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Stand-up Double

Senior Leader Juli Strange Returns to the Field After Two Major Injuries

By Charlie Wright

Strange

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Terps softball infielder Juli Strange ’17 was practically a hero in 2013 when she returned to the lineup after flipping her personal scooter and crashing face-first on Baltimore Avenue.

But nearly two years to the day later, she tore her ACL on an awkward slide into home base and was sidelined again.

Now, after another yearlong recovery, Strange is back on the playing field. And she stands with a young UMD team as a leader with a special understanding of what it means to persevere.

“It was devastating. I didn’t know if that was the end of my career,” says Strange. “I’m here a year later and couldn’t be happier.”

Strange grew up in Valencia, Calif., but was drawn to the university by the beautiful campus and great atmosphere.

Strange, a kinsesiology major at Maryland, was riding home from a teammate’s apartment in October 2013 when the wheels of her scooter got caught in an expansion gap on the road, launching her face-first into the pavement. A concussion, sprained wrist and extensive lacerations put Strange in the hospital for weeks, and she underwent multiple oral surgeries over the next 18 months after losing several teeth.

“Trying to piece back that night and everything that happened, that was a long road,” Strange says. “Overcoming a concussion itself is a different animal. You are just trying to get through your daily life without help, and that’s hard.”

The emotional, mental and physical battle forced her to miss all fall workouts and early-season training, along with weeks of academics.

Despite the lengthy hiatus, Strange was able to start 41 of the team’s 46 games in the 2014 season. After playing primarily shortstop, she slid over to third base her junior year and started every game for the Terps. She batted .264, had a career-high three hits in a game against Illinois and ripped a walk-off single in a win over Nevada.

Strange went down with the ACL injury in October 2015 in a game against George Washington. Trying to score from second base on a single, she slid around the catcher to avoid a tag and her knee buckled.

Following surgery, she worked with the training staff in hopes of returning as a medical redshirt and preserving her senior year of eligibility. This season, she’s back after moving to second base.

Strange is also playing for her third coach in five years. Julie Wright, who was hired last year at Maryland after five seasons at Idaho State, turned to Strange for veteran leadership on a team with five freshmen and three sophomores. She praised the senior for taking younger players aside and guiding them one-on-one, as well as calming the team down during intense moments of games.

The 7-23-1 Terps will take on Michigan State this Friday. Despite their tough years, they’ve beaten two ranked teams, including No. 1 Florida. Strange is having the best offensive year of her career, leading the team in batting average and runs scored.

“Nothing rattles her,” Wright says. “She just brings a lot of those intangibles to the team that you really need for leadership and style of play.”

The irony of being a steadying force during a career filled with change and adversity is not lost on Strange. Her time off gave her an opportunity to see the game from a different perspective.

“I’ve grown more as a person in the last five years than any other five years put together in my life,” says Strange. “I’m better off now because of everything that happened, and I’m thankful for it, honestly. I wouldn’t be who I am without it.”

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Strategic Communications for the University of Maryland community weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.