriguez, Jaiviauna Rowley, Madison Selph and Nadia Ten.

The Panthers went 11-5 a year ago, losing twice to eventual DIAA Division I state champion Padua — including once in the state tournament. They returned a player with starting experience at every position.

“This group of girls, they were extremely dedicated,” said Polytech coach Shaune Gorman. “A lot of them played club ball together. In my mind I didn’t see a reason why we shouldn’t have at least been in every game this year.”

A product of the Caesar Rodney School District, Boyce was playing in the CDSA by the time she was five. By seven, she was playing on travel teams.

Boyce played in lots of regional events, going to places like West Virginia and North Carolina.

“It pretty much consumed me,” said the 18-year-old Felton resident. “I loved it. I loved every minute of it. … I just loved having a team and I loved the sport. It was fun for me. And I loved going away every weekend and playing games and having tournaments.”

In 2017, just before the start of her first preseason at Polytech, Boyce was playing in a travel tournament in Virginia. She and an opposing player both went for the ball at the same time.

“Her knee kind of hit the side of my knee,” Boyce explained. “I rolled and it was just a lot of pain. I knew immediately that something had happened.”

Boyce’s first doctor told the 14 year old she wouldn’t need surgery. But another doctor said it was necessary.

So, three months later, Boyce had her operation.

“It turns out, I wouldn’t have been able to play again if I didn’t have surgery,” she said.

While the operation was successful, the injury effected the way Boyce ran. There was also that fear of hurting it again.

“After that, it was just kind of hard to get back into the groove,” she said. “I never really got back into it the way I was before I got hurt.”

Gradually, however, Boyce regained her confidence. She was ready to go for this season.

“She worked extremely hard to overcome those injuries,” said Gorman. “Madison has always been a team player and a great leader. She always gave it 110 percent and never complained or argued about anything.”

By now, Boyce has come to terms with her competitive soccer career being over. Part of her would like to keep playing in college but she also wants to focus on becoming a nurse.

She’ll start Delaware Tech’s ‘Seed’ program in the fall.

Boyce just wishes her senior could have had a different ending.

“It was our last time to all play together, really,” said Boyce. “It was hard, especially for us seniors because there’s so many of us. It was going to be a big year for us.”