by: John Sullivan, Rice Athletics (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Like a lot of student-athletes in various sports across the country, Rice senior soccer defender Mallory Radtke has her own way of getting suited-out for each contest – a tried and true pregame ritual that is not to be altered.
Without fail Radtke is a soccer player who prefers left sock then right sock, left shin guard before right shin guard, left shoe then right shoe. Already in place and not a part of the pregame routine, however, is her medically-approved compression glove. The garment may be named ‘glove’ but it covers the full length of her arm like a sleeve and is medically required far more than just soccer game days. She wears it essentially 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in order to offset being born with a potentially fatal condition called vascular malformation.
Radtke’s compression glove is a preventative measure in what has now become a life-long battle with a still not yet fully-known aspect of the circulatory system. Her wearing the medical sleeve is an everyday routine and not just a soccer routine.
“I was diagnosed 20 years ago and my glove is just a part of my everyday life now,” Radtke said. “It is not something that I really think about. While it looks different and does draw attention to my arm, I wear it because I want to. It helps with the pain and makes it bearable day-to-day.”
Continuously wearing the sleeve, with very few exceptions such as being in the shower or when swimming, helps with swelling. The swelling is what cuts the critical blood flow to muscles and bones. When the system(s) break down pain is likely to follow, but battling pain is just another routine Radtke has already had for a long time.
“(In 2015) I returned to Rice to start our preseason soccer camp, and the training was pretty strenuous,” Radtke explained. “I could no longer ignore the pain and it got to a point where I could no longer sleep at night. Missing sleep does not work out well when we have 7 a.m. practices.”
With help from the Rice team doctors, plus the use of a Sequential Compression Device (a machine that can appropriately alleviate the arm’s swelling/pain), Radtke’s sleep gradually improved. Her entire 2015 season though was not the same as the previous year where she amassed almost 1,400 minutes of playing time in 17 starts as a true freshman – including the Owls’ NCAA Regional match at Texas where she started and played all 90 minutes on the backline against the nationally-ranked Longhorns.
In her challenging sophomore year Radtke played 63 minutes in the season-opener against No. 5 ranked Texas A&M before making two starts where the team went 2-0-0. She finished 2015 by playing only 211 minutes over eight games. The condition caused a dip in being able to get on the field, but the Leawood, Kansas, native was ready to fight back.
Radtke battled back to start 15 of the team’s 17 matches as a junior in 2016. She played 80 or more minutes 11 times and was part of one of Rice’s best defenses in years. Last season the Owls’ backline helped hold opponents to an austere 10.6 shots per game and was a big part of the team’s seven shutouts.
Now one of eight seniors, Radtke and the Owls have momentum for the upcoming soccer season. She and the other veteran players have a checklist of goals for 2017.
“Every year we want to win a conference championship, but now that we are seniors we realize this is our last chance to do it again,” she explained. “For our senior class, we are now the only ones on the team that have won a conference championship. It is important for us that we do not skip the season and focus on that last game; we have to go game-by-game. You cannot take one game lightly, because every single game helps us get to out end goal.
“This year we don’t have Jazz and Fish, who were both big contributors to our defense and to the team,” Radtke said of graduated All- Region honorees Jasmine Isokpunwu and Jenny Fichera. “What we do have is a team where everyone is willing to work hard to get (playing time) on the field. The reason we have been so successful in the past is because not only do we have a strong first 11, but we also have a solid bench that allows us to make subs without changing the pace of the game.”
The expectations are high, but the Rice seniors are ready to set an example of hard work and perseverance to make the goals a reality. Radtke has the memory of overcoming setbacks to the point where it has become part of her regular routine. She and the seniors now want winning conference to become part of the program’s routine.
“I will never forget winning a conference championship,” she said. “I remember how nervous I was going into the game, and before I knew it, I was holding a Conference Championship trophy as a freshman.”