RICHMOND, Va.— In college, everyone sets out to try new things. You make new friends, you take new classes, you get a new job. And you never know how these new things are going to affect your life. For Emma Kruse, her new friends, classes and job led her straight to a walk-on spot on the VCU Women's Soccer team.
A native of Northern Virginia, Emma lettered in both soccer and basketball during her high school days. She had a few offers to play collegiate basketball, but she ultimately made the decision to focus on her academics and attend Virginia Commonwealth University as a freshman. But when she got to campus this past fall, she realized that life without sports was a little too boring for her.
"When I first came here, I realized how much I missed sports," Kruse admitted. She had plenty of time for classes, homework and work, but she missed being out on the field.
In one of her classes, she met Maren Johansen, a rising sophomore forward on the VCU women's soccer team. They became friends, and when the team's season ended, Emma suggested they come play in Cary Street Gym where she works.
"They were a little bored without games and full-time practice. They didn't have much to do outside of class, so I told them about the indoor soccer facility at Cary Street Gym," she says. "I told them people come play pick-up from time to time."
When Maren and Emma finally connected on the soccer pitch, Maren was impressed by Emma's skills. Knowing that one of the goalkeepers was leaving, she approached co-head coaches Tiffany and Tim Sahaydak about possibly bringing in the netminder.
"The first we heard of her, we were having a player meeting with Maren," Tiffany Sahaydak remembers. "It was around winter break, so I told Maren to have her email me if she was interested. I actually did hear from her pretty soon after that."
Emma met with the coaching duo, and they invited her out to training once the spring semester started. For a month, the freshman trained with the team and working as hard as she could to impress the coaching staff. She also was fully immersed in the life of a student-athlete, which meant meetings with an academic advisor, working out with the strength & conditioning coach, and attending study hall.
Her skill, determination and passion were worth it four weeks later when she was officially offered a spot on the roster.
"After a month of training every day and her saying 'we would like to offer you a spot,' you feel like your hard work has paid off. It feels like when you study really hard for a big test and you get a 100 on it."
The freshman is still working hard to prove herself and to get better. She is building relationships with her teammates and training for her first fall season as a member of the Rams. And she definitely isn't bored.
"When I first joined the team, I think some people didn't really understand that I didn't have so much free time any more," Kruse joked. But even with all the responsibilities of being a student-athlete, she still finds time to continue working where it all began—at Cary Street Gym.
Because she is a freshman, she still has four years of eligibility left. Kruse plans to make her years with the Black & Gold count.
"It would be nice to be conference champions, and then progress even higher than that. National champions sounds pretty good," she said with a smile.
Written by VCU Athletic Communications Graduate Assistant Devon Howard