Coming back from two torn ACLs, Lockport’s Brinlee McNabb makes difference on defense. ‘You have to stay strong.’

Lockport’s Brinlee McNabb can quickly rattle off the dates without thinking very hard — Sept. 25, 2021, and May 23, 2023. Those are the days McNabb suffered torn ACL injuries.

The first, in her right knee, cost McNabb her entire sophomore season. The second, in her left knee, came in a regional championship game, ending her junior year early and setting up another long rehab before her senior season.

For all the obstacles she has faced, the Milwaukee-bound senior defender feels she has come out of it even stronger.

“I will never forget those dates,” McNabb said. “It’s just part of my journey and it makes me want to work harder going forward. You just have to stay strong. You’ve just got to keep going.”

Now, McNabb is back anchoring the defense for the undefeated Porters.

She also got in on the offensive attack Monday night, scoring her third goal of the season to help push visiting Lockport to a 3-0 victory over Andrew in a SouthWest Suburban Conference crossover game in Tinley Park.

Cumberlands commit Meghan Mack and Indiana State recruit Kaylin Klutcharch also scored for the Porters (15-0). Liz Rock and Olivia Luecke combined for the shutout in net, with Rock making three saves.

Kadence Jones made 13 saves for Andrew (10-5-1).

McNabb was cleared by doctors to resume practicing just a week before Lockport’s season opener.

“I had to work really hard before the season started,” McNabb said. “I had to do a lot on my own to get myself prepared. It was hard, but it’s paying off.”

Having been through the process of recovering from a torn ACL once before made it easier for McNabb to work through this time around.

“I was pretty confident because of how I came back last time,” McNabb said. “You can’t really think about it. You just have to play your game.”

Klutcharch, who plays defensive midfielder, is certainly thankful to have McNabb back in the lineup because she knows McNabb will always have her back.

“She’s always dependable and reliable,” Klutcharch said. “I’m never worried if the ball gets behind me because she’s always clean on the ball, she always manages to get it out and she’ll beat anyone to the ball when she has to.”

Monday’s game was scoreless for nearly 39 minutes — thanks largely to some huge saves from Jones — before Mack scored off a scramble following a corner kick to give Lockport the lead.

“I think it was huge because it definitely changed the momentum before halftime,” Mack said. “It allowed us to have that energy boost right at the end of the half.”

McNabb made it 2-0 just over five minutes into the second half, getting her body on a corner kick from SIU Edwardsville recruit Emma Czech and directing the ball into the net.

“That was off my stomach,” McNabb said. “Whatever gets it in the back of the net works. I definitely love to go for it on corners. That’s really the only way I can score.”

McNabb, Mack, Czech and Green Bay recruit Alyssa Flood led the defense as the Porters recorded their 10th shutout.

With her defense, offense and personality, McNabb is doing big things to help Lockport keep winning, according to Porters coach Todd Elkei.

“She’s such a tremendous leader and a great character kid,” Elkei said. “We’re still not playing her full games yet and kind of easing her in because she’s got four years of college to play.

“But she’s a dominant player, and she’s a hard worker.”

McNabb was a forward in her younger days before being moved to defender. There, she loves being the one to shut down the opposition.

“It’s kind of like saving the day,” McNabb said.