Clovis North’s Ari Worrell Overcame Major Injury, Finished Senior Year As Champion

“It was really hard on me mentally because I didn’t feel like myself.”


When the Clovis North soccer team cruised to an 8-0 win against San Joaquin Memorial on Dec. 22, 2022, there was one goal that was more special than the rest.

That was the goal of senior Ari Worrell.

This goal, that came in the first minute of the game, received the loudest cheer of the night at Clovis North. Because the supporters understood what that moment meant for the young student-athlete.

Rewind to the summer before Worrell’s senior year. That’s when the Broncos star heard her knee pop and fell to the ground as she was playing with her club soccer team.

“It was a freak accident,” Worrell said. “I was trying to change direction one way and go back the other way and I got my foot stuck in the ground. I just heard my knee pop and I kind of went down to the ground.”

Worrell, who knew right away that something serious has happened, was in tears as she stayed down on the field. But it wasn’t the pain of the injury that devastated the Central Valley athlete. Rather, it was the fear of missing her senior season that worried her more.

“I wasn’t really in a lot of pain, but I started crying because I figured that I probably tore my ACL, just the way that I’ve heard other people tear it,” Worrell said. “I was crushed because I hadn’t even started my senior year yet and I already found out that my ACL is torn.”

The Clovis North student-athlete was clearly devastated when an MRI later confirmed that she has indeed sustained an ACL tear. But Worrell wasn’t ready to give up on her senior season, so she patiently weighed her options.

“The people that I got my MRI through, they really tried to push me to get surgery like right away and even if I wasn’t going to play or not, I really wanted to take my time and just kind of process that my ACL was torn and I needed to really figure out my plans for the next year,” Worrell said.

At that time, Worrell was already working with the experts at Evolve Physical Therapy in Clovis, trying to recover from a neck injury she sustained earlier that year. After facing the ACL injury, the senior decided that she might as well continue to get therapy at Evolve.

It would be a grueling recovery process for the Clovis North all-star. But she was determined to do whatever it takes to get back on the field.

“It was really hard at first because I was so swollen and I couldn’t really move and it was just really discouraging because even just walking wasn’t simple for me, and I had to go back to the basics and just kind of learn how to just bend my knee again,” Worrell said.

The mental and emotional challenge was even greater for the young athlete.

“It was really hard on me mentally because I didn’t feel like myself,” she said. “I couldn’t do any of the basic things that I could do for myself.”

Worrell, however, stayed encouraged with every sign of progress.

“I got the swelling down and I was able to walk and I kind of pushed myself as hard as I could mentally,” she said. “Because just re-learning to walk is such a hard thing when you go from being able to sprint to not even being able to walk anymore. It’s just honestly one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do mentally.”

When the Clovis North Broncos kicked off their season in the winter, Worrell watched from the sidelines and became even more hungry to get back on the field.

“It was so frustrating to watch from the side,” she said. “I would go to the beginning of soccer season and watch the tryouts and it was so hard to see everyone doing something and I just wanted to step in and just do the best that I could and I can’t. I just have to watch from the sidelines.”

Worrell had been looking forward to her senior season for so long, hoping to help the Broncos clinch another Central Section title and possibly go to the state championship. But she remained on the sideline at the start of the season and wondered if she would ever have one last chance to take the field with her longtime friends and teammates.

“It was really hard. I didn’t really think that I was going to get to play at all,” Worrell said. “I was just really discouraged at the start.”

Still, all hope was not lost.

“I kind of looked into getting a brace and just seeing if that would help and thankfully I was able to get one,” Worrell said. “I just kind of took it slow and started sprinting and then realized that maybe it was possible, so I kind of was able to push myself at physical therapy to just kind of take those extra steps and do the extra work.”

Step-by-step, the senior inched closer to her goal.

“I was able to set a goal for myself and that goal was just being able to pass a ball and just play any little moments that I could,” Worrell said. “So I really made sure that I set kind of one goal for myself and just work my way up from there.”

