Last season, sophomore Emma Yoder suffered one of the most serious injuries that an athlete can suffer: a torn ACL in a game. Before Yoder’s injury, she started in four games and didn’t allow a goal in any of them, posting a 2-0-1 record. Now, Yoder’s role has changed as she’s back just a little less than a year after her injury, but this time, she’s taking over as the full time starting goalkeeper.
Yoder comes into this year leading a Slippery Rock University women’s soccer team that is favored to win the PSAC-West title. Yoder was finally able to get back in net against Walsh University on Sept. 5, in a game that would end in a 1-0 loss.
“It was so awesome [being able to be back in net], I liked being on the bench and supporting my teammates, but there is a whole other aspect when you’re on the field and being a part of something bigger,” Yoder said.
Yoder would earn her first victory of the season against No. 16 West Virginia Wesleyan during a 2-1 win.
Yoder came from Ada, Michigan and knew from the time she met coach Mark Sappington during her sophomore year of high school that she’d love SRU.
“My sophomore year of high school, I met Mark and I started talking to him and came out and visited Slippery Rock. I loved the team and when I was here we were kind of just joking around the whole time and just having a bunch of fun, and I knew that this was a community I wanted to be a part of,” Yoder said.
While at Forest Hill Central High School, Yoder played basketball as well as soccer and mentioned her love for the community and the school because of how big a sports community it is.
Just before her freshman year of college, her family moved from Ada, Michigan to Atlanta, Georgia. Now, instead of a six hour drive home, Yoder has an 11 hour drive home. But Yoder said her family streams almost every game to see her play.
Last season, Yoder played under goalkeeper Kylie Downs, but this season Yoder takes on a new role not only as a starter, but as the leader for two freshman goalies.
“Her leadership [is her best quality]. She takes the initiative to bring this team together and not only the team, but like she mentioned in her high school, she really enjoyed the community she was a part of and that goes a long way. You see that, you feel that when you’re around Emma. She invests in the people she’s around and she really engages in the community she’s part of and more specifically the team she’s a part of,” Griggs said. “That leadership definitely translates all over what she does academically, on the field, within the team, within the community and at Slippery Rock,” she continued.
Yoder wanted to focus on getting back before the season after her season ended early as she went through rehab and worked to get back. She tore her ACL in October of 2018, and at the time was on an impressive run of three games where she hadn’t allowed a goal. And those games were important for her not only to gain experience, but to build confidence.
“I think anytime you come back from an injury, I think the mental side is really important, so my hope for Emma is to instill a ton of confidence in her so she feels confident doing what she’s capable of doing and when you really have that confident feeling in what you’re doing, you gain start to gain a good balance and that puts you in a locked in mindset. I think that would be a hope for Emma, that the confidence builds and as she continues to feel comfortable and think when that sets in she’s gonna really kick some butt,” Griggs said.
Yoder returns playing behind one of the best defenses in the PSAC including All-PSAC second team defender Madison Johnson. Last year, the defense allowed only 17 goals and finished with an opponent’s goals per game average of 0.89. This year though, they want to try to get that to under 0.50 with Yoder taking over as keeper.
“Last year I played in four games and it was really nerve-racking, but our defense is so strong. We have three really good defenders so last year just getting comfortable with them in those four games was really nice and just to get a little bit of experience has made this year a little less nerve-racking,” Yoder said.
In Yoder’s time at SRU so far, she has enjoyed the community, but her favorite part of being at SRU is still the soccer team.
“Overall I would say my favorite part about being at Slippery Rock is playing soccer. I love to play the sport, but I also really like the team here, everybody who’s on this team is so amazing and so much fun and so that’s definitely my favorite part of being at Slippery Rock,” Yoder said.
Yoder committed to SRU early and because of that was able to make the transition from high school soccer to college soccer more smoothly.
“We got to know Emma pretty early on because of her early commitment so you create that relationship early. When she actually came here it felt comfortable and natural for her to be a part of the program. She takes on so much responsibility to help the team and all that translates on the field,” Griggs said.
Yoder and the team now look forward to the rest of the season, playing each PSAC opponent twice, but also have goals set for the year overall.
“Obviously, we want to win PSACs and make it far and possibly win an NCAA tournament, but for me, a success would be knowing that we went out, we played, that we did our best and we put our best foot forward,” Yoder said.