CROWN POINT | It would have been understandable if Rachel Marczewski's story had been the kind that left Crown Point soccer fans wondering what could have been.
The senior center midfielder spent all but seven games of her junior season on the sidelines with a broken leg. She's also dealt with back injuries for most of her high school career.
But Marczewski fought her way back and became the most productive soccer player in the area, earning the 2012 Times Player of the Year award.
"I've put in a lot of work," Marczewski said.
Marczewski remembers watching the police escort the Bulldogs got on their way back into town after the 2011 semistate. Despite helping coach Chris Mikrut from the sidelines, she felt detached because she wasn't actually on the pitch for those games.
"When we lose to St. Joe (3-1) in overtime, had we had Rachel maybe we could have changed the formation," Mikrut said, "but I don't know if that would have changed anything."
C.P. advanced a game further to the semistate final — the state tournament final four — before losing again to South Bend St. Joseph 4-0. This time, Marczewski got to be a bigger part of the experience.
She scored four of her 14 season goals (to go with 15 assists) in the playoffs.
"It was unbelievable to beat (Fort Wayne Bishop) Dwenger (in the semifinal)," Marczewski said. "The past couple of weeks have been so great. I'll never forget these memories."
Her abilities on the field are a big reason those memories ever happened, Mikrut says. Marczewski has an innate faculty to play the ball where it needs to be played, seeing the action play out before it actually does.
"Reading the game always came naturally to me, even when I played basketball," she said. "I always just went with how the game went."
Mikrut cites an example from that 3-2 win against Dwenger. He called for a cross to the far post, but Marczewski made the decision to play the ball to Malorie Henderlong at the short post. Henderlong scored what would end up being the game-winning goal.
"She's not robotic. On that play, she had a better read on it (than I did)," Mikrut said. "She's like another coach on the field."
This year's postseason wasn't Marczewski's first taste a big-time soccer. She was a member of the Chicago Magic national championship club team in 8th grade.
Playing for the Magic, at a much higher level of competition, benefited Marczewski.
"It gives you a different outlook," she said. "I was on a B-team over there (at first). I had to work for playing time."
The work ethic instilled during those days still exists within Marczewski. Mikrut said the rest of the team sees it and feeds off of it.
"She comes from a good Polish family. She's a peasant kid," Mikrut said. "She works so hard."
The Bulldogs finished the season at 19-3, with an undefeated Duneland Conference championship and having never lost to a region opponent. Marczewski will graduate with the most decorated senior class in school history.
"The most important thing for Rachel is the 'W,'" Mikrut said. "She's had a great high school career. She's the kind of complete player that you don't get a lot."