GALLATIN - Lady Wave athletic standout Emma Donley signed scholarship papers to play soccer for Samford University Tuesday afternoon at Gallatin High School.
A four-year goalkeeper for head coach Greg Harper, Donley becomes the first Lady Wave soccer player to sign Division I since 1995 when Shannon Kelly inked with Memphis State.
“I knew I wanted to play in college freshman year,” Donley said. “Playing Division I was a dream, but I knew if I worked my butt off I would achieve it.”
Donley knew early if she wanted her name to be well-known throughout the recruiting world, she needed to compete wherever and against whoever.
“Sophomore year, my dad and I would spend every weekend for about three straight months going to exposure camps all over,” Donley said. “We would drive for hours because we knew it was the exposure I needed.”
After missing valuable time on the recruiting trail this past year due to COVID-19, Donley narrowed down her search for a college home to Southern Conference rivals Samford and UTC.
“I fell in love with the campus and program while on a visit,” Donley said. “Samford is home for me and the perfect fit.”
What is Donley’s next goal now that she has accomplished the one that has driven her all this time?
“My main goal is always to push myself and never be satisfied,” she said. “I want to make my new teammates proud, people back home proud and hopefully one day go pro after college.”
Donley’s accomplishments are prestigious; twice named All-State and District 10-AAA Keeper of the Year, but more significant than her individual achievements?
“Junior year beating Station Camp in the district tournament is one that will always stay with me,” she said. “Our junior year was a lot of fun because up until that point when teams saw ‘Gallatin’ on their schedule they thought it would be an easy win, but we showed up and left with the win. The feeling of us getting to the district championship for the first time in 20 years is something I will never forget.”
Coaching Donley the last four seasons, Greg Harper says Samford is getting someone that will make their program better on and off the field.
“Emma was so easy to coach,” he said. “She showed up every day and worked as hard as any keeper I’ve ever trained. She always had a positive attitude and is eager to get better. I look forward to watching her continue to play at the next level.”
Donley says Harper, who is a former keeper himself, grew Donley’s mental toughness.
“He has helped mold me into the player I am today,” she said. “He is always honest and straight forward and I wouldn’t be as mentally tough as I am without him. I always wanted to make him proud.”
Donley says she will study nursing in college with the goal of ‘helping people’ when her soccer career comes to an end.