Drexel’s Caroline Thompson embodies courage. That’s why the university gave her an award for it

[Philadelphia Inquirer] Drexel’s Caroline Thompson embodies courage. That’s why the university gave her an award for it

Drexel's Caroline Thompson suffered an ACL tear that kept her out for much of the season. It didn't stop her leadership and dedication to the program. Read more

After missing the past two seasons due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Caroline Thompson was left with a choice: Spend her fifth and final year at Drexel as a student, or return to the soccer field for one last ride.

In the end, she chose the latter.

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to just close out and just be a regular student for that fifth year,” Thompson said. “... But then I also didn’t want my last experience to be me injured. I wanted to come back from that and just get one more [season] in.”

A lot has changed since the last time Thompson suited up for the Dragons, and her jersey is no exception. Stitched on Thompson’s right sleeve is the lung cancer symbol with the number ‘9′ in the middle.

The emblem is given to one player each season that coaches select as the recipient of the Laura Meikle Koch Drexel University Scholarship. The scholarship is named after former Drexel standout Laura Meikle Koch, known as “La,” who passed away in 2008 from lung cancer at age 28.

The $1,000 scholarship, a fund of the Chester County Community Foundation, is given to a player that coaches feel “displays the traits that defined the way ‘La’ lived and played the game.” Dragons women’s head coach Ray Goon referred to those traits as “determination, courage, selflessness, in pursuit of giving your best.”

“We try to think of somebody during the past year resembles that the most, and, quite honestly, it was easy when we thought about that with Caroline,” Goon said.

Although the midfielder was presented with the scholarship publicly during this season, it was awarded to her at the end of the 2021 fall season banquet.

Despite not playing for two seasons, her impact was noticed.

“It was a sob fest,” Thompson said about getting the scholarship. “I didn’t really know that coach [Goon] had seen what I was going through and that he saw how hard I was trying to keep myself positive for the team.

“You never know when people are seeing you struggle and you trying to get through it because the past two years have been the hardest of my life. Not playing. Just trying to be a support for everyone. So it was a super emotional day for me and my dad.”

With Thompson out due to injury, she remained engaged. According to Goon, she didn’t drift from the team and would ask questions and give feedback. This season, she was named a captain for the first time in her career.

“I honestly didn’t expect it just because I’m kind of on my outs as a fifth-year [student],” Thompson said of being named a captain. “But super honored to be one for my last year coming back from an injury. I just feel like I have perspective that I can give to all the teammates because of going through my injury.”

With the injury behind her, Thompson can now make an impact on the field. The Pottstown native has played over 500 minutes this year, mostly in a reserve role, and has helped the Dragons (10-2-5, 5-2-2 CAA) to one of the best regular seasons in program history.

She had a choice to make after last season. From the looks of it, she didn’t miss.

“It was kind of a hard choice to come back for a fifth year,” Thompson said. “We didn’t perform to our best the past few seasons, so you’re never sure if it’s just going to be another dud. But for us to break out like this made every second of debating to come back worth it. And I’m just so happy with how we’re doing.”