MCCC Women’s Soccer Recruit Johaira Perez is Ready to Work

The Hightstown native is a talented striker and is excited to help Mercer continue its recent success.
Story by Brandon Johnson

Hightstown, N.J. – About a year and a half ago, Mercer County Community College (MCCC) soccer commit Johaira Perez didn’t think she would ever play soccer again. During a travel game with Princeton Soccer Association in North Carolina, Perez suffered one of the worst injuries that an athlete can sustain: a torn ACL.

“We we’re down in North Carolina playing for the national league,” Perez recalled. “One of the games got really intense. With about a minute left, a girl approached from behind me, I jumped, flipped, and landed wrong, tearing my ACL and both menisci.”

At the time, Perez was a standout player in the Mercer County soccer scene. As a junior at Hightstown High School, she led her team with 12 goals, earning All-Colonial Valley Conference Second Team honors in the process.

After the injury however, Perez found herself staring down road of a long journey through rehab, a process that didn’t guarantee her return to full health.

“I felt like everything was over. That’s the worst injury that can happen,” Perez said. “I had three surgeries – one to repair my ACL and menisci, one to clean up the scar tissue in my knee, and one to repair the torn stitches.”

“My knee was so stiff I couldn’t bend it.”

The slog through rehab was a drawn-out process, but one Perez credits with her eventual recover to full health. Her trainers started simple, bending her knee to simulate the motion for her, eventually escalating to treadmill work, resistance band squats, and the E-Stim system, jolting her leg with electricity to promote recovery.

“I did that about two to three times a week for a long time,” Perez said. “For a while, my quadriceps wasn’t building any muscle.”

Though she wasn’t sure if she would ever take the field, Perez suited up again for Hightstown toward the end of the 2019 season, and was back in full swing, playing for her travel team during their trip to Florida this past January.

“I feel like I’m at 100 percent,” Perez said, noting that she no longer has to wear her knee brace. “I think it all comes down to mentality.”

Perez’s decision to join Mercer stems in part from her wanting to circumvent the recruiting process, which was stilted by her untimely injury, and in part from her career goals and family history. Her older brother attended Mercer and speaks highly of his education, one he received at an affordable cost as a county resident.

“Right now, I’m focused on helping my parents, and making sure they don’t have to pay a huge, four-year tuition bill,” Perez said.

She also noted that her career path, becoming a nurse, is best suited to studying at a program she was told puts its students first.

“I heard the nursing program is extremely student centric,” Perez said. “I did a two-year program at Mercer County Technical School, taking courses in anatomy and physiology, and loved it, so MCCC seemed like the next step for me.”

Her camaraderie with the soccer team was just icing on the cake. She loved playing with current MCCC soccer goalie Courtney Fox at Hightstown, and after meeting the rest of the team online, can’t wait to take the field.

“I just want to meet the girls in person,” Perez said. “We’ve been doing Zoom calls lately, but I just want to meet them in person and get on the field and play with them.”

And while Perez is convinced the team will “dominate everything” once they get back to work, she’s not taking her eyes off of her long-term goal of becoming a doctor.

“I just want to help people, I’m obsessed with it.” she said. “My main goal right now is to get all a’s, find study groups and do well as a nurse.”

“Nursing is a hard major, but the difficulty all comes down to mentality. And I’m ready to work.”

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Johaira Perez

Johaira Perez signed with MCCC Soccer earlier this month.