Emily Gooding Ready For Strong Second Half Of SMU Career
After missing most of the 2018 season with a knee injury, Emily Gooding finished with 98 kills and a .126 hitting percentage in 13 matches in 2019.
After missing most of the 2018 season with a knee injury, Emily Gooding finished with 98 kills and a .126 hitting percentage in 13 matches in 2019.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020
by Blake Timm, Assistant Commissioner For Communications

LACEY, Wash. – Adversity has been a constant companion for Emily Gooding throughout her collegiate volleyball career.

So the opportunity to be back on the court at Saint Martin’s, even with the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, is a welcomed opportunity.

“We didn’t get any spring practice so it’s really nice to get back into it and get a feel for volleyball again after five months off,” the junior outside hitter said. “Being back out there with my teammates and just getting to play the sport again has been great.”

It is a welcomed start, even if different than planned, for a 2020-21 season where Gooding figures to be a key contributor for the Saints under first-year head coach Dan Behnke. She is looking forward to the opportunity after the last year and a half was derailed by knee injuries.

After playing in 21 matches as a freshman in 2017, Gooding played in just eight as a sophomore before the season came to an abrupt end with a knee injury. A cautious restart in 2019 kept Gooding out of action until the final 13 matches of the year in which she proved that she was still as much a factor for the Saints as she was as a freshman.

Battling injuries not only provided a measure of perspective but also made her realize how much volleyball was a part of her life. “As I started facing setbacks is when I realized that volleyball was something that I wanted to do,” Gooding said. “It made me work harder as I realized that is my passion.”

Gooding believes she has always had to work harder than most to be a good volleyball player.

“When I was younger I wasn’t always the most physically talented player,” she said. “I had to work hard to get playing time. A couple of times I didn’t make the teams that I wanted to make and I had to step back and decide what the best option was for me.”

Gooding didn’t start playing volleyball until sixth grade when she joined her elementary school’s team. At the time, she did it to have fun playing with her friends. She quickly realized, though, that she enjoyed volleyball more than soccer and moved her focus from the pitch to the court.

The move was a good one. Gooding was a two-year starter and a two-time team most valuable player for Kentridge High School in Renton, leading the Chargers to district playoff appearances in 2015, 2016 and 2017. That caught the attention of the Saints and former head coach Jon Killingbeck. The beauty of the Saint Martin’s campus and the small class sizes caught her eye, as did the chance to be part of a renaissance.

“With the volleyball program, there was the promise of turning it around,” Gooding said. “I really liked that challenge. I wanted to come into a program and make a difference.”

Gooding was immediately thrust into the starting lineup as a freshman, finishing with 115 kills, 20 aces and a .182 hitting percentage. She was one of eight Saint Martin’s players to start at least 20 matches. She appeared to be headed for a better season as a sophomore in 2018 when a knee injury ended the year after just two-plus weeks. Over eight matches, Gooding finished with 42 kills and a .213 hitting percentage.

It would be over a year before Gooding was back in the Saint Martin’s lineup.

“I had my first surgery in October and then I had a second surgery in April to remove half of my meniscus. That set me back a bit because of swelling,” Gooding said. “I think that having that full year to recover gave me some great confidence. When I came back I was never like, ‘Oh my gosh, am I ready?’ My leg was basically back to normal.”

The return was a bittersweet one for Gooding, in a three-set loss to Simon Fraser on Oct. 12, 2019. It was obvious in that match, though, that Gooding’s confidence was as strong as ever. She went on to start in 11 of the Saints’ final 13 matches, finishing with 98 kills, ranking fourth on the team, and a .126 hitting percentage.

While the injury instilled a lot of confidence in Gooding, it also cemented the fact that the volleyball court is where she wants to be.

“It gave me a different perspective on the game, not being able to play,” she said. “I would watch all of the film and go to all of the practices and it made me appreciate it even more. Even being able to walk, run and all of the small things you take for granted. It made me more excited to come back and not take those things for granted again.”

While the chance to put in a full season of competition is exciting enough, Emily Gooding’s season brightens more with the addition of her younger sister, Madeline, to the Saints’ roster.

With a three-year age gap between the two siblings, it will be the first true opportunity for the two to play together.

“She made the varsity as a freshman, which was cool, but we didn’t get to play a lot together,” Emily said of their time at Kentridge. “We always played at the same club but we never played on the same team.”

Emily says the relationship between her and her sister has always been close but it deepened after she left for college. Perhaps it was because they weren’t around each other every day as siblings are at home. Now that they are both on the Saint Martin’s campus, there is plenty of opportunity to build that bond more.

Nowhere is that more apparent than on the court where Emily relishes the role of No. 1 fan for Madeline and the fact that Madeline is Emily’s No. 1 confidant.

“It is so much fun having that person that you can get feedback from and not be afraid of what they are going to say or how they are going to react,” Emily said. “It is a very constructive relationship that we have on the court.”

Madeline’s arrival in Lacey completes a bit of a role reversal between the two sisters. Madeline was the first of the Gooding sisters to play volleyball. And Emily has always admired her younger sister’s skill and ability.

“Not only is she an awesome person but she is an incredibly talented player,” Emily said. “She is definitely growing into her own player and doing really well. It has been fun to see that. I love having per presence on the team.”

With the two competing on different club teams for much of their lives, Madeline always connected with Emily by sharing her jersey number 11. At Saint Martin’s, however, there is no quibbling about who will wear what.

“Since I was already here I got to have it,” Emily laughs. “She’s not too set on having that number. We didn’t have to fight about it.”