Yanni Kouiroukidis, Contributing Writer
Sometimes in life, the journey isn’t always a straight path to the finish line. That’s what midfielder Emma Kershner has learned along the way in her path to becoming a key player on the women’s soccer team.
Kershner is now in her sixth year of college soccer, but it’s her fourth at VCU. Kershner started her career at Indiana but transferred to VCU for the 2018 season, a move that Kershner said she is very grateful for.
“It’s really pushed me at VCU to be a better person and a better soccer player,” Kershner said. “The coaching staff has pushed me to always think that ‘today was good, but always be better tomorrow’. They push me to go 100% and work on my weaknesses and that’s something a lot of other schools don’t have.”
Head coach Lindsey Martin tried recruiting Kershner directly out of high school, but didn’t find any luck at first. Two years later, she reached out to Martin to transfer to VCU, to which the team was all ears for.
“I remembered that she always had great ideas on the ball,” Martin said. “She was a small kid in high school, but she was always just super gritty. She had a great ability to go to the ground and get stuck in the tackles.”
Last season, the Rams started out undefeated in their first four games, but then immediately suffered a three-game losing streak. The team ended with a record of 7-4-2 after the season was cut short due to a positive COVID-19 case in George Mason’s program, right before the final match of the season. Kershner says this experience taught her a lot about being appreciative and living in the moment.
“Last year you never knew when our last game was going to be,” Kershner said. “Especially last season with another team getting COVID and knocking us out. It really showed me you have to be in the moment and you have to not take anything for granted. You never know when you’re going to play your last game.”
Kershner said she knew she couldn’t end her playing career on a canceled game, so the decision to come back was almost inevitable, even though she’s adding on a double major while playing in her final year.
“For me it was just enjoying playing and being with the team,” Kershner said. “Getting my education — part of it paid for — is something that a lot of kids can’t say they’ve done. Enjoying playing and just getting my school done just helped put the nail in the coffin.”
Kershner was named to the All-Atlantic 10 First Team last season and in preseason this year. However, her ability on the field isn’t the only thing she brings to the Rams.
“I can go to her for anything honestly,” redshirt-senior forward Samantha Jerabek said. “She’s kind of like the mom of the team, she’s 23 years old so she’s definitely the mom of the team. She loves to cook and she’s very organized.”
While Kershner’s journey as a player at VCU may be coming to an end, it doesn’t mean her impact on the program is going to stop any time soon.
“She’s got a soccer-savvy mind,” Martin said. “She wants to be a college coach in a few years here, and I think that she shows a lot of talent for being able to understand the game.”
The Rams will be finishing out their regular season with 10 straight A-10 conference games as they attempt to keep the momentum of their 4-2 record going.
The Rams will be taking on George Washington on Sept. 19 at 2 p.m. at Sports Backers Stadium in Richmond. The game will be televised on ESPN+.