RICHMOND, Va. – From the corner of Cary and Harrison, it's roughly 2,850 miles to Santa Clara, California, the hometown of senior forward Emilie Soares of the VCU Field Hockey team.
While she has surely missed some In-N-Out Burger, the Pacific Ocean and a bit more of a relaxed approach to life, Soares is most looking forward to having the chance to play in front of family and friends for the first time in four years when the Rams travel to play two games at Stanford this weekend.
"My parents have been able to come out once a season and see me play, but to be able to play in front of extended family and some of my friends that are still in the area is going to be really awesome," Soares said.
One special spectator will be Soares' grandfather, who turns 81 this October. It will be the first time since Emilie's high school career that he's seen her play.
"I've spent the past four years putting my heart and soul into my time at VCU and this program, to be able to show him and the rest of my family and friends this piece of me is really special," Soares said.
While it will be nice to play in front of plenty of familiar faces, Soares is clear about her mission for the trip back home.
"As nice as it will be to see everyone, our goal as a team is to win. That's what our goal is every time we take the field and it won't be any different this weekend," she said.
That mentality is natural to Soares, who comes from a highly competitive household of seven, in which she says board games become all out battles sometimes.
"For being from the West Coast, we're a really competitive family. My parents are the biggest culprits. My dad tries to cheat his way to victory sometimes and my mom is the most competitive of all of us," she added.
Emilie is the second youngest in a crew that is made up of her oldest brother, Sean (27), older sisters Amie (25) and Korie (22) and youngest brother, James (19). All of the other siblings are currently living on the West Coast after Sean took at job at the University of Washington after spending two years as part of the Siegel Center staff.
Despite the rest of the family being back in California, Emilie gives no hesitation when asked about why she came to VCU.
"For me, I knew that I wanted to challenge myself at one point and take the opportunity to live on the East Coast and be completely on my own. I wanted to take these four years and gain all these experiences. What better place to do it than here at VCU?," Soares said.