Gopher ‘family’ suits freshman goalie just fine

 

SOECharlesHallmansquareThere are approximately 100 African American and other student-athletes of color this school year at the University of Minnesota. In an occasional series throughout the 2015-16 school and sports year, the MSR will highlight many of these players

This week: Freshman goalie Emma May

 

The third goalie in hockey sometimes looks like a third wheel. It’s mostly watching from the bench, the only action coming in practices and pre-game skatearounds. That hasn’t dampened Emma May’s enthusiasm for the game, however.

Emma May
Emma May

We first met freshman goalie May this past summer as a finalist for this year’s Winfield Awards at its annual banquet in St. Paul. When we heard that the young Eagan woman and Cretin-Denham Hall graduate was heading to Minnesota to play hockey, May immediately joined the Gopher 100.

More significantly, May is the first player of color in goal in Gopher women’s hockey history.

Guarding a net with pucks flying at you at break-neck speed is something May says she’s wanted to do since she first began playing hockey. “You definitely have to be a little weird,” she says smiling. “I figured out that forward and defense was not my way of playing. Goaltender is just the perfect fit for me because I am a little different, and goaltenders have to be a little different, too.”

“We were looking for a third-string goalie,” notes U of M Coach Brad Frost. “She was coached by [two former Gophers] Johnny Pohl and Krissy Wendell. She may not get much time in the nets, but we need somebody, first and foremost, who is a good person. Emma wanted to come and be a part of our program, get a great education at the University of Minnesota, and be a part of our culture.

“She comes with a smile every day,” says Frost of May.

Emma May
Emma May

“As soon as I heard the Gophers were looking at me, I was so excited, so amazed that they were looking at me,” recalls May, a 2015 Ms. Hockey finalist recognized as one of the top five senior goalies in the state during her final season at Cretin. She had a .914 save percentage and three shutouts and finished her high school career with 57 wins and 14 shutouts.

May says she loves the Gopher program’s “family and friendship” environment and the high expectations of winning as well. “The girls are always great,” she points out. “It’s been a blast.”

She also is learning from the team’s veteran netminders, starter senior Amanda Leveille and redshirt sophomore Sidney Peters, two players who knows a thing or two about waiting for their turn to play in net. “They stay after [practice] with me,” says May. “They teach [me] different ways on just playing the game. I’ve learned a lot from them on how perseverance and hard work can really get you somewhere.”

She made her college debut last weekend in Mankato, stopping all three shots in her third-period appearance in Minnesota’s 11-1 win over Minnesota State Mankato November 27. “It was a great experience and a great opportunity to be able to play behind all of my University of Minnesota teammates who I have been practicing with for a while now,” says May.

“It was great to get Emma in there and get her first Gopher career appearance,” said Frost afterwards.

May says of her standout role as the team’s only player of color, “I definitely hope I am inspiring more girls to play hockey and [other] sports that [are considered] out of their reach. Sports have definitely been the one thing that keeps me sane. It’s part of my life now.”

Gophers make volleyball tournament

Minnesota (18-2, 26-4 overall) last weekend won their first Big Ten volleyball title since 2002 and on Sunday received an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Senior Daly Santana last Saturday got the match point with a kill in the 4-1 win at Indiana.

The Gophers are second seed and will host Jackson State Friday at 6:30 pm. Read about Santana and fellow senior Toni Alugbue and their Senior Night experience on the MSR website.

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.