Emily Menges, Thorns vs. KC, 4.26.14
Photo by David Blair

Balanced Scholar: Thorns FC defender Emily Menges completes college degree while starting on the backline

 PORTLAND, Ore.- College seniors have a lot on their mind in their final semester of their undergraduate career: where to find a job, whether to applying to graduate schools, and how to not move back in with their parents.

For newly graduated Georgetown student Emily Menges, her concerns are much the same revolving around homework and finals, but she’s already found a job: Portland Thorns FC defender.

Drafted in the third round of the 2014 NWSL College Draft, Menges has been commuting between finishing her B.A. in Psychology at Georgetown University and starting the 2014 NWSL regular-season for the defending champion Thorns.

“It’s kind of funny because when I got drafted, I wrote that I would be available full time May 18,” the 21-year old Menges explained with a smile. “Paul Riley had a whole different agenda and it ended up working out his way.”

For the first six matches of the season, Menges had been shuttling back and forth. After road games, instead of joining her teammates on a flight back to Portland, Menges was on her way back to Washington, D.C. and classes.

In the buildup to her final exams, Menges would study and finish class work on the return flights, often six hours long and not always nonstop.

“That’s when I tried to get everything done,” Menges said. “I had a lot of reading, so that was conducive to flight and even after training, I would go and get a few hours of studying done.”

When the Thorns held their preseason camp in Tucson, Arizona, Menges joined for several training sessions but didn’t feature in either preseason match. Her first full 90 minutes with the Thorns came in the season opener on the road against the Houston Dash where the defender contributed to Portland’s first clean sheet of the regular-season.

Such is the confidence Riley has in the rookie defender that Menges hasn’t missed a minute of play so far this season. In order to keep match fit, Menges trained with the Georgetown women’s team during their spring session, while also reviewing game tape and keeping in touch with the Thorns coaching staff for particular workouts. Riley has stayed in contact with his Menges game-by-game to see if she could join up with the team and Menges always made it work.

Even with all the challenges, there was never any doubt for her that she would finish her degree before starting her professional career. Being so close to the end, delaying wasn’t a likely choice.

“There was no way that I’d have been able to stay in Portland full time and have Georgetown send me work,” Menges said. “I would have had to physically be in class. When I got drafted, there were a few fleeting thoughts of taking the semester of, but I felt it was better to finish now.”

With Georgetown’s graduation a few weeks ago, Menges’ days of cross-country flights back to D.C. are at an end. But even with the increased confidence from managing a collegiate workload with a new professional career, Menges believes she has yet more work to do.

“I’m very happy that I’ve been able to play, but I can get so much better,” Menges said. “I’m not even close to the skill level of half the girls here, so I just hope that by playing with them over the next few months, I’ll get even more technical and better with the ball.”

With all the flights she’s had to take, one might guess that Menges has started a nice stockpile of frequent flyer miles.

“The only problem was that I was on all different airlines!” said Menges with a laugh. “I now have a frequent flyer number for at least 10 different airlines, but I’m well on my way.”