Nortey returns to the pitch

Photo by Maggie Bean/Marquette Images
Photo by Maggie Bean/Marquette Images

With the tap of his foot, the ball flew up over the keeper and landed gently into the back netting. Filled with energy from his first collegiate goal, redshirt sophomore C. Nortey did not one, not two, not three, but four backflips.

That was more than two years ago for now redshirt sophomore Nortey. Life was going his way. He had escaped a difficult life in Accra, Ghana, to a high school in Connecticut, where he stood out as a soccer player and student. When Nortey picked Marquette, he quickly made a name for himself.

He earned playing time at the start of his freshman season and did not let the opportunity slip. Scoring early and often, he finished the season with a team-leading 20 points and entered the discussion of future stars in the college game.

But then, his journey, which seemed almost too good to be true, came to a halt.

In summer 2012, Nortey underwent offseason knee surgery, which forced him to hang up his cleats for the 2012 season.

It was hard sitting out last year and not being able to play,” Nortey said.

Nortey said the rehab process is grueling, but well worth it since his return to the pitch this season.

In his first game back against UW-Milwaukee, a miscommunication in the defense left Nortey one-on-one with the keeper, and he buried his first goal since October 2011, when he had a hat trick against Seton Hall.

The goal wasn’t magical by any stretch of the imagination, but Nortey was back where he left off. A little more time was all he needed to adjust to the level of competition again, and his scoring touch returned.

In the team’s first Big East match against Xavier, Nortey scored the lone goal when he drove from midfield and delivered a beautiful strike that earned him men’s college goal of the week honors from Top Drawer Soccer.

Since then, Nortey has been on a tear, scoring the game winner in four of Marquette’s last six league contests. He leads the team with 16 points on seven goals and two assists.

With three games left in the season, he is on track to match or surpass the 20-point mark he set in 2011.

He is playing well and he’s not even at 100 percent with his knee yet. Nortey still has rehab every day, which means he will not be doing backflips anytime soon, that is, if he can control himself.

“Unless I’m really, really pumped about a goal that I score then I will (backflip), but right now I’m just going to lay low,” Nortey said. “I can still feel a little ache here and there so I’m not going to be flipping for a little bit.”

Fully recovered or not, Nortey is playing some of the best soccer of his career. It is hard to imagine what he will be like when he fully recovered. Until then, Nortey will continue rehabbing his knee, scoring goals, and, hopefully, be backflipping into a long soccer career.