Emily Yergin easily could have thrown up her arms and said “no more.”
Instead, the recent Kettle Run graduate overcame two serious knee injuries in a seven-month span to become one of the finest girls soccer and basketball players in school history.
Despite a career shortened by injury and rehabilitation, Yergin finished her senior year healthy and strong to earn acclaim as the 2016 Fauquier Times Kettle Run Girls Athlete of the Year.
She graduated as the Kettle Run girls soccer team's leader in career goals with 49, and she will play at Shenandoah University next season. As a basketball guard, she provided a stable presence, solid ball-handling and defense, and she finished as the Cougars' career steals leader with 132.
The trials of Emily
As a freshman in 2013, Yergin was second-team all-Evergreen District as a soccer forward and started at guard in basketball.
Ready to continue her progress as a sophomore, Yergin went down in a heap while playing travel soccer in October 2013.
“I was going up for a cross ... to head it,” she recalled. “I jumped up on one leg and landed, and my knee just popped and gave out. That was the most excruciating pain I've ever experienced in my life. People said to this day they still hear my screams in their head and remember them.
“It was so loud,” she said.
The anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in her left knee had ruptured, thus ending her upcoming sophomore basketball season and placing her 2014 spring soccer season in jeopardy.
Surgery ensued, requiring extensive rehabilitation on the long road back to the court and field.
“At the beginning, the physical therapy was really painful … getting range of motion back and bending,” Yergin said. “That was rough, but once you got used to it, you could see the progress. [Then] it went so fast. I started running, then sprinting and then cutting.”
Three months passed before she was allowed to start running. She then progressed to training and, after approximately seven months, she was cleared to restart soccer.
The pleasure of that milestone was short-lived.
Another knee injury
During her first game back in May 2014, Yergin tore the ACL and meniscus in her right knee. That happened the day after her May 8 birthday during an important Conference 27 home match with Brentsville.
Yergin said an opponent came at her from the side.
“Her knee hit mine, and it popped,” Yergin said.
Yergin said it did not seem severe and she kept playing for a week.
“I didn't even know I did it because I could walk off the field, which was completely different from the last time when I had to be carried off,” she said.
After feeling the joint “giving out” multiple times, Yergin returned to the doctor and an MRI confirmed a second serious injury.
“It was a fluke,” she said.
Perhaps she pushed herself to return before fully ready.
“Maybe I did,” Yergin said. “It's hard to say.”
Regardless, she had right knee surgery and prepared for more rehab, which she approached with a new attitude, knowing the injury wasn't as severe as her previous one.
“I knew what to expect,” she said. “The day after surgery I was doing stuff. I did come back quicker.”
Yergin rebounded strongly from the pair of operations, but she had a strong temptation to quit playing sports.
“After my first ACL, I would just cry every night because it was so hard to watch,' she said. “I was 'What's the use. Maybe I should give up.
“But my mom, every night, would keep encouraging me to go to physical therapy, go to the training room to keep things stronger,” Yergin said. “That was my motivation, and all my teammates wrote me so many notes. That just pushed to keep going to get back on the field and court.”
Missing out on glory
Yergin's physical pain was magnified by the anguish of missing Kettle Run's run to the 2014 Class 3A girls soccer state championship game. The Cougars knocked off John Champe in the semifinals to make the final against Blacksburg.
“That was really hard to watch,” Yergin said of her greatest disappointment. “I was jealous.”
Kettle Run lost to Blacksburg, 1-0, after surrendering an early goal.
Yergin believed she could have helped the Cougars create offense if she was healthy after she scored 15 goals as a freshman.
“That literally haunts me all the way to the back of my mind,” she said. “Because what if I played in that game? Would we have won?”
A junior year return
As a junior in 2014-15, Yergin was restless to play sports.
She received a doctor's clearance in January, allowing her to play basketball.
Yergin was nervous about potential re-injury but felt happy to be cleared and knew she could not play at half speed.
“You had to put that into the back of your mind,” she said. “If you are mentally weak, you don't know what might happen.”
