Playing at an elite level
Melissa Emery inducted into the University of Southern Maine Hall of Fame
Big Sky resident Melissa “Mel” Emery was recently inducted into the University of Southern Maine Hall of Fame for her success in field hockey.
Her sister Michele describes her has a quiet and nerdy kid – the star clarinet player in the school band when the family lived in Georgia. The transition from band geek to the field hockey World Cup team and competing at an elite level in Australia, South Africa, Barcelona and Hong Kong surprised Mel. She did not see that life path for herself. However, her family was not surprised at all.
There were not many athletic opportunities for girls in the south at that time the Emery family lived there. Upon moving back to Maine, just in time for Mel’s freshman year of high school, she tried out for the field hockey team.
“You could almost say that the rest is history. She fell in love instantly and became completely dedicated to the sport,” Michele said. “Once she found something she liked she gave 100% - she rarely, if ever, half-assed it.”
It was a mentality passed-on to the six children by their parents.
“[They] worked their butts off on a dairy farm while we were growing up. There's nothing like farming to instill good work ethics,” she said. “The only surprise about the Hall of Fame induction is how long they waited to invite her. It was a very special thing for all of us to be there for her when she accepted her trophy.”
Mel said it was a chance conversation with her high school basketball coach which led her to the last-minute decision to try-out for the University of Southern Maine Field Hockey team.
“Nobody ever said, ‘Here is the process: that you have to contact coaches and be accepted to try out,’” she explained. The assistant basketball coach took her in the office and got her lined-up to play the pre-season at her first choice for college field hockey: The University of Southern Maine.
“There was never a question that she'd be playing in college. It wasn't a surprise to us at all that she was extremely successful,” Michele said. “My mom had some articles that were written about her back from those days. Not sure if any of them are available on the internet – we're old, you know – but Melissa was well on her way to local fame even before she started the Masters tournaments three years ago.”
Mel said she did not play much her freshman year, started as center and midfielder her sophomore year and suffered three surgeries that knocked her out of playing much of her junior year due to a torn meniscus in her knee. Her senior year, she was back – and fiercely conscientious, quickly becoming team captain and All American and was on the North-South Senior All Stars Team. After graduating, she attended her first sports camp for field hockey and was selected for the U.S. Field Hockey Summer League. The following year she was selected for B Camp, which was two steps away from playing for the national team. She joined a club team called Shark Bait and participated in national weekend tournaments.
“There’s no real buffer in-between. It’s club play or national play, she said.”
She discovered the 2016 Master’s World Cup was going to be in Australia and they were doing try-outs. Interestingly, they were offering paper try-outs for players who could not make it to the physical try-out.
“I never thought I would get selected – I really didn’t think I would. She submitted her sort of paper field hockey resume in June or July and then in September, she looked to see if she knew anyone who had made the team.
“I found out I was on it,” she said with a smile. “I love the sport itself and I love being a part of a team, just the social aspect – especially at the master’s level, the teams will have socials after games,” she explained that it is similar in mentality to rugby games: fierce competition and then beers and high fives with rivals. “So really you’re meeting people from around the world who play the same sport that you love.”
She attributes her current status as an elite field hockey player to the coaching she received at USM and she credits the sport for her world travel and exciting life.
“The coaching I got in college was really the catalyst for me to go to camp right after. Getting that coaching at USM was a kick starter for all of it,” she said.