Nov. 15, 2013
Since arriving on campus in the fall of 2010, being a part of a `first' in school history is nothing new for senior defender Emily Menges. Menges and her classmates are easily the most decorated group in Georgetown women's soccer history.
From that run to the Elite Eight as freshmen to posting the most regular season wins as seniors and all of the records in between, such as total shutouts in a season, Menges and the rest of the Class of 2014 have consistently proven that they are up to the task.
Now while all of those achievements are clearly impressive, they are in the past. What's in front of Menges and the rest of the seniors is one final NCAA tournament run. That run will start on Saturday against LaSalle as the Hoyas host a postseason game at Shaw Field for the first time in school history.
"I think it's huge," Menges said about playing the Hoyas playing their first round game at a field where they haven't lost since 2011.
"We haven't lost at home yet, so this is kind of our weekend and we're looking forward to it. We've been the first class to do a lot of things since we've been here. Obviously the ultimate goal is to get back to the Elite Eight and then ever further but it all starts at home."
Georgetown, which is making its third NCAA Tournament appearance in four seasons, is coming in off a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to DePaul in the semifinals of the BIG EAST Tournament.
While Menges desperately wanted to add a conference tournament trophy to her resume, she thinks there is a lot to learn from that loss and feels that it can actually be a positive experience heading into the NCAAs.
"Obviously our goal was to win the Big East but our other goal was to host the first round which we got," Menges explained.
"As great it would have been to win the BIG EAST this kind of humbling loss makes you regroup. You know you always have to bring your best when you play good teams. You aren't just always going to blow through teams. As much as it stunk to lose in the BIG EAST Tournament, it can help us in the long run. We will learn from our mistake."
Of course it wasn't all bad news for the Hoyas during the BIG EAST Tournament as Menges, a four-year starter on coach Dave Nolan's backline, was named as BIG EAST Defender of the Year as well as earning a spot on the All BIG EAST First Team. As one would expect from a senior leader, Menges put the award in perspective and recognized the team aspect that made it all possible.
"Big East Defensive Player of the Year," Menges repeated, "that was obviously a great honor."
"As I talked about with the team afterwards, it's not just one player that wins the award. Defense starts with the forward, midfield, defense, and then it ends with the goalie. It's not just a one person award. The amount of people we have rotating in the back, we just have a bunch of people that have played back four with us. We've adapted well, we've done well but we hope to continue."
To better understand how Menges became the leader of one of the top soccer programs in the country, it's best to first examine how she ended up in the Blue and Gray. Menges grew up with brothers and in a large neighborhood that was always active playing sports. Ironically enough, out of all of the sports she first started playing on her block, soccer wasn't one of them.
Coming out of high school on Long Island, Menges was looking for a unique situation that would allow her to play high level soccer at a top academic institution while also allowing her the opportunity to compete in track as a two-sport athlete.
Megnes had always been fast and figured she would regret having to pick just one sport at the next level. Many schools offered part of what she was looking for but it was Georgetown that came through with all three.
So after earning a spot on the All-BIG EAST Rookie team and leading the Hoyas in minutes played during their magical run to the 2010 Elite Eight, Menges ran both winter and spring track.
While she ultimately gave up track after her first year, she took with her a very valuable lesson that she credits towards her success in soccer.
"The thing that track does is it teaches you to know what it's like to be actually tried," remembered Menges.
"When you're in a game and you think you're tired, you're not actually tired. Track gave me a mindset that I can do another sprint, I can keep going. It gave me that mental toughness."
It's a mental toughness that she would need over the next two years as injuries began to set in. Menges played through a foot injury her sophomore season while still starting all 21 games and earning a spot as a BIG EAST Academic All-Star team as the Hoyas advanced to the BIG EAST semifinals.
As a junior, despite missing five games, Menges was named to the All-BIG EAST First Team as a member of that record setting defense that saw the Hoyas get back into the NCAA Tournament after a one year absence
"It's been a little bit rough for her because she had a pretty serious foot injury towards the end of her sophomore year and then she picked up a hampering injury as a junior that prevented her from playing at her best," Nolan said when asked about the progress his star defender has made through the years.
"I don't believe people quite understood the pain she was playing with but this year she's healthy and when she's healthy I've yet to see a better defender in the country."
After almost four years, Emily has transitioned unbelievably well from a fast soccer player to a soccer play who just so happens to be fast. Just listen to her coach. "Emily is just an exceptional player," Nolan said.
"She's blessed with fantastic speed and is quite possibly one of the fastest defenders in the country. As she's gotten older she's started to read the game even better. Where before her speed used to get her out of all the jams, now she's so clever. She reads the game so well now and coupled with that speed, she is all over that 18-yard box."
While Menges plans to pursue soccer - possibly overseas - after her time at Georgetown is up, it's not a reality her coach wants to really think about during the season.
In fact, he has a solution to replace Menges but it will require some serious help. "She's such a great athlete but even more she's a great kid," Nolan said gushing about his senior.
"I'm going to miss her so much when she goes. I wish I could find one of my smart biology kids to clone her."