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Devin Griffin mounts comeback for Northeastern soccer

By John R. Johnson
Globe Correspondent / August 9, 2012
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Northeastern’s Griffin

set to mount a comeback

It’s been two years since Devin Griffin last set foot on the soccer pitch for Northeastern University.

Her life has changed dramatically since that time.

She had her left knee surgically repaired for the second time after she tore her anterior cruciate ligament three games into the 2010 season. Last spring, when she was nearing the end of her grueling rehab, Griffin learned that she was pregnant. She married Joseph Griffin in May 2011, and the newlyweds welcomed a baby girl, Skylar, in October.

Devin Griffin, 21, might have a new last name on the NU roster (her maiden name is Petta), but Huskies coach Tracey Leone is certain that the old Devin will show up on the field when NU opens its season with an exhibition game at Connecticut on Friday.

“She’s had a busy couple of years, but we are all excited and there is a great energy around her return,” said Leone, who is embarking on her third season at Northeastern. “She’s such a nice kid and a great player. We’ve missed her and we’re happy to have her back.”

Griffin was a freshman sensation in 2009 when she led the Huskies in goals (14), assists (7), and points (35) and was named Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year in the Colonial Athletic Association, the first player to win both awards in the same year. The highlight of her season was scoring a hat trick in a span of four minutes and four seconds during a 4-1 win over Drexel. Of NU’s 12 victories, Griffin scored the game-winner in seven.

The storybook season came to a crushing halt in the last game of the regular season when Griffin tore her ACL on a non-contact play. She missed the CAA tournament and had surgery in November.

Griffin tore her ACL again when she attempted a comeback in August 2010, forcing her to the sidelines again. She took last season off while she was pregnant, and began to work out again during the winter.

“I feel great physically and I can’t wait for the season to start,” said Griffin, who was a 100-goal scorer at Whitman-Hanson. “It’s going to be so emotional. I’m sure I’ll experience just about every different emotion I could feel.”

The Huskies open their regular season on Aug. 19 when cross-town rival Boston University visits the Huskies. For Leone, having Griffin’s services for just three games during her first two seasons at the helm was similar to having a fancy sports car locked up in the garage and being unable to drive it.

“She’s a hard worker and has loads of talent but has a lot of intrinsic qualities,” said Leone. “She’s great for the team. She’s so likable and the kind of person who can be the glue for this team.

“I didn’t know much about her, but I know I heard her name a ton. She was an All-American as a freshman and CAA Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year, so just hearing that, you know she’s got to be special. I know she scored a lot of goals. We’ve been without her for two years so it’s a welcome return.”

There were times during the past 24 months when Griffin thought she might never return to the soccer field.

“Oh yeah, definitely,” she said. “I love having my family, but this is what I do. Everyone has their identity and [soccer] is mine. My husband is so supportive. He would never not let me come back. It was so tough not being on the field.”

“Obviously, she’s had some challenges but she also has the gift of a little baby girl,” said Leone. “She’s had to overcome a lot, but physically she looks great and she’s been practicing fine. She’s worked so hard to overcome her challenges.”

One new challenge Griffin faces is commuting to school and practice from her home in Carver, and being away from her baby during road trips. While Skylar hasn’t spent too much time around the team yet, Griffin acknowledges that she has a full roster of volunteers for babysitting duties.

“My teammates and coaches have all been so supportive, which is great for me,” said Griffin. “Skylar has been around a few times, and she’ll come around more during the season. All the girls want to watch her and take care of her.”

Griffin’s skills are so highly respected in the soccer community that she was named the CAA’s Preseason Player of the Year for 2010, despite coming off ACL surgery. Given the accolades she earned during her freshman season, Griffin knows that expectations are high for her return, especially having been away from the game for two years.

“I don’t know if I feel a whole bunch of pressure but, personally, I want to be back at that level when the season starts,” said Griffin. “I’m doing everything I possibly can to get there.”

Griffin has two years of college eligibility remaining after this season. A criminal justice major, she hopes to utilize her remaining eligibility while she pursues a master’s degree.

Here and there

Middleborough’s Tyler Horan tied the Cape Cod League record for home runs in a single season when he belted his 16th of the year for Wareham in a 9-8 victory over Falmouth on Sunday. Horan, a BC High graduate who plays at Virginia Tech, had two homers in Wareham’s 12-2 victory over Chatham Saturday night.

Caitlin Brown has been named athletic director at Foxborough High School. She replaces Craig Najarian, who assumes a similar position at Holliston High School. Brown, a history teacher, will step down as Foxborough’s girls’ soccer coach. JV coach Kaitlin LaMothe-Vaughn will take over as varsity girls’ soccer coach.

John Johnson can be reached at jjohnson49@comcast.net.

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