Yergin finished her abbreviated junior basketball season strongly and launched into soccer at full speed.
“She fought back. As a coach, you could see the determination in her to get back on the field,” Cougars soccer coach Liz Martin said. “That determination led to her barely missing a beat. She came back with the same blazing speed and technical ability we saw her freshmen year.”
Yergin scored 15 goals, had 10 assists and made the all-Conference 27 first team. She was even more prolific as a senior with 19 goals and 10 assists en route to first-team all-Conference 22 and second-team all-region status as well as earning the Cougars' most valuable player award.
“Not only is Emily quick, but she has great ball control, good vision and a rocket of a shot,” Martin said.
In addition to her 49 career goals, Yergin had 22 assists during her three seasons.
She was also a captain as a senior.
“When the team needed a pick-me-up, Emily was there,” Martin said. “She pushed harder and encouraged her teammates to do the same. Her leadership by example helped the team on numerous occasions fight back from goal deficits.”
In basketball, Yergin had her best season as a senior, averaging 11.1 points per game en route to earning a first-team all-Conference 22 spot. The Cougars tied the school record with nine wins in a season.
“Em is probably one of the hardest working athletes that I have ever coached. The quality that impresses me the most about Em is her perseverance,” Kettle Run basketball coach Steve Sviatko said. “She will go above and beyond to make herself and her teammates better.”
Yergin's itch to continue playing sports returned as her senior year loomed, especially when two of her teammates from a Fauquier Fever travel soccer squad committed to Shenandoah University.
Fauquier's Kailey Vance was the first to commit, followed by Liberty's Bretton Butler. Then they turned up the pressure on Yergin, who said she needed the prodding.
“I got a little bit jealous when Kailey said she was going to play there,” Yergin said. “I thought maybe I should start taking it seriously. ... Needed a little push.
“'Emily, please come and join us. You're going to love it.' We convinced her,” Butler said.
Another incentive was Liz Keefer, a Fever player and close friend. Keefer still has another year at Kettle Run, but she has already committed to Shenandoah for 2017.
That foursome of players shares a national championship as teammates on the Fever. They journeyed to Florida in December for the 18U national championships, defeating teams from Michigan, Northern Virginia and Michigan to claim the national crown. Yergin was a member of the all-tournament team.
The Fever already has qualified to defend its crown this December.
For college, Yergin, a National Honor Society student, also looked at Bridgewater and James Madison. But she favored her contact with Shenandoah coach Elizabeth Pike.
“She's incredible, and I like her coaching style,” Yergin said. “She's all about attack, playing an aggressive game and be physical. That's the way I play.”
Yergin has interest in a degree in sports management, a field she did not know existed until the college recruitment process.
“I found it was one of the fastest growing industries,” she said. “It combines my love of sports with an interest in business.”
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The Emily Yergin File
Family: Father Jim is an attorney. Mother Karen teaches seventh grade English at Auburn Middle School. Brother Sam graduated from George Mason University and currently attends University of Virginia law school.
Shout out: Yergin often provided rides for close friend and teammate Liz Keefer to Panera or Chipotle before a home game. “That was our tradition.” Keefer also had car problems. “Every time her car would break down. ... Wouldn't start. Her dad would have to get the car, and I would have to drive her to the game almost like a comedy show script. We went to preschool together. We've known each other since we were little. A lot of memories.”
Favorite TV shows: “I love reality TV,” she said with a huge grin. “All my friends make fun of me for it. I like The Kardashians and all that.”
Favorite musicians: “I like Kid Ink. He's good for pumping up before a game.“ Also Sam Hunt.
Favorite teams: The U.S. Women's Soccer Team and FC Barcelona “I'm a huge fan of [Lionel] Messi.”
Superstitions: “I put my shin guards on after warm ups. I have these shin guards that I have to wear right here,” she said, pointing at spot low on her ankle.”
Favorite foods: “I love tacos, Mexican. I also love Italian.”
Favorite restaurants: “Chick fil A is a classic. Sam's Italian Restaurant, but I also love Maggiano's Little Italy.”