Sophomore Emma Worley clutched a 6-4, 6-2 win for the Huskers against Texas Tech's Lana Rush in invitational play this fall.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Worley's Vault to Tennis Leads to Nebraska

By Rachel Long

As a young girl growing up in Michigan, Emma Worley spent more time doing tucks and handsprings than pounding serves and backhands.

It wasn’t until seventh grade that her focus transitioned away from the gym and onto the tennis courts of her hometown of Northville.

“I did gymnastics for probably about 10 years,” Worley said. “So my goal was to do that in college, and I never even really thought about tennis because my goal was just to work hard and do gymnastics in college. And all of a sudden, it just switched. I did a couple lessons growing up one summer before seventh grade, I started playing some more tennis and I just loved it, and decided to switch. That decision was really hard, because gymnastics was all I had known and I wanted to do that in college all my life, but then tennis came around.”

Worley had taken a few recreational tennis classes as a youngster, but as she entered middle school in the quaint town of approximately 6,000, workouts at the Liberty Athletic Club worked their way into her schedule. In eighth grade, she was hitting five to six times a week with coaches Brian Eisner and Dan Goldberg.

“They were just both really positive people, and working with them made me want to keep playing,” Worley said. “I started to love it.”

Soon after, Worley began playing for Northville High School, where she was happy to be back in a team atmosphere for the first time since she left gymnastics. Worley was named honorable-mention All-State for her freshman and sophomore years, and named All-State her junior and senior seasons. She helped the Mustangs capture the Michigan state title in 2015, before adding a team runner-up finish in 2016.

Worley’s hard work and success began to create opportunities for tennis at another level. As the end of her high school career approached, her parents and coaches worked together to find the right place for her to continue her tennis career at the collegiate level. In September of her senior year of high school, she reached out to Nebraska.

Everyone involved quickly began to sense that Nebraska was the place for her to not only continue her tennis career but to receive an outstanding education. In October of 2015, Worley came to Nebraska on an official visit. Her feelings for Nebraska grew so strong, that she canceled all of her future college visits while she was still in Lincoln, committing to Coach Scott Jacobson and the Huskers while on her visit.

“I just knew when I was here that this is the place, there’s nowhere else,” Worley said. “It just felt like somewhere safe. I felt like I could see myself here. Being here now, I just love all the support from all the areas, like the academic support, your teammates and all the support you get there, the coaches, everyone just makes it so positive." 

Worley, one of five sophomores on Nebraska’s 2017-18 team, said she’s had an easy transition into her life just over 750 miles from home. Although she didn’t compete in any matches for the Huskers last spring, the three