CONCORD >> In a different life, Emily Mathewson could have been a fantastic softball player.
That was the journey she was taking in her grade school years. She was never going to be a power hitter, but she could field and slap the ball around. She had speed and good instincts.
Maybe, softball could have been her sport.
“I was a little leadoff hitter,” she said. “I just tried to get on base and use my speed. I couldn’t really get the ball out of the infield a lot. I was more of the bunter/slap hitter. Second base was my spot.”
She didn’t fall in love with lacrosse, let alone play it, until five years ago.
“I didn’t start until the seventh grade,” she said. “My story is kind of interesting…”
Indeed, Garnet Valley’s all-time leading scorer, a two-time PIAA champion and repeat member of the US Lacrosse All America team, is a relative newcomer to the sport
Mathewson is good buddies with Sam Tomasetti, the 2016 Daily Times Softball Player of the Year. They were teammates for years, in softball as little kids and another four years on the varsity basketball team. Mathewson was good enough to play for the Chaos, which is one of the premier travel organizations in the state.
“I played softball with Sam. I played club with her growing up. We sort of came up together in softball,” Mathewson said. “My family was always a big baseball family, so they were kind of mad when I decided to switch to lacrosse. I was a lefty, too. My older brother (Chris, who was at Franklin & Marshall) is a full lefty and was always a baseball player. So watching him hit off the tee all those times, the bat just kind of fell in my hand and I was a lefty hitter. I’m not really a lefty, but for lacrosse I am.”
When Mathewson decided to give lacrosse a whirl, she was a natural.
“In the seventh grade, one of my coaches kept trying to get me to come over (to lacrosse), but I was still playing softball. I was doing both at the same time,” she said. “My dad (Fred), he’s the man. When I was little, we would go to the track and then to the softball field. All that time growing up, he would hit me ground balls and I’d do batting practice with my brother. But eventually, instead of the softball field, we went on the turf field to practice my shot.
“I just fell in love with lacrosse and gave up softball forever.”
It was the right move.
“It’s such a faster-paced game, which really benefitted me because I’m really short,” Mathewson said, laughing. ” I joined Brandywine Majors (Girls Lacrosse Club) and BYC. This was when Garnet Valley started winning state championships. I went to both of their state championship games in the seventh and eighth grade. Those teams inspired me.”
— Matt Smith (@DTMattSmith) June 30, 2016
Mathewson gave all that she had to lacrosse, becoming one of the greatest players in program history. She shattered the school record for most goals in a career. Mathewson ended her senior campaign with 304 goals, two state championships and a neverending playlist of awesome memories.
For her efforts, Mathewson is the 2016 Daily Times Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year. She is the second Garnet Valley player in three years to earn the honor. Haley Warden was named Player of the Year in 2014.
Joining Mathewson on the All-Delco team, which is selected after consultation with local coaches, are Agnes Irwin’s Laura Pansini and Kate White; Archbishop Carroll’s Sam Swart; Episcopal Academy’s Julia Hondros; Garnet Valley’s Kara Nakrasius; Haverford’s Laura Winters; Notre Dame’s Caroline Allen; Radnor’s Abby Lord and Fallon Quinn’; and Springfield’s Julianne Clemens and Bridget Whitaker.
Mathewson is Player of the Year in a year Garnet Valley failed to win a title of any kind. The Jaguars fell short in the Central League and lost in the
semifinal round of both the District One and PIAA tournaments.
However, there was no doubt that Mathewson deserved the award. In fact, she was a landslide pick for Player of the Year by coaches throughout the county.
“Obviously, I’m a little biased,” GV coach Jenny Purvis said, “Emily absolutely deserves it. She was our rock and always gave it 110 percent. She meant so much to the team and is just a great person and a great player.”
Mathewson was a four-year starter on varsity. She learned from some of best in team history.
“My sophomore year, we had (2014 Player of the Year) Haley Warden and a lot of great leaders on that team,” Mathewson said. “Purvis pulled me over before my junior season and said she was going to move me to the midfield because we lost so many players. She wanted me to have a bigger role and I was totally up for it.”
Mathewson guided a Garnet Valley team to a state title following a 3-4 start. The Jags won eight of their last nine games. No one expected them to repeat.
“That’s what was so fun about that year,” she said. “We were the underdogs and had to overcome a lot.”
The storybook ending would have seen Mathewson graduate as a three-time state champion, but she has no regrets about the way her senior year ended. Garnet Valley fell to Radnor by a goal after relinquishing a huge first-half lead.
“The way we look at it, we had a really great first half in that semifinal game. It was just the second half that was bad, and those 25 minutes really can’t define our entire season” she said. “It wasn’t the ending we wanted, but we’ve won states twice before. We had our time.”
Mathewson will take her talents to Vanderbilt in the fall, thrilled for the opportunity to play Division I lacrosse the next four years.
Not bad for a kid who used to hit softballs with her dad.
“High school went by fast, but I’m looking forward to college,” she said. “I’m excited to start.”