A quote by motivational speaker and writer Denis Waitley sums up the mindset prospective student-athletes should have when picking a school.

"Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised."

Rising senior Jessica Sacco of the Lehigh women's soccer team did plan for the worst and despite significant misfortune, is still making her mark on the Lehigh University community.

"In the recruiting process, I was always told to envision myself at a certain school if I couldn't play anymore," said Sacco. "I never thought that would be a reality, but I'm very happy at Lehigh. I'm doing everything that I've always wanted to do, and more that I didn't even know was possible."

Near the beginning of her sophomore year, Sacco suffered her latest concussion. It would ultimately mark the end of one chapter of her life, but also the beginning of another.

"I went to a lot of doctors over that winter break," she said. "They said it was too soon to be sure, but I needed to start thinking about not being able to play again… start trying to come to terms with that fact."

Sacco felt determined to make it back to the field, until approximately one year later when she realized it wasn't possible.

"The summer going into my junior year, I continued going to doctors and went to concussion specialists and a neuropsychology doctor," said Sacco. "They all basically told me the same thing; if you get hit again, you won't be able to do what you want to do. You won't be able to be a chemical engineer. There's risk for later in life."

Sacco's goals off the field were too big to even consider taking any risk. Even after being forced to retire from soccer, she has remained active with the women's soccer program as a student manager and coach.

"Jess has a level of perspective that is well beyond her years," said Lehigh head coach Eric Lambinus. "She is incredibly mature and probably because of her injury situation, has the ability to see the big picture yet is still very connect to the team. Her role with the team has been to help bridge the gap (both ways) between the coaching staff and the current players. Jess really has the maturity and emotional intelligence to help connect the group. And it is no surprise that whatever we ask her to do, she does it beyond expectations."

Sacco is still involved with the program, but a hole developed in her life, a hole that has been filled – even if just a little – by her academic interests. The Hamilton, New Jersey native chose Lehigh due in large part to its academic prowess, and that decision is paying off.

A chemical engineering major like her sister (who is currently working towards her doctorate at Vanderbilt), Sacco is in the midst of her second summer on campus conducting research through Lehigh University, having worked under engineering professors Jeetain Mittal and Srinivas Rangarajan.

"Last summer was about learning computational chemistry methods, learning how to use the computer to analyze the data I received," said Sacco. "I worked on modeling the behavior of specific molecules in a given pore. I had to learn a lot of computer programming. The computer would come up with a probability distribution of the particulars and their behavior in a certain pore and from there, we used an analysis code. That's where my research stopped last summer and that's where graduate students are picking up this summer."

Read the full story at Lehigh Sports.

-Story by Justin Lafleur, Lehigh Sports Communications

Jessica Sacco

ChBE Senior Jessica Sacco (Photo courtesy Lehigh Athletics)