West Virginia Wesleyan's Emily Knight is a fighter.
It takes a special athlete to bounce back from two ACL surgeries and perform at a high level. Knight has not only bounced back, but is the leading scorer on an LBC team that is currently undefeated and ranked 11th in the nation.
"I remember the late-season runs we had in the NCAA Tournament my first two years here," Knight said. "We all want to be a part of the team that takes us back."
Growing up in nearby Harrison County, Knight was a multi-sport athletic star throughout her early years. She began doing gymnastics and age two, and playing soccer at age four. Throughout her time at Lumberport Elementary and Lumberport Middle School, she began to make a name for herself in soccer, basketball, and softball. When she moved on to Lincoln High School in Shinnston, she produced a high school career that was nothing short of historic.
While producing a 4.6 grade point average en route to becoming a college pre-med major, she performed in four sports for LHS..and at a high level in each. She was a three-time First Team All-State performer in soccer, and was twice named the state Midfielder of the Year. While playing for Coach Rick Murray she delivered a solid senior season to cap her career, scoring 22 goals in 2013 and also 10 assists.
While playing soccer, she was also the kicker for the Lincoln football team. She was not just a soccer player contributing to a football squad, she became a legitimate weapon for the Cougars. She became the team's regular placekicker as a junior, and her senior season, she handled all of the kicking chores for head coach Robert Herrod.
During Knight's senior season, she led all AA kickers in field goals and kick scoring, helping her land First-Team All-State honors in that sport as well. This made history, as she was the first female to be First Team All-State in football.
Knight's basketball career was also stellar. She topped the elite 1000-point scoring mark, and became a First Team All-Stater on the hardwood as well. Playing for legendary veteran coach Rob Hawkins, she helped lead a talented Cougar basketball squad that was a perennial state power in Class AA.
In the spring, Knight was a multi-talented center fielder for the Cougar softball team. She earned Honorable Mention All-State in that sport as an athlete with speed, a good bat, and someone who could cover a lot of ground defensively in the outfield.
"It was school, lots of practices and games, and a lot of evenings getting my studying in late at night," Knight said. "It was a crazy schedule, and I realize it even more now looking back on it...but it was all I had ever really known. It is a lot of practice and a lot of hard work, but you make a lot of friends and build a lot of strong relationships through athletics."
Knight did not have plans of continuing athletics after high school. Her focus was to attend WVU and dedicate her time to her academic pursuits. But her plans eventually changed.
"I played in the North-South game in soccer, and Coach Holguin talked to me afterward. He helped me see that I loved this sport too much to walk away from it," Knight said. "After visiting Wesleyan, I loved the school, and the academic culture that the school has."
This is where Knight's athletic career hit a bump in the road. She lost her freshmen year to the torn ACL, and sat on the sidelines watching as the team went 13-5-3 and made the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. She dedicated herself rehab and strength work to get back.
"I was working out and conditioning the summer before my sophomore year, and it just didn't feel right," Knight said. "It would get real weak on me and it never really got better. When I went in for testing, it revealed that the first surgery had not worked...there was nothing there."
A devastated Knight went back for her second surgery on the same knee, and went back to Square One in the rehab cycle. She again was on the sideline as her teammates rolled to 17-1-3 record, and again advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tourney.
"It was hard to be out, but you learn a lot watching the game from a bird's eye view instead of out there playing," Knight said. "While I was out, I learned a lot that has helped me at this point in my career.
Finally healthy and ready to make her mark, Knight returned to the pitch for the first time in three years for the 2016 season. She played in 17 games, starting eight, and helped lead the team to a 12-3-3 mark. With three goals, she was the team's second leading scorer.
Now a senior, Knight has helped lead a true LBC Renaissance. The squad went 18-2-2, and advanced all the way back to NCAA Second Round.The team was ranked nationally since the season's second week, and Knight was a major part of the season. She tied for the team lead with five goals.
"We had some big goals this season," Knight said. "It was very exciting to win the MEC regular season and also the post season championships. I couldn't be more proud of our team effort in the post-season as we made a tough run in the NCAA tournament. This season was very special season for our seniors and program and I hope this winning legacy continues in the future for LBC."
Once Knight's college career is done, she is ready to make the move into the next chapter of her life. She has already been accepted into the Salus University School of Optometry in Philadelphia. Her long term goals are to own and operate her own optometry practice and raise a family.
For now, there are more goals to score and teams to beat for Knight and her teammates. The future doctor has overcome a great deal of adversity to be at this point in her career.
Emily Knight is truly one of the most dynamic student-athletes...male or female, that North Central West Virginia has ever produced.