Taking the field
One of the best athletes to ever patrol the pitch at Stermole Stadium, Emily Garnier ’18 is an unforgettable player for many Mines soccer fans. A leader during a period of incredible team success for the Orediggers, Garnier stood out as a shutdown center back and now continues her winning ways as a professional player in Europe.
A three-time all-American, Garnier earned three Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) Defensive Player of the Year
awards while leading Mines to three consecutive RMAC regular- season and RMAC Tournament championships. She was Colorado’s Sportswoman of the Year in soccer and was twice named Mines’ top female student-athlete. Garnier graduated second all-time at Mines in assists with 30 and fifth in points with 54. Now, Garnier continues to make her mark abroad, albeit after some starts and stops.
“It wasn’t a straight shot, but it was what I really wanted to do [after graduating],” Garnier said. “I did the whole ‘after-grad Eurotrip,’ but in my backpack, I had a soccer ball and my cleats and was training throughout the whole time.”
At first, lack of exposure prevented Garnier from getting her professional career off the ground. “In Europe, they don’t really know much about our college system, so if you’re not from the top D-I schools, they don’t know what your level is,” she explained. “No one was willing to give me a look.”
But Garnier had received an earlier offer from the Soccer Management Institute in Italy, which luckily still had an open defender slot on the club Empoli.
Over the next two seasons, Garnier became a fixture in Empoli’s lineup, helping the club earn promotion to the Italian Serie A after her first season. But it still took some time for her to adjust to a culture that was obsessed with the game in a way she didn’t understand.
“It was really tough for a while. At training, no one spoke English. My coach didn’t speak English at all. He would explain a drill, and one of the girls would come over and translate it for us,” she said. “It was sink or swim, but I started to pick up ‘Soccer Italian,’ and then by the end of my two years, I would say I’m conversational.”
This year, a new opportunity emerged with Fortuna Hjørring, one of Europe’s top clubs, in Denmark. After signing, Garnier was slotted into the starting lineup—but she quickly realized she was going to have to adjust all over again.
“You cannot pick two more different places than Italy and Denmark,” she said. “Here it’s more balanced, more physical, more running. In Italy, it’s the opposite, it’s all about tactics, possession. It’s like a sin to play a long ball—at Mines, that was my thing—but I’m actually grateful for that, because it has developed my game in a completely different direction.”
Cross country may have been the only Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championship held in fall 2020, but the Orediggers made sure to represent. The Mines men’s and women’s programs dominated the day in Colorado Springs on Oct. 24. The men’s team captured the team title for the second year in a row, led by repeat individual winner Dylan Ko, while Zoe Baker made history as the first individual women’s conference champion for Mines, leading the Orediggers to second place overall.