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Petruccelli battles back from back injury to captain BU soccer

Teresa Petruccelli doesn’t move like she used to, conceded her father Giulio, as he watched his eldest daughter practice with her Boston University teammates Friday at the Bayside Fields, just off the Clearview Expressway and 26th Avenue.

Teresa, her father explained, injured her back two years ago, seriously hampering her ability to run and kick, something that would be career-threatening to the average soccer player. But like his other children, Teresa was always more than just an average player.

Her older brother Armando was an All-American at Holy Cross High School and four-year star at Harvard, while her younger brother Joe is in his fourth year at Vassar. Her sister Fillipa is a senior at Teresa’s alma mater, St. Francis Prep.

“She shouldn’t do that,” Giulio said as Teresa practiced corner kicks with her team. “It’s bad for her back. I saw her crawl off the field a couple of times last year. That was very difficult to see.”

But there is no bigger supporter of Teresa than her father, who helped arrange for the Boston University team to practice at the field in Bayside one day before their season opened on Long Island against Stony Brook. He also helped procure the showers at St. John’s University’s Alumni Hall for the women and was also having the entire team — in all a party of 34 — over to his house in Flushing for dinner later Friday night.

When practice ended, Teresa was greeted by several family members on the sidelines, some of whom got out of work early to watch her and her teammates run through some drills. She was presented with a bouquet of flowers and seemed to revel in every minute of it.

“I love it,” Teresa said. “My dad is great. My mom [Nancy] is cooking this enormous meal. The whole neighborhood will be there.”

Teresa Petruccelli is the co-captain of the team, along with Megan Cross, and is a fifth-year senior at the Boston school, having red-shirted her entire junior year after suffering two slipped discs, an injury she attributes to the non-stop pounding on the old artificial turf field at the BU campus.

The injury, which forces Teresa to wear a metal brace around her midsection every time she plays, was slow to develop, but eventually was too painful for the former St. Francis Prep star to take, forcing her to miss an entire season.

“I think overuse and just playing on turf kind of did it to me,” she said. “It was just bound to happen and the disc just slipped out. It was little by little. Everything on my right side started pulling, my right quad, my right leg and then it just moved to the back.

“It’s getting better,” she added. “I’m doing a lot of therapy and a lot of training, but it’s always going to be there. It’s pinching on my nerve, on my sciatica. It’s day-to-day. It’s horrible.”

Prior to the injury, Petruccelli was one of the bright spots on the Boston University team. In 1997, her freshman year, the Queens native started all 21 games she played in, was named America East Rookie of the Year, was elected to the First Team All-Conference and America East All-Tournament Team and scored three goals and three assists.

A year later Teresa continued to shine, starting all 19 games she appeared in, scoring four goals and five assists, was again named to the First Team All-Conference and NSCAA All-Northeast Regional Team.

During her high school career at St. Francis Prep, Teresa was one of the most promising soccer players in the Northeast. She scored 95 goals in four years as a starter on the varsity team, was captain in her junior and senior seasons, was all league four years straight and was selected to the Olympic Development Under-20 Region I Team.

Her injury, however, may have stunted her career. While she once considered playing soccer on the semi-pro or pro levels — having already played with the Long Island Lady Riders junior team — Petruccelli is realistic about her soccer career after college.

“I would love to, but I have to see how my back is doing,” she said.

When she returned to the Terriers last year, Petruccelli slowly regained her old form, scoring two goals with five assists from her defensive midfield position, starting 22 of the 23 games she played and again being named First Team All-Conference.

The team also benefited from her return, as the Terriers finished with a perfect 9-0-0 record in league play and a 16-7-0 record overall. The Terriers handed perennial power Hartford its first conference loss in seven seasons, beating the team in the regular season and in the finals of the conference tournament to garner BU’s first invitation to the national tournament.

“It was pretty cool,” Petruccelli said of her first year back after the injury. “Hartford had not lost a conference game in seven years and we beat them, which was awesome.”

Though the team lost Deidre Enos, now with the Philadelphia Charge of the WUSA, to graduation, Petruccelli was optimistic that her team could again compete for the conference title.

The team received 118 points, including eight first-place votes, in a poll of the conference’s 12 coaches that had the Terriers as the favorite to repeat as America East champions.

“We’re looking good,” she said. “We have really good freshmen coming in.”

Petruccelli, whose job as defensive midfielder requires her to both anchor the defense and act as quarterback for the offense, had a hand in the team’s first victory a day after the team’s practice in Bayside, setting up the game-winning goal.

With less than three minutes to play in regulation, freshman Melissa Shulman blasted Petruccelli’s indirect kick into the box past Stony Brook goalkeeper Lori Nelson to secure a 2-1 victory.

Bad back and all, Petruccelli is making the most of it during her last year with Boston University. Even if she isn’t the player of old, she’s still pretty darn good.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

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