Chasing her dream: Embry signs to play soccer at Southwest Baptist University
Taylor Embry graduated from South Tahoe High in 2012 with the goal of playing soccer at a four-year college. Three years and many obstacles later, the talented defender at both STHS and Lake Tahoe Community College completed a journey that made her dream a reality.
“This has been my passion forever,” Embry said. “To finally pursue it and go to a Division II school on a full ride — it hasn’t felt real for a very long time.”
Embry made the next step in her soccer career official last Friday, signing to play at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo. She signed the letter of intent during a ceremony with family and friends in front of a trophy case she helped fill as a part of the Vikings’ NIAA state championship teams in 2010 and 2011.
“It means a lot — I’m not only representing Tahoe, but also my high school and my family,” Embry said. “I grew up here and it means a lot to prove that even though we’re a small town, we can do big things.”
During Embry’s junior and senior seasons at South Tahoe, the Vikings won back-to-back league and state championships. As a senior in 2011, she was named Sierra League and Div. 3A State MVP to cap a stellar high school career.
After graduation, however, Embry’s path to playing soccer at a four-year school took a detour. She suffered an injury that summer that kept her off the field for nearly 12 months — after spending a year at Santa Barbara City College, she attended Folsom Lake College to resume her soccer career.
“It was kind of wishy-washy for a while — after my injury it was kind of slow coming back and it was hard,” Embry said.
At Folsom Lake in 2012, Embry made three starts and appeared in 17 matches for a Falcons team that won the Bay Valley Conference and advanced to the second round of the CCCAA NorCal regional playoffs. She planned to play a second year at Folsom Lake when the opportunity to be a part of the new women’s soccer program at LTCC arose — a program led by Christian DeLeon, her former high school head coach.
“Chris reached out to me and told me about the program,” Embry said. “It was a new program and it was something different, but I had faith in him to make it big — we definitely did what we came out to do this year.”
Embry took a chance by staying home to play with the Coyotes — a gamble that paid off. She captained an LTCC women’s team that finished second in the Golden Valley Conference and qualified for the regional playoffs in its inaugural season.
“I’m proud of where we live and I’ve always said there’s quality here,” DeLeon said. “This shows our local girls that the opportunities are there if they want to take them — soccerwise there are different opportunities as long as they have an open mind.”
Embry started all 20 games for Lake Tahoe last season, anchoring the Coyotes’ defense from her center back position. Following the campaign, she was named Golden Valley Conference Defensive MVP and a first-team all-conference selection.
“I’m excited for the coach that’s going to get her — he’s going to have a good spot for her and if she stays focused she can be one of the top leaders,” DeLeon said.
Southwest Baptist, an NCAA Div. II school that competes in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, is coming off of one of its best seasons in program history. The Bearcats went 16-5-1 in 2014, finishing second in the MIAA and qualifying for the NCAA championships — they ended the season ranked 25th in the country.
Embry first met coaches from SBU at a showcase event in Southern California last December. She felt an initial comfort level with the Bearcats’ coaching staff, and believes she can fill an immediate void.
“Taylor has shown herself to be a very accomplished central defender capable of changing the complexion of any defense she is a part of,” Bearcats head coach Rob Podeyn said on the team’s website. “She is a strong leader who is focused and committed to winning, and we are excited to have her joining us the next two years.”
DeLeon also believes Embry will thrive at Southwest Baptist. And not just because of her talent on the field.
“She has always had the skill, but it’s the mental aspect that is going to help her at the next level,” DeLeon said. “It’s more about the mental side — and she had it since we had her here in high school.”
In the three years since graduation from South Tahoe, Embry has repeatedly demonstrated her mental toughness. Without that determination and focus, she likely wouldn’t be heading to Missouri this fall to continue chasing her dream.
“It seems like it has been forever,” Embry said. “But I’m finally done with it and I’m excited.”
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