Despite being one of the best young players in the league, Emily Menges is nothing but modest. The sophomore centerback returns to the field after being awarded Big East rookie of the year last season in addition to earning a spot on the Big East All-Rookie team. But it is clear that Menges hasn’t let the accolades go to her head.

As a freshman, Menges made a name for herself early on, starting every game and playing the most minutes on the team. It is this tremendous stamina that has made her one of the most valuable defensive players on the field.

“I didn’t really expect to start every game last year,” Menges said. “But when one of our starting defenders got hurt in the beginning of the season, it opened up a really great opportunity for me.”

She took that opportunity on the back line to learn from fellow defenders then-junior Gabby Miller — who was playing on the right wing and is Menges’ partner in the center of defense this year — and the since-graduated Michaela Buonomo.

“Playing right next to Michaela helped me out mostly because she always told me where to be on the field,” Menges said. “We both play really differently – usually whatever she did I would do the opposite of, but it worked because we were able to play off each other.”

This season, Menges’ endurance and defensive skills will be especially valuable as the team looks to repeat their successful run in the NCAA tournament. Last season the Hoyas defeated top-ranked teams Minnesota and Maryland before falling 2-0 to Ohio State in the Elite Eight.

“The success we had last year allowed [Emily] to play against more of the top teams and some of the better attacking players in the country,” redshirt senior midfielder Ingrid Wells said. “I think she looks pretty good this year … even though she’s a young player, [she’s] showing leadership.”

“She has a great understanding of the game,” senior forward Camille Trujillo said. “She’s capable of doing more and she’s made a huge impact.”

Even though all eyes will be on the young defender this season, the high expectations do not bother her. She is only focused on helping the team repeat last year’s memorable and historic season.

“I don’t really feel any pressure on myself — I’m just going to keep doing what works for me,” said Menges. “But I feel like now, as a team, we have a target on our back because the little teams that we play aren’t just going to look at us as another little team. They’re going to want to beat us that much more.”

“I know we lost a few key people like Michaela and Jackie [DesJardin], and some forwards who will be hard to replace, but hopefully we can get as far as last year,” she continued. “Even if we don’t make it as far as the NCAA tournament, this year our main goal is to win the Big East after being knocked out so early last year.”

This year will be different for the sophomore defender, though. An All-American in track, Menges ran middle distance for Georgetown last spring but decided to give up running to focus on her soccer career.

“It wasn’t having to balance between soccer and track that was hard,” Menges said. “The hardest part was not being able to play soccer in the spring and missing out on being with the team.”

There’s no question, though, that Menges’ impressive track career had a major influence on her endurance on the soccer field.

“Emily is blessed with fantastic pace,” Head Coach Dave Nolan said. “Nobody runs past her. Nobody. She’s gives people ten yards and she still catches them, even the top players.”

“To me, the best part about being a defender is being able to see the entire field and knowing that absolutely no one is going to come behind me,” Menges said.

It is this field vision and grasp of the game, combined with incredible speed and endurance, that make Menges such a talented defender and key asset to the women’s soccer team.

“What’s great about her is it’s not just about speed,” said Nolan. “She reads the game very well, she’s got great feet, she connects passes and she attacks very well from the back.”

After some sterling early-season performances — particularly against No. 2 Stanford last Monday — Menges looks ready to build on her success in last year’s campaign. The unique combination of speed, skill and passion will serve the talented sophomore well as an injury to fellow sophomore defender Mary Kroenig means that Menges is currently the only Hoya defender playing in the same position she did last year.

“Emily is a special athlete — hand on heart,” Nolan said. “I think by the end of the year Emily will be the best defender in the conference.”

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