Written by Brandon Rost, Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer
Teams that make it to the regional round have been through a lot, playing and beating the best in their state. However one team, HSC Academy Select from Delaware, has been through a lot more in the past month. Grace Firestone, the captain and, as Coach Deb calls her, "the engine in the middle," suddenly collapsed on June 6th and has since been told she may never be able to play contact sports again.
Grace was standing on top of the world as she graduated from Tower Hill on June 5, 2011. She was class president and a three letter varsity athlete competing in volleyball, basketball and soccer where she was ranked 3rd in the state. At the high school awards ceremony Grace received awards for both female athlete of the year and leadership. And as Grace was giving the class president's speech at graduation she did not know what the next day was going to bring.
On June 6, 2011 after a routine workout at the local Y, Grace came home not feeling well. Soon after she collapsed,
and her brother needed to call 911. As medics arrived Grace would need to be revived and rushed to the hospital. She spent 10 days in the ICU and would need a defibillator installed. Since, she has been told she may never be able to play a contact sport again.
On Sunday, July 3rd, her team competed in what would be their final match ever since they were formed back in 2007. Since the day she joined the team, Grace has showed her support and hasn't missed a game or practice. Coach Deb said "Grace's leadership and encouragement for the team is top notch. She is a true competitor and an inspiration on the team." So today in their final game against the Seacoast United Maine Chaos, the team wanted Grace to take the first tap. Madeline Buckley, Grace's teammate and best friend, said "she is the hardest working and most desiring person she knows." To see her out there she cannot say in words how thankful she is to have Grace still with us.
So as the referee blew the opening whistle to start the game, Grace was once again reunited with her team on the field. She took the tap, passed it to a teammate who then kicked it out of bounds and a sub came in for Grace. As she came off the field a great warm applause went off by all in attendance; teammates, Maine players, coaches, referees and spectators. Local and regional officials presented Grace with the game ball and the HSC Academy Select went on to beat Maine 5-0 in that game. Grace said after, "give 100% to anything you do because you never know when you'll have to give it up."
Grace will soon be starting rehab and hopes to one day be able to compete once again. She will be attending the University of Delaware starting this fall and will be entering as a pre-med student.