Prep girls soccer • The forward missed last season after she fractured her skull.
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Whitney Back could feel the target on her back long before the game clock started.
She's used to seeing six defenders at every turn. She's learned to work around the constant, swarming pressure.
But when she saw her jersey No. 7 scrawled in bold black on Skyline's pregame whiteboard last week, she really knew the Eagles had her number.
"They were just told to not let me touch the ball," Back said.
You hardly can blame them for the simplified defensive strategy.
As the leader of the Olympus girls soccer team's offense, Back had scored every one of the Titans' goals in 2012 entering this week. Her 12 goals rank second in a stacked Region 7 in scoring and third in Class 4A.
Olympus doesn't win if Back doesn't score. The Titans' offense doesn't just go through her; she is the offense.
No pressure, right?
"I definitely feel it a bit," said Back, one of just four Titans seniors. "But we're a young team. I think everyone is feeling that pressure."
"Our main goal now is to get someone else to help her," third-year coach Chris Madsen said. "We've got the potential, but someone needs to step up."
In the meantime, Back is happy to shoulder the load for her team.
After all, she's lucky to be able to play at all.
On a warm June night in 2011, Back and a friend decided to take a quick bare-footed joyride on her longboard. In the spontaneous moment, Back didn't think to put on a helmet.
They started slowly, rolling down the driveway on the same board. As they rolled toward the top of Holladay's steep Casto Lane, they quickly picked up speed that turned to a dangerous wobble.
As they lost control, the friend managed to jump off the board safely, but Back kept going. Soon after, she crashed and fractured her skull.
"It was not the brightest thing I've ever done. I think my coach could tell you that," Back said.
The next week required surgery to relieve pressure and swelling on her brain. The upcoming soccer season was out of the question.
That reality was a tough blow to Back and the Titans.
After all, it was supposed to be Olympus' year. All-state forward Savannah Spere was at the top of her game. Grace Gouchner was back on defense after a torn ACL injury. Back was ready to improve upon her 10-goal sophomore campaign. The trio was expected to lead the Titans into region and state title contention.
Back instead was forced to watch from the sideline. The Titans were successful in her absence, notching a 10-5-2 regular-season record before being ousted by Sky View in the first round of the 4A state tournament.
Back still wonders what could have been.
"It was definitely a hard thing," she said. "We were all so excited to finally play together, and it really was supposed to be our time."
She is making up for it now. During her recuperation, she did her best to keep up on her ball-handling skills and kept up her fitness with plenty of nonimpact scrimmages.
After a long recuperation, Back was cleared to play in the spring. As soon as she got the green light, she hit it hard.
"I think I definitely appreciate the game more now," she said. "I'm happy now for every practice, for every chance to play."
And with the regular season wrapping up, Back is determined to lead her team to at least a few more wins. More important, she wants to set the expectation for years to come.
"We had a rough start, but things have started to come together," she said. "Hopefully I can help win a few more games and the team can build from there."
Whitney is back
Whitney Back is the only player to score for the Titans through 11 games this season. She is the second-leading scorer in Region 7 with 12 goals on the season.
Back missed last season after a skull fracture suffered during a longboard accident in June 2011.