But in a flash, Mooney’s prospects for a stirring finale got derailed. “I was playing in a men’s league game and two guys came in on the same ankle and it got badly twisted,” said star midfielder Mooney, a Princeton resident and former Lawrenceville School standout. “At that point, they thought it was a badly sprained ankle but it kept popping.”
It turned out that Mooney had a tendon subluxation of his left ankle that ultimately required surgery to secure the tendon and keep it from slipping out of place. As a result, Mooney didn’t take the field in 2011 and took the spring semester off so he could get a second chance at a final college campaign this fall.
Now, the surgically repaired Mooney is rounding into form, chomping at the bit to get back in action for the Lord Jeffs.
“I am getting there,” said Mooney, who heads to preseason camp this week. “I am trying to get as strong as possible. My conditioning is better, I want to get in as good shape as possible.”
For Mooney, opting to put his senior season on hold was a trying situation. “It was a really, really tough decision,” said Mooney, who had helped Amherst make the NCAA Division III Final Four as a sophomore in 2009 and was named as a co-captain for the 2011 squad.
“I was really good friends with the guys in my class. I talked with my family; I talked to Justin [Amherst head coach Justin Serpone]. I realized that an extra semester off would be good for me in other ways. The spring was going to be really busy if I was going to classes, taking the MCATs, and doing medical school applications.”
Despite being unable to play, Mooney remained a presence around the Lord Jeffs last fall as they went 16-2-2, winning the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) title and making it to the NCAA Sectional Semifinals.
“It was really tough; I was a captain so I tried to go to everything I could,” recalled Mooney.
“I tried to show my face and talk to guys everyday. Being on the sidelines with the guys that don’t play a lot: I saw how you can support the team that way.”
In early November, Mooney went to Boston and had the surgery which involved the insertion of tissue to hold the tendon in place.
It took some time for Mooney to be up and running after the procedure. “I was on crutches for five weeks and in a boot for five weeks,” said Mooney, who lived in an apartment near campus during the spring semester and worked for a professor in a neuroscience lab, giving Mooney the chance to spend time with his graduating classmates.
“I did exercises to strengthen my ankle. I did anything I could to get in shape. I did the rowing machine. I rode the exercise bike with a boot on. I started running in February, three months after surgery. The location of the injury made it tough to jump right into soccer things. I mainly worked on running and strengthening.”
This summer, Mooney has been able to get on the pitch, playing with some fellow NESCAC competitors in the area.
“I have been playing pick-up games at PDS with some guys going to Tufts, Maxime Hoppenot and Rui Pinheiro, and Asante Brooks, who played at Wesleyan,” said Mooney.
“We have had some good competition, playing small-side games. I have also gone to some Princeton High captains’ practices.
Mooney is looking forward to the Amherst practices, which start on August 22.
“I can’t wait for preseason to start,” asserted the 5’11, 163-pound Mooney, a second-team All-NESCAC and second team Division III All-New England pick at midfield in 2010.
“I am ready to do anything for the team. We have a ton of attacking players so I could play anywhere. If I am a step slow, I can help the team in other ways.”
After what Mooney has gone through over the last year, he is determined to savor every moment of his final college soccer season.
“I have learned to appreciate things and just being on the field,” said Mooney.
“I did a lot behind the scenes last year and I was able to see the team from a different perspective. Being with the guys is about a lot more than what goes on out on the field.”
In Mooney’s view, the Lord Jeffs could do some special things on the field this fall.
“A lot of us have stayed in touch; we are excited about the season,” said Mooney, who hopes to be in action on September 8 when Amherst opens its 2012 campaign with a game at Colby-Sawyer.
“We have won two NESCAC titles and have been to a Final 4 in my first three years. Our coach’s goal is to make it to the national championship game.”
For Mooney, just getting back in action this fall will make him feel like a champion.