The clock is running out, and the game is tight. The Rock has taken possession and they’re making their way down the field. Emily Benham has the ball, but like always she’s making sure to keep an eye on her teammates on either side of her. A hole opens, Benham passes the ball, and it winds up in the back of the net. Another assist for one of the best passers in the history of Rock lacrosse.
Before she established herself as one of the best when it comes to sharing the ball, she had her first major challenge. Where did she want to go for college? Lucky for her, her dad knew exactly what conference she should play in.
“I knew I wanted to go for health and physical education, and my dad said, ‘You should check out the [Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference] PSAC,’ because he played at Edinboro [University] for a few years and was familiar with it,” Benham said. “I was like Slippery Rock [University]? What are you talking about? Sure, I’ll check it out. Then I came and visited here and fell in love with it.”
The PSAC was where she wanted to be, but even further, she knew she wanted to be at Slippery Rock. After just one visit, she found herself comparing every college after it to here. In a lot of ways, that’s rare.
“I was talking to other schools, but I visited Slippery Rock first and knew I wanted to come here, so every school I visited afterwards I was comparing to Slippery Rock,” Benham said.
Soon after, it was official. She was now part of the Slippery Rock women’s lacrosse team. In her freshman year, her goal was simply to make a splash.
“My first year, I was just so excited because it was exciting to be in a place where everyone had the same passion and love for lacrosse,” Benham said. “That year I just wanted to get on the field and contribute in any way I could.”
She did a lot more than just contribute. The trust she was given in her first season played a huge role into how her freshman year went. Of the 16 games played, she started seven and appeared in all. Benham proved herself to be one of the premier scorers on the team that season as well. She scored 16 goals and tallied 23 points overall.
“My first year was scary because I learned so much about myself and spent a lot of time learning what my role was,” Benham said. “It helped me learn early on, and make those mistakes so I could eventually step into my leader role, so playing those games freshman year definitely helped me gained confidence and helped me step up as an attacker and as an individual on this team.”
Then as the story goes, 2020 happened. When COVID-19 hit, Benham and her teammates knew that they weren’t going to return to play that year. So that eerie day, in which they had their last practice, was about making sure that everyone cherished the little time they had together.
“It put the perspective in my mind that you never know when this can be taken away, so just going to practice every day, being thankful for being there and playing every game like it’s your last,” Benham said. “I say it even now to the team, play every game like it’s your last, so [the COVID-19 layoff] had definitely changed my mindset overall.”
During that time, Benham kept in shape. Throughout the pandemic, her love of physical activity just increased further and further.
“I love training either way, so I was doing it and trying to keep positive by saying we were going to play no matter what,” Benham said. “So, I just tried to get my stigma in as much as I could, but I also love training in the weight room, so even just getting stronger for my own personal growth kept me driven.”
When spring 2021 hit, the decision was officially made to let teams return to action. Of course, there was weekly testing and all sorts of protocols to be followed. To make sure that they could be out on the field, all of those were followed by The Rock women’s lacrosse team. Benham and company were back out on the field.
She didn’t waste any time. In only 12 games, she recorded 43 points coming from 28 goals and 15 assists. In that season, Benham had five hat tricks and was one of only three players to start every game. She was a leader both on and off the field, and on top of that she earned second team All-PSAC.
“I was really shocked, I didn’t really expect it and it was nice to see me and two other girls on the team earn those honors,” Benham said. “I definitely worked hard, but it was a team effort and it just really made me excited to come back and try to strive for that next step up.”
Now, in her senior year for The Rock, Benham has already made history. She’s scored 33 goals and recorded 26 assists. Her 26 assists broke the record for most in a season at The Rock. But to her, that’s all because of her teammates.
“I think this year I’ve playing more as a feeder and looking for teammates, which has caused us a lot of success,” Benham said. “I’m just really happy my teammates have been there to catch my feeds and finish them out, and it all just shows that we work best when we work together.”
With just five games left, the goal remains the same for Benham. She wants to get to the playoffs and make history with this team.
“I think that playoffs are still in the picture, but it’s all about executing and hopefully winning out so we can get in the playoffs and win that first playoff game that Slippery Rock has yet to do,” Benham said.