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Emily Hinchman: Tri-Cities Soccer Captain

Posted Friday, June 05, 2009 by Darryl Mellema
By Darryl Mellema - Daily Herald Newspaper

When she was a sophomore, Emily Hinchman had one of those games that make reporters seek interviews.

She had been all over the field, making an impact and more than assisting a very veteran team with her presence. Thing was, Hinchman wasn't any kind of a veteran at answering questions.

So Kaitlyn Cunningham, a senior and one of several leaders, escorted Hinchman to the waiting scribes and stood behind her as she began answering questions. As the interview progressed, an initially quiet Hinchman became more at-ease and began to answer the questions in a relaxed fashion. When she was done, she was reminded that Cunningham was no longer standing behind her, which produced a smile.

In a way, those brief post-match moments capsulate Hinchman's high school playing career. She arrived on a team dominated by a core of players that had played together for most of their high school careers.

Now as a senior with all those players in college, Hinchman more than stepped into her own - and has earned the right to be the captain of the Daily Herald's Tri-Cities All-Area Girls Soccer team.

Hinchman remembers that post-match interview story, and remembers what it was like to be on the Vikings squad in 2007.

"I started off being one of the younger kids on the team and that team had so many talented players," she said. "I didn't think I was as good as some of those other varsity players. I've grown more confident as I've grown older."

Those successful teams also taught Hinchman a few things about soccer and sports participation.

"It was a great experience for me," she said. "Those girls always played with a lot of heart. Almost all of those players went off to play in college. That gave me a lot of motivation that I could play hard and further my career. Being a part of that team gave me the sense that I had other opportunities for playing soccer beyond high school."

By her own definition, Hinchman hates to lose and dislikes playing poorly. First-year Geneva coach Megan Owens has seen that inner fire from close range this season.

"She's probably one of the most competitive kids on the team," Owens said. "She gives 110 percent. She lost a contact in one of our games - and she has pretty bad eyesight. She went out there and played through it and had a really strong game playing, essentially, with one eye."

To be more than just an effective player, Owens said such passion for the game is essential.

"She sometimes takes things a little too personally," Owens said. "But to be a top athlete and to go and play at the top level, you've got to have that competitive fire. She pushes herself so much to excel and it comes from within. And you see it in whatever sport she's actively participating in at the time."

Geneva girls basketball fans saw that passion through the past winter, when the Vikings advanced to the state finals and brought home a fourth-place trophy. Owens, who coaches freshman girls basketball, got to see Hinchman's on-court abilities and could see how she would translate that into soccer success.

"Her speed and athleticism were very impressive," Owens said. "I knew she was a versatile athlete. I could tell she had the skills - and her ball skills combined with her speed made her lethal."

Within Geneva's setup, Hinchman played in a central midfield role. But as with many players in that role, she had the freedom to go forward and attack from deep positions or to help in defense - whatever was needed more at the time by the team. The role stressed responsibility, and here again, she gained from her experiences as a basketball player.

"In basketball, I saw how well our team worked together," Hinchman said. "We had a lot of team chemistry in basketball. Our teamwork and team play are what helped us to be successful. Realizing that has helped me in soccer. Being a center mid, I needed to be unselfish. You have to give other people opportunities if they are going to be successful. I was a captain in basketball too, and I tried my best to be a good leader on the soccer field as well."

With Geneva advancing so far into the basketball playoffs, Hinchman's participation in the girls soccer preseason was nearly eliminated.

"I didn't want to distract her," Owens said. "They had such a successful basketball season and I knew she was one of the strongest players. That's why I asked her to be a captain - I needed contact kids to help me out with things."

The transition to having Owens as head coach went very smoothly both for Hinchman and the Vikings as a team.

"It was new for her and new for all of us because it was such a new team," Hinchman said. "I think (Owens) and I worked well together. She was a really relatable coach and easy to work with. When there were differences, she was easy to talk about them with."

The previous two varsity seasons, the Geneva coach was Ryan Estabrook, who is still the school's boys soccer coach and who worked with the Vikings junior-varsity this spring.

"He was a great coach and gave me a lot of advice," Hinchman said. "I really remember those seasons a lot. Those were some of my favorite soccer seasons."

The Vikings took time to gel on the field, but managed one of the upsets of the playoffs when they knocked No. 1 seed St. Charles North from the tournament. Hinchman got only goal of the match, an overtime winner on the team's first true effort at goal.

"That was really exciting for us and for Geneva soccer in general," Hinchman said. "It is always exciting in postseason play to get an outcome like that. For me, to make a shot like that in my senior season - that was exciting for me."

While she won't wear Geneva's school colors any more, Hinchman said there was always something about wearing the Blue or White jersey and representing her school.

"That is what I'm going to miss the most," Hinchman said. "I'm going to miss playing sports with my friends and for my school. Playing for your community - that's where a lot of my motivation came from."

This fall, Hinchman takes that drive to Illinois Wesleyan, an emerging school in Division III. The Titans were 15-6-2 and won their conference in 2008. Among her teammates will be St. Charles East grad Alyssa Feulner, who will be a junior this fall.

"I'm really excited going down there for the fall," Hinchman said. "I met the coach and he's really good. I met the team and they're a great group of girls. They've really been making strides. I'm excited to join that team and the success they've had and I'm hoping to help them build and have more success."

Owens, a star Division III player at Knox College, thinks Hinchman and Illinois Wesleyan are a good fit.

"She still has some doubts and that's something she has to work through," Owens said. "But I'd rather work with someone like her because she's coachable. She's going to be a great addition to the Wesleyan program. I'm thrilled that she's decided to play. She's so competitive, she'd miss it if she didn't play in college."

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