John Garvilla recognized his daughter's natural athletic talent when she was 5 years old.
Garvilla, who lives in the St. Louis area, is a former college soccer coach and athletic director, so he spotted her abilities early. She was fast, coordinated and loved playing ball.
Samantha Garvilla, now 18, started playing soccer and basketball competitively when she was 8 or 9. She excelled at both, and her father could see her playing as a high-level athlete in the future.
She was 11 when she tore her right ACL. Her father told her she had to choose between basketball and soccer; there was no way she could play both, having suffered this injury. He even tried to push her toward golf.
"I have an artificial knee," he said. "I didn't want my daughter to walk like me."
Samantha chose soccer, and played year-round. She trained hard and stood out on the field.
She was 12 when she tore her ACL again.
After the rehab, she was undeterred. She refused to quit the sport she loved.
During her freshman year of high school, she was recruited by Darlington School in Rome, Georgia, to attend the boarding school on a soccer scholarship. She was training four to six hours a day at school, and she loved it.
"It was the best thing that ever happened to me," she said.
The team was getting ready for regionals the beginning of her sophomore year. She was playing in a scrimmage when she went in hard for a tackle.
"Right away, I knew what it was," she said. "By the third one, you know."
It was the ACL in her left knee this time. The surgeon told her that there was no way she could go back onto the field.
"Your knees are not going to hold up," he told her. "You're not going to last." It wasn't just the three torn ACLs: She has also suffered 12 meniscus tears and undergone 10 surgeries.
She came back to St. Louis to finish her sophomore year. She was devastated to leave Darlington, but still refused to leave the game entirely.
The beginning of her junior year, she decided she wanted to play goalie, a position less prone to the injuries she's had. In a young athlete's career, this was a late time to switch positions, but she told her parents she was committed to playing.
"There are certain things you can't teach," her father said. "Speed, height, athleticism. She has a teachable spirit. She loves the game."
He made sure she had access to the best trainers in the country. She didn't have the experience playing goalkeeper in as many games as her peers, but she was fearless. Her family started getting contacts from Division 2 colleges. They sent her highlight reel to more places, and then the offers from Division 1 schools started coming in.
"What a lot of people saw was raw talent," John said.
They took their daughter to visit some of the colleges around the country that were recruiting her. They were still considering the offers when Samantha asked her father to take her to the doctor.
She had bruised her back in practice, and her entire abdomen was hurting. The doctor asked if she had been feeling bloated, and she said she had.
She wasn't injured, the doctor explained after she ran a test.
Samantha was pregnant.
She called her mother, Kim, hysterical. Kim picked her up, and they walked out the back door while the doctor broke the news to John.
When she saw her father, she broke down and said, "Daddy, people are going to point at me and say, 'That's the girl who ruined her life.'"
John told her that people may point, but that God had a plan for her.
"You're going to get through this," he said. "We're going to count this baby as a blessing."
Kim said she went through all the stages of grief about the loss of what her daughter's future could have been. She suggested considering adoption, but Samantha said she wanted to keep the baby.
Her parents are still raising a 15-year-old and two 13-year-old sons, so they told her this child would be her responsibility, although they would support her and help her as much as they could.
Samantha cried a lot. She told her boyfriend, who was shocked but supportive. She couldn't accept the idea of giving up her baby.
"I had the ability to raise him. I have the support of my family. There was no reason (to give him up), except it would have been easier for me," she said.
She delivered her son, Braxton, on Feb. 11.
Shortly after the delivery, Samantha told her mother that it was good that the baby came a few days early: This way, she'd have six weeks off and be back in time for practices by spring break. She would be ready to play when the season starts in her senior year.
After graduating, she will play soccer on a scholarship at St. Charles Community College. She plans to use her financial aid to pay for daycare.
"The dream has never wavered," Kim said.