George Mason University

News at Mason

Her rookie season was a real kick

December 6, 2018   /   by Damian Cristodero

Freshman kinesiology major Emma van der Vorst led the Atlantic 10 Conference with 14 goals and 32 points last season, and was named conference Offensive Player of the Year. Photo by Rafael Suanes.

Emma van der Vorst aspires to play professional soccer. So when she decided to travel from her native Netherlands to the United States for college, her main concern was finding a quality women’s soccer program.

Her parents were more concerned about academics.

The freshman striker said she has experienced the best of both worlds at George Mason University.

Her 14 goals and 32 points led the Atlantic 10 Conference last season, and van der Vorst became the first women’s soccer player at Mason to be named conference Offensive Player of the Year. She has also done “really well” academically, said Cynthia Dowd, academic coordinator for Mason Athletics.

“It sounds like a cliché, but it’s like a family,” van der Vorst, a kinesiology major, said of Mason. “They really take care of you. They don’t just look at you like a soccer player but as a person.”

A company that pairs student-athletes with American universities brought van der Vorst to Mason. She said she would have studied kinesiology back home, but universities there do not offer the high-level competitive athletics she wanted to improve her game. That is reserved for club teams. 

Once a match is made, the recruiting process for the university is basically the same as for every other student-athlete, Mason assistant women’s soccer coach Emma Thomson said. There are interviews between the student and coaching staff to ensure there is a fit. Mason coach Todd Bramble even video-chatted over Skype with van der Vorst’s family.

“We recruit good people before good players,” Thomson said. “The fact that [van der Vorst] is such a good player—that’s a plus.”

Calling van der Vorst “good” is an understatement.

She already has played 26 matches for Dutch National youth teams at the under-15, under-16, under-17 and under-19 levels. At Mason last season, her five winning goals tied for the Atlantic 10 lead. She ranked fourth in the conference with 30 shots on goal, and she set a Mason record with goals in eight consecutive matches.

“She’s just got great accuracy and power, and she’s dangerous with her right and left foot,” Thomson said. “It’s hard for a lot of goalkeepers to deal with.”

“It’s nice to have personal success, but what’s most important is [that] I did it for the team,” van der Vorst said about the Patriots, who advanced to the Atlantic 10 semifinals. “I’m so proud of everybody. We came so far. We worked so hard, and the chemistry in the group is really good.”

As for where she needs to improve, van der Vorst said, “I need to be faster and, when I get the ball, more composed. We’re going to work on that in the spring.”