Emily Rich just completed one of the best freshman seasons in Nevada soccer history. The native of Coarsegold, Calif., near the southern entrance of Yosemite National Park, led the Wolf Pack in goals scored (four), assists (five) and points (13) this season, starting 17 of 18 matches and logging 1,310 minutes, second on the team. Rich scored a pair of game-winning goals and assisted on Thursday's game-winning goal against rival UNLV. She was one of the bright spots of the season, which was capped with a 5-11-2 overall record and 4-5-2 mark in Mountain West play. As a result of Rich's successful freshman season with the Wolf Pack, she is the Nevada Sports Net Wolf Pack Athlete of the Month for October, an honor presented in partnership with Champion Chevrolet.
You can watch our full interview with Emily Rich below, or check out our Q&A underneath that.
Q&A with Emily Rich
Nevada Sports Net: You are a freshman. Who taught you to play so hard? That is the first thing anybody I speak to about you, that's the first thing they talk about when they talk about your game.
Emily Rich: "That would definitely have to go to my dad. He has coached me my entire life since I was 3. You're not old enough to play soccer when you're 3 years old, but my sister played on a rec soccer team and they needed extra players. So my dad's, like, 'Oh, she can go. She can play.' And ever since then, I realize how much love I have for the game and my dad just coached me after that and pushed me and pushed me and pushed me and created the player I am now."
NSN: Did you always play this hard? When you watch Nevada soccer play, you see that you just don't quit. You pursue balls to the touch line. You go after players that think you're not marking them. Has that always been your signature?
ER: "I have. That's kind of been my signature style of playing, and it all pretty much started on how I grew up in an extremely competitive family. My dad played soccer, baseball and golf. My mom's a runner. So our entire family has been extremely competitive. So then just bringing that to the field, I've just always been able to play like that, and my motto going in playing soccer games, I know it kind of sounds cliché to say, 'Play every single game like it's going to be your last.' But that's actually how I play soccer. I go out there, and if it's a one-on-one, I'm running after the ball playing like it's going to be my last one-on-one. 'What am I going to do?' And I just go in with that mindset every single game, and it just helps me play as hard as I can."
NSN: You are from Coarsegold, Calif. I am a native Californian. I had a Google where that is. I did look it up. And it's in the mountains due north of Fresno. How far is it from Fresno?
ER: "It's about 35 to 40 minutes."
NSN: I did notice in your bio that they did not recruit.
ER: "No, they did not."
NSN: You compete against them in this conference. Tell me about how you came to Nevada as opposed to the Mountain West school 35 minutes from your home.
ER: "I wrote pretty much every single college around my hometown. (Fresno State) probably wasn't my first option because my goal was to get out of my comfort zone and go experience life. They didn't recruit me, but I did write emails to them. And so then I just wanted to keep my options open. So I just kept writing to schools, writing to schools, and then Nevada found me and I toured their school and I fell in love with the campus first of all. I live in the mountains. I grew up in the mountains. So just going to a college that is really like home, I knew I made the right choice right."
NSN: It's the same mountain range just on the other side. So what was that process like? Coach (Erin) Otagaki is kind of an effervescent person. But you would have been a senior in high school at the peak of the pandemic, so how did that work?
ER: "That was very stressful because the recruiting process was very stressful during COVID and just contacting colleges. So I was really lucky that EO and P (assistant Parrissa Eyorokon) recruited me right before that time. And then I had my official visit. I toured the campus and I committed actually right before the whole pandemic of COVID happened. So I'm super grateful for that, so I didn't really have to do the recruiting process with all the rules of COVID."
NSN: You've moved around different positions, right? You were a defender at the start of the year.
ER: "I did get put back in defender. I can't say I am a defender."
NSN: OK, so tell me about that.
ER: "In club, I usually got put around all over, but usually on the side. So I mainly played forward, but I would sometimes get put in the back because technically it's the same position, just different spots on the field. (In club), I played defense on the back line. And then when they moved me in that game, it wasn't like all new to me because I played that position before. I honestly enjoy that position. So it wasn't new to me, but I actually kind of enjoy it."
NSN: I have noticed in the matches I've seen that not only you, but Lauren Muff moves around a lot. Tell me how that works in the game. Does Coach Otagaki say, 'Look, you've just got to be ready to play any position?' Or is it more specifically you guys find something on the other side you want to exploit and then people shift?
ER: "With me and Lauren, we have really good chemistry, I think. When she plays on my side, if she goes up, I go down. We are able to read each other really well, and she makes runs, I makes runs off of her. That's why I was so sad when she got taken out with her collarbone injury. But no, Lauren Muff is definitely one of the players on the team I have really good chemistry with with her being my back line."
NSN: You mentioned the victory over San Jose State, 2-1, this past Sunday. You said the conditions were unlike anything you've ever played in. It was an atmospheric river as we've all been hearing about.
ER: "I've played in the snow because I live near Yosemite and we had games playing in the snow, freezing cold weather. But this game, it was pouring rain and it was definitely a challenging game to play in, but definitely one to remember because even though it's wet and it's raining, sometimes it's the most fun times to play soccer."
NSN: The young players on this team, Trinity Sandridge, yourself, Lauren's only a sophomore. How do you feel about the nucleus, the core that's going to be coming back after this year?
ER: "Oh, I love it. I love it. My freshman class, when you first go into college soccer, I think the most important thing is to have really good chemistry with your freshman class because you're going to be with them all the way for four years, and my freshman class I couldn't have asked for a better five. We hang out all the time. My roommates, Penny (Murphy) and Ally (Little), I couldn't have asked for better roommates. They are so supportive with everything. And Maddy (Marr) and Lauren, when I first came to UNR, I actually dormed with them. So that was a really good connection, and they were just so welcoming and I'm super excited to have this young core."
NSN: So your roommates are Penny Murphy and Ally Little? That's a lot of goals in that apartment.
ER: "I know."
NSN: Are you guys all soccer all the time? Are you watching EPL and different things when you're not playing or are you guys balanced?
ER: "We're actually pretty balance. We'll go home after the game. We'll discuss the game, but then we'll have a family movie night after that and we'll cook dinner. We do talk a lot about soccer, but we also kind of have a balance where we talk about our social life and just kind of hang out with each other."
NSN: Do you have like a favorite player or somebody you've modeled your game after? Somebody who inspired you to play?
ER: "Ever since I was little, Mia Hamm has always been my favorite soccer player, professional soccer player-wise. My dad and my mom have helped me through my career of soccer, from driving me off to tournaments after tournaments in club and just getting to me where I am now."
NSN: One thing folks may not know is when you when you're a student-athlete, especially when you're a freshmen, somebody in sports information gives you a survey for a bio and that says, 'I was recruited by these two schools in addition to Nevada. My favorite player is Mia Hamm. And then it lists hobbies.' And one of your hobbies is sewing, which is impressive, and I want to know about that, but another one is cliff diving. That's insane. Tell me about that.
ER: "I love adrenaline. I've grown up just exploring the mountains, jumping off cliffs into water, like 40- to 50-foot cliffs, doing backflips off them. We go camping and there's these tall rocks and me and my siblings and other kids are like, 'Let's go jump off of it.' So that's definitely one of my hobbies. Over the summer, I'll go up with a group of friends and we'll just find rocks, super high rocks to jump off of. It's definitely one of my main hobbies."
NSN: Does competition give you that adrenaline?
ER: "Yes it does. Soccer is kind of like my getaway. It gives adrenaline. I kind of forget about everything when I'm playing, which I love, and it's just kind of like an escape from life."