Time is running out and the game is tight. The Rock grabbed the ball as they made their way down the field. Emily Benham owns the ball, but always makes sure to keep an eye on her teammates on either side. A hole is opened, and Benham passes the ball, ending at the back of the net. Another pass for one of the best passers in rock lacrosse history.
Before she established herself as one of the best players when it came to ball sharing, she faced her first big challenge. Where did she want to go to college? Her father was lucky for her, he knew exactly what conference she had to play in.
“I knew I wanted to go to physical education and health, and my father said, ‘You should check out [Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference] PSAC, because he played in Edinboro [University] Benham said. “I was like Slippery Rock [University]? what are you talking about? Definitely, I will check it out. Then I came and visited here and fell in love with him.”
PSAC was where she wanted to be, but on top of that, she knew she wanted to be at Slippery Rock. After just one visit, she found herself comparing every college next here. In many ways, this is rare.
“I was talking to other schools, but I visited Slippery Rock first and knew I wanted to come here, so I was comparing every school I visited after that to Slippery Rock,” Benham said.
Soon, it was official. She is now part of the Slippery Rock women’s lacrosse team. In her first year, her goal was simply to make a fuss.
“In my freshman year, I was so excited because it was exciting to be in a place where everyone has the same passion and love for lacrosse,” Benham said. “That year, I just wanted to get into the field and contribute in any way I could.”
You have done much more than just contribute. The confidence she had in her first season played a big role in how her first year turned out. Of the 16 matches played, she made seven appearances and appeared in total. Benham has proven to be one of the team’s top scorers this season as well. She scored 16 goals and scored 23 points overall.
“My first year was scary because I learned a lot about myself and spent a lot of time learning what my role was,” Benham said. “It helped me learn early on, and make these mistakes so that I could eventually take on the role of captain, so playing those games in the first year of the year definitely helped me gain confidence and helped me progress as a striker and as an individual on this team.”
Then as the story goes, the year 2020 happened. When COVID-19 hit, Benham and her teammates knew they weren’t going to play back that year. So that strange day, when they had their last training, was about making sure everyone cherished the little time they spent together.
“I put the point in my mind that you never know when this can be unleashed so I’m going to practice every day, and am grateful to have you there and play every game as if it was the last,” Benham said. “I say that so far for the team, play every game as if it were the last, so [the COVID-19 layoff] It definitely changed the way I think in general.”
During that time, Benham kept his physique. Throughout the epidemic, her love for physical activity increased more and more.
“I love training either way, so I’ve been doing that and trying to stay positive by saying we’re going to play no matter what,” Benham said. “So, I just tried to get my stigma off as much as I could, but I also love training in the weight room, so even just strengthening for my personal growth got me excited.”
When spring 2021 came, the decision was officially made to allow teams to return to work. Of course, there was a weekly test and all kinds of protocols to follow. To make sure they could be on the field, The Rock women’s lacrosse team all followed suit. Benham and his comrades returned to the field.
Didn’t waste any time. In just 12 matches, she scored 43 points coming from 28 goals and 15 assists. That season, Benham had five hat-tricks and was one of only three players to start every game. She was a leader on and off the field, and on top of that was awarded the All-PSAC 2nd Team.
“I was really shocked, I wasn’t really expecting it and it was great to see me and two other girls in the team earn these titles,” Benham said. “I worked hard for sure, but it was a team effort and it made me excited to come back and try to strive for this next step.”
Now, in her final year at The Rock, Benham has already made history. She scored 33 goals and scored 26 assists. Her 26 assists broke the record for most of the season at The Rock. But for her, it’s all because of her teammates.
“I think this year I’m playing more as a feeder and looking for my teammates, which has brought us a lot of success,” Benham said. “I’m really happy that my teammates were there to pick up and finish my feeds, and it all shows that we do better when we work together.”
With only five games remaining, the goal remained the same for Benham. She wants to reach the playoffs and make history with this team.
“I think the playoffs are still in the picture, but it’s all about execution and hopefully we can win so we can go into the playoffs and win the first playoff that Slippery Rock hasn’t played yet,” Benham said.