Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

May 20, 2013

The will to win

Three-sport star Stewart has done it all for Boyd County

Rocky Stanley
The Independent

CANNONSBURG — Opponents get the same look from Emily Stewart whether it’s softball, basketball or soccer season.

Steely eyed and lips pursed, the Boyd County senior is keenly focused and all business between the lines.

“Emily has an extreme will to win,” said Lady Lions softball coach Geoff Stewart (no relation). “She’s very driven to succeed on the field and off the field.”

A stellar student and three-sport All-Area standout the likes of which Boyd County perhaps has never seen, Stewart breaks into a big smile when asked about her game face.

“I’m a little intense on the field,” she said. “I can’t help it. I’m very competitive.”

Stewart’s approach in every sport reflects her motto: “There’s no excuse for not trying your hardest every play.”

The shortstop/point guard/goalkeeper is admired just as much for her leadership. Just ask Boyd County senior first baseman Nicole Goins.

“Emily is a role model, even for somebody of my age,” Goins said. “She knows the right thing to say or do to keep us in the game, no matter the situation.”

A second-team All-State selection last year, Stewart is trying to help the Lady Lions go out with a bang in her final season.

Her .490 batting average entering the weekend included 19 extra-base hits. Defensively, Stewart can make all the plays at shortstop and also shines at catcher when the need arises.

Geoff Stewart, now in his 12th year at Boyd County, doesn’t like to rank his players but makes an exception in this case.

“Emily is definitely at the top of the list, and we’ve had a lot of good softball players come through here,” he said. “She’s a very impressive athlete.”

Stewart’s uniform number — 00 — is distinctive, like her talents.

“She can run, she can throw, she can hit, she can play defense,” her coach said. “What makes it all better is how smart Emily is at situations, knowing what to do and executing it.”

Stewart and junior second baseman Taylor Wheeler form one of the state’s better combinations up the middle.

“I’ve played basketball and softball with Taylor my whole life,” Stewart said. “I can’t imagine my life without her.”

After a jam-packed high school athletic career, Emily will concentrate on academics in college. The Governor’s Scholar, ranked sixth in her graduating class, received a full tuition scholarship to Louisville.

“I can’t believe I’m not playing sports in college,” Stewart said. “I guess education is more important to me. Besides, it would be weird not to play for Boyd County.”

On the basketball court, Stewart elevated her play at point guard as a senior to help lead Boyd County back to the region finals. She scored 15 points in the championship game, a 54-52 loss to Ashland, and was named to the All-Tournament team.

Stewart’s defense, rebounding and ballhandling were keys for the Lady Lions. She became more of an offensive threat down the stretch with her ability to take the ball to the basket.

“We needed Emily to score, and she did,” Boyd County coach Pete Fraley said. “Emily is a great kid who always plays her tail off. She not only left an impact on softball and basketball at Boyd County, but soccer too.”

Stewart averaged 18 saves as a junior and repeated as an All-Area soccer selection last fall, again stopping a high percentage of shots on goal.

Ashland girls soccer coach E. B. Lowman, No. 2 on Kentucky’s all-time win list, called Stewart a game-changer.

“She kept Boyd County in games they might otherwise have not been in, and helped them win games they might otherwise have not won,” Lowman said. “Emily is as tough as anybody we saw in the goal.”

Thanks to Stewart’s yeoman’s work protecting the net, Boyd County allowed only 2.2 goals per game last season.

“She’s an impact player evidently in every sport she plays,” Lowman said. “When you watch her in soccer, you can see the athleticism, the recognition of where to be, and her quickness.”

Stewart’s mother (Donna) played softball and Emily is particularly passionate about the sport. She’s been in the BCHS program since seventh grade and sharpened her skills with travel softball.

Emily wants badly to make it to the softball State Tournament for the first time. Ashland has blocked the Lady Lions’ path throughout her career and also won both regular season meetings this season.

“I’ve worked for this so long,” Stewart said. “We’ve always had the athletes, but have not been able to pull through. If we make it to state and lose, I won’t be too sad because getting there is what you play for all season.”

She participated in Kentucky’s Junior East-West All-Star Game last year and has been chosen for the senior game in June.  

For all of her seriousness whatever ball is in play, Stewart likes to laugh and have fun. She was voted Homecoming queen, as well as Prom Queen.  

At Boyd County’s Senior Night last week, Emily listed “Cocoa (Beach) pranking”, and “Watching Nicole (Goins) run” as two of her favorite Boyd County softball memories.

“Emily always makes fun of my running,” Goins said with a laugh. “Everybody knows I’m slow. The two of us have played softball together since we were 7.”

Stewart and Goins are part of a potent Boyd County offense.

“I think the lineup is pretty even all the way down,” Stewart said. “Our team is strong. I wouldn’t put it past anybody to hit a home run at any time.”      

Boyd County hosts Fairview in the 64th District Tournament today at 6 p.m.

ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at rstanley@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2671.