Photo by Dave Wheeler. Contributed by Ari Worrell.


Worrell’s perseverance paid off in a big way when she returned to the field less than five months later and scored a goal for the Broncos in only the first minute of her first game back. The senior said she will never forget the cheers that echoed throughout the stadium in that magical moment.

“It was so amazing,” Worrell said. “Especially because when I first came back, like the first minute in, I scored a goal and just all the cheers that I heard from everyone, everyone had known that I’d been hurt and that I wasn’t really sure if I was going to play, so it just felt so exciting and it really brought back the love for the game that I’ve always had.”

It was clearly an unforgettable moment for Worrell. But the Clovis futboler was still facing a long road ahead as she tried to regain her pre-injury form.

“It’s such a hard sport to play mentally,” Worrell said. “When you can’t go 100 percent at all times and I have to constantly think about what movements I can’t do so I don’t jeopardize any other types of risks happening, it’s definitely harder.”

Worrell played in 14 games this past season and scored two goals. Although she wasn’t playing major minutes like previous years, the resilient athlete contributed enough to help the Broncos capture a Division 1 Central Section championship.

It was a picture-perfect moment for Worrell and the Broncos when they took down Liberty High School in the finale. The historic victory happened in Bakersfield, under the rain, on a freezing night, against a team that hasn’t lost a game all season until that point.

Worrell felt fulfilled at that point, knowing that the challenging path she faced somehow led to that magical night.

“It just made it feel like everything happened for a reason,” Worrell said. “Even though I had torn it and I didn’t get to play the time that I wanted to, it just made it feel like I was supposed to play as much as I should have for a reason and it just made it all worth it in the end.”

On that unforgettable night in Bakersfield, Worrell’s biggest supporters were right there with her to celebrate the epic victory.

“She had been working so hard to prepare for her senior season,” Worrell’s father, Cameron, said. “They were so excited. This is the same crew that played together as seventh graders at Granite Ridge and won championships all the way through and had won their sophomore year. And their senior year was the biggest year and she tears her ACL and we don’t know if she’s even going to be able to contribute, play or anything.”

But all the hard-work apparently paid off on that January night in the South Valley.

“To watch them down in the pouring rain, freezing cold, in Bakersfield, beat an undefeated Liberty team and to watch her in crunch time making contributions to help their team during the Section Championship — I mean, lifelong memories really,” Cameron said. “It was a very fun season, kind of a roller coaster, but things happen for a reason. She contributed with one healthy knee and and they ended up winning the section title and now we move on to the future, get it repaired and see what happens.”

During his days as a football player, including six years in the NFL, Cameron had seen his share of ups and downs. Just like his daughter, he too faced an ACL injury at one point. Still, even after everything he had experienced in his career, Cameron was shocked to see that his beloved daughter somehow recovered quicker than most athletes and saved her senior season.

“She just kept hitting the benchmarks and then finally healthy enough to do some contact in practice and then play in a game,” the proud father said. “She was determined to play. Even if it was a couple minutes every game she wanted to be a part of the team and contribute her senior year. Never did I think she would be playing in crunch time in the Valley Championship. I didn’t know that that was possible. So she kind of drove it. We just supported her if she had questions and made sure that she was not jeopardizing any further injury by doing the things that she was doing. Luckily we had some good people around her.”

Coming from a family of athletes, Worrell strives to uphold that tradition of excellence.

“I always want to make them proud,” the Valley teen said as she spoke about her family’s love for sports. “I just felt like I was doing something that kind of lived up to the legacy that they’ve left for me.”

The Clovis North student is also making her parents proud with her future plans in academics.

“I’m going to do the Honors Program at Fresno City,” Worrell said.

The future FCC student will continue with soccer as well. She said she will redshirt in her freshman year, then play in the following season.

But first, Worrell still has a few weeks left to enjoy her high school chapter. Soon she will be proudly walking across the stage with her Clovis North peers for graduation, which also happens to be on her birthday.

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