Loyola women’s lacrosse sophomore attacker Emily Wills recently spoke with PressBox about growing up in a competitive family, the pandemic cutting short what had a chance to be a special 2020 season and more. The Ambler, Pa., native posted 21 points (12 goals, 9 assists) during the shortened 2020 season. The Greyhounds finished the season No. 3 in the nation in the final IWLCA Division I coaches’ poll.
PressBox: How did you become interested in lacrosse?
Emily Wills: My mom, [Nancy], played. She played her entire life and she ended up playing in college at [Thomas Jefferson University]. It used to be Philadelphia Textile. She was actually inducted in the Hall of Fame. She really liked lacrosse and she always tried to get me and my sister into it. I was in third grade, second grade, and I remember going to the first practice and I was like, “No, Mom, I’m going to hate this. I’m going to hate lacrosse.” And then she was like, “Just do the first practice, you’ve got it.” I did my first practice, and at the end she was like, “Did you like it?” And I was like, “I loved it.” And then I just kept playing since then.
PB: Your father, Steven, played college baseball at St. Joseph’s as well. How did growing up in an athletic family influence you and your game growing up?
EW: I feel like my parents never really put a lot of pressure on us. It was always just kind of, “Work hard and don’t really think about anything else and if you love the sport it’ll come to you.” My one younger brother, [Matt], he plays lacrosse. My other younger brother, [Ryan], plays football. He actually just committed to Penn State [as an offensive lineman]. I feel like they motivate me more than my parents ever have because I see them, they’re going out, they’re doing their reps. I’m like, “Oh my God, I haven’t done anything today. I should probably go out and do my reps.” If I wake up early in the morning and do my reps, then they’re sitting there like, “Oh my God.” It’s us kind of feeding off of each other.
PB: How did growing up with competitive siblings drive you and your game?
EW: It was a lot of working really hard. I know me and my one younger brother, Matt, we played on the same club team. I always wanted him to be able to hear about, “Oh, Emily Wills, that’s your older sister?” I always wanted to leave a little bit of a legacy. I guess that’s what kind of drove me.
PB: Who was the biggest influence on your game growing up?
EW: It was actually Kayla Treanor. I would just always watch all the Syracuse games. I would watch Kayla Treanor. I still watch her highlight tapes if I can find them. I’m a huge fan of hers. I think she’s super dynamic — has the best stick skills and quickest feet I’ve ever seen.
PB: Why did you choose to come to Loyola?
EW: The coaching staff and the huge family mindset that is all around Loyola. I also liked how it wasn’t too far from home. My parents could see all my games, but it was really the team dynamic and Jen [Adams], Dana [Dobbie] and [Caroline] Hager.
PB: What’s your favorite memory so far at Loyola?
EW: Beating Florida [in 2020]. That was probably one of the best. We just got to the locker room and we were like, “Wow, we just did that.” You looked around. Some girls were crying and other girls were just sitting … and they were like, “We just beat Florida by so much, and we did it all together.” That was a total team win.
PB: You finished the season No. 3 in the country. How difficult was it that the season suddenly ended?
EW: We all really knew we had something special, so I think it was the hardest leaving that. We were offered the fifth year and we were like, “Oh, that’s awesome,” since we wouldn’t really lose that many girls, and we also had a great freshman class coming in. It was hard walking away from that 5-0 season and that really special connection that every girl played with. We were convinced we were going to make it to Memorial Day weekend. That was tough.
PB: What’s your favorite thing about Loyola and Baltimore?
EW: Everything. You can go anywhere and just find the best people in the world. You go to Hampden and it’s really cute and tiny restaurants. Then you go to Towson and it’s big, kind of a more laid-back vibe. And then you can go to the Inner Harbor and it’s a real big-city vibe. Everybody you meet, they’re just happy to be in Baltimore. It reminds me a lot of Philly, so I really like that.
PB: Who’s your best friends on the team and what’s a story that underscores your friendship?
EW: My best friend on the team is probably my roommate Regan [Kielmeyer]. We had one practice where I think [WMAR] wanted to come and videotape one of our practices or something for the news. Jen comes up to me and Regan and she was like, “OK, you guys can’t scream this practice. You can’t get weird. This needs to be a civil kind of practice.” Me and Regan kind of looked at each other. We were like, “OK …” We were on the other half of the field while the news people were on the other side of the field. Me and Regan were like, “She did this on purpose. She did on this on purpose.”
PB: Who’s a player at Loyola you looked up to prior to arriving?
EW: Hannah Powers. Whenever I would watch their games, I really loved how explosive she was, the confidence she played with and how dynamic she was. She was so tough. She would get hit probably every game. She was on the [ground] a large majority of all the games. I just always loved how she just got right back up, got the ball and kept running.
PB: What advice would you give to younger players?
EW: There’s so much pressure being a girl in sports, period, so probably just doing your best. Just forget about any of these pressures that are on the outside or what you see. Just remember that you’re playing for the love of the game.
PB: What are your goals for after lacrosse?
EW: I would really like to become a Peloton trainer. I really like running and stuff, and I really love their app and stuff and all that they offer. I would really like to get into that.
PB: What did you do last spring as far as lacrosse after the season was canceled?
EW: I did a lot of running, that’s for sure. I played wall ball, I played with my brothers a couple times. And there were a lot of girls from my area that also play D-I lacrosse. We would get together. We did a lot of stuff over the summer when our fields opened up. I had a stick in my hand the large majority of quarantine for sure.
Photo Credit: Larry French/Loyola Athletic Communications