It was December 17, 2015, about halfway through Emma Voigt’s sophomore soccer season, her second year as a varsity starter at Pedro Menendez High School. The game was against Matanzas High School, a formidable opponent. Emma took the field knowing that the stakes were high. She thought back to all she’d accomplished since starting soccer at age four. Then she thought forward to a showcase in which she was scheduled to play 12 days later in front of several coaches from top Division 1 colleges. Emma was well aware that verbal college commitments are made as early as sophomore year.
Emma had the ball. She went to cut around an opponent and at the last second decided to cut in the other direction. With that, she heard a loud pop and immediately went down screaming. Emma begged to go back in the game but her coach and trainer said no, they knew the prognosis was bad. A few days later, an MRI confirmed the dreaded news – Emma had torn her ACL. Surgery was necessary and Emma would be unable to play soccer for nine months.
Such a devastating blow at such a crucial point in time would be enough to crush the spirit of many aspiring athletes, but Emma is no ordinary young woman. She proclaimed her goal to her family – she would “kick butt” at therapy and come out on the other side stronger than before. Her surgery went well and she started physical therapy the very next day.
In August of 2016, after eight months of intense physical therapy, Emma was finally cleared to play soccer again for her junior year. Just two months later, Emma began talking with head coach Robin Confer at UNF. An official offer was soon made and Emma gave her verbal commitment. She was voted captain by her team, named by the Florida Times-Union as one of the top five women’s soccer “players to watch,” helped her team make school history by making it past districts for the first time, and named offensive MVP for her team. She had 21 goals and 18 assists for the season, was awarded All Conference, All County first team, and All State.
While many athletes see an injury as the end of the road, Emma used it as a stepping stone to the next level. Such poise and determination is not easy to come by, especially in someone her age. Her accomplishments are not limited to the soccer field – Emma is in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at school and maintains a GPA between 3.9 – 4.1, taking all college classes. She works part time at Aqua East Surf Shop and is a member of the Athletic Leadership Council (ALC). She balances all this with practices and travel schedules for both her school and club teams. Emma says time management is the most difficult part of her lifestyle, but her love of the sport makes it all worthwhile. “Whenever I step on the field,” says Emma, “all my stress or anything I am going through just goes away.”
Her journey has not been without challenges, but the future is bright for young Emma. She looks forward to having a successful four years of academics and soccer with UNF and is leaning toward Sports Management for a future career. When asked what advice Emma would give to other aspiring female athletes, Emma’s answer runs true to her determined spirit. “Stay on top of things, and don’t let the little things distract you. If you want something, go after it with everything you have and don’t stop until you get it!”
Photography by Brian Miller