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Knights' duo recovered, ready for strong return

Center midfielders Garrett Swart and Austin Frank look to make successful comebacks from injuries and lead St. Francis to Mission League and CIF playoff glory

November 29, 2010|By Gabriel Rizk, gabriel.rizk@latimes.com

Garrett Swart and Austin Frank will literally be central to the St. Francis High soccer team's success this season.

From their position side by side in the center midfield, Swart, a senior, and Frank, a junior, are expected to form a dynamic duo capable of driving the Golden Knights back to the top of the Mission League and further into the CIF playoffs.

"The center of our midfield with Austin and Garrett is going to be our strength," St. Francis High Coach Glen Appels says.

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St. Francis is loaded with lethal forwards, skill and depth in goal and a sturdy defense, yet the Golden Knights are well aware of the importance Swart and Frank hold to their hopes.

"If we can get both of them playing at the same time, that's going to make all the difference because Garrett's the distributor and Austin's what holds our team together in the middle," senior midfielder Connor Snashall says. "Having the two of them just gives us so many more options with formations we can run."

Competing in the Mission League, which the team last won in 2007, or duplicating the postseason success of 2008, in which the team captured the CIF Southern California Division II Regional title, certainly won't be easy.

But neither was anything Swart or Frank had to go through just to be ready to take field this season.

Following a season cut short by separate but intertwined injury sagas, Swart and Frank have spent the offseason on a journey of rehabilitation and recovery that has challenged their mettle, inspired their teammates and put the two on the threshold of an eagerly awaited return to the pitch.

Frank likely never saw the innocuous tackle coming that snapped his right tibia and fibula in half during a game against Alemany late last season. After being called up from the junior varsity squad, Frank had shown promise coming off the bench and eventually cracked the starting lineup at center midfielder.

In one split second, his season was done.

"I was running, I planted all my weight on my right foot and I just remember a side tackle coming through," Frank says. "I wasn't in a lot of pain. It was more shock. I saw [my leg] and it was just totally dangling off to the side."

The pain hadn't yet set in, but the realization of the injury's ramifications had.

"I saw right away, Christian Swart was standing there and you could see from Christian's face something had happened," Appels said. "A kid from Alemany said, 'Oh my God, he broke his leg,' and when I got out there, [his leg] was sitting off to the side.

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