When Cameron Shedenhelm realized her senior season was going to be canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic, she decided to have surgery on the injured knee she had been playing on since the first game of her sophomore year.
She had been one of the stars of the Kent State soccer team — third on team in goals and second in assists her sophomore year, second in goals, assists, and points and second team all-Mid-American-Conference her junior year. But her knee bothered her so much that she had to sit out the last three games of that season as the Flashes just missed the MAC tournament.
Now healthy, Shedenhelm leads KSU in scoring and is tied for second in assists. She is fourth in the MAC in goals and third in points. Her team is fifth in the conference and has already won more games than it did all last spring, when the soccer season was played after the fall season was postponed by the pandemic.
Shedenhelm never played last spring as she recovered from her October surgery.
“I decided since last year was so questionable as if we were going to play a season, I took that year to get healthy again,” she said. “It definitely was not something that I wanted to be doing, but it helped me and I feel a lot stronger now. I don’t have to worry about when I’m going to get injured next.”
Shedenhelm still traveled with the team while she recovered.
“It was definitely a struggle, but it made me appreciate soccer even more than I already did,” Shedenhelm said. “The coaching staff still travels you, so you feel a part of the team, and I had a great time because we had such a good team.”
Shedenhelm didn’t quite know what to expect this fall.
“I was just happy to be back,” Shedenhelm said. “It helps having the really good frontline that we have and the backline pushing the ball up. I’m really happy with where our season’s been going.
“It’s helped me be a leader on the field. I think it’s giving us that confidence to score on teams in the MAC.”
Coach Rob Marinaro calls Shedenhelm a “constant scoring threat.”
“She is a strong, physical player,” he said. “She just brings a whole lot of confidence to the team. It’s wonderful to have her back as a player and as a leader, setting a wonderful example for our younger players on how to be successful at this level.”
Shedenhelm scored the Flashes’ only goal in their 2-1 loss to No. 15 West Virginia on Sept. 19.
"We were such an underdog going into that,” Shedenhelm said. “Three starters weren’t even traveling with us, so we had a lot of girls that needed to step up."
“Since we were such a big underdog, we went into that game with no fear. We were expected to lose. We really put up a fight. I think it gave us a lot of confidence even with the loss.”
As a redshirt senior, Shedenhelm’s experience is especially important for the Flashes.
“With the team being so young, they don’t really have a lot of knowledge about MAC play,” Shedenhelm said. “So I think it’s important with my experience to keep the team calm and collected through any obstacles we have and just lead them through it.”
Marinaro understands the importance of Shedenhelm’s experience.
“A lot of the forwards will come to her and ask her questions,” the coach said. “She sits down with them and has a lot of patience with helping them learn their position. You watch her in a training session or in a game, and her commitment to success is right there."
“Cam’s work ethic and professionalism is great mentorship. She does everything that needs to be done, comes in and does extra work, and is committed to success. The whole team is better around her.”
Shedenhelm and her fellow seniors have embraced their leadership roles.
“I see myself as a leader, verbally and with my actions,” Shedenhelm said. “As a fifth year, you kinda see everything. Tianna [Harris] is our captain, she’s awesome. We help her in leading the rest of the team. Our whole senior class, it’s been really awesome leading with everyone.
“Building relationships off the field and on the field definitely helped with starting to build leadership. You want to build that trust with everyone so they trust you on and off the field.
“In practice every day, I give everything. I practice as hard as I can and that really builds energy for the rest of the team.”
Shedenhelm treasures her last season of soccer.
“I feel like I worked up to this point,” Shedenhelm said. “ It’s my last year of soccer, and it’s been a really awesome team environment for my last year. This year means everything to me. It’s all about the fun, the family, and the best you can be at soccer.”
Cole Oswald is a reporter. He can be reached at email@example.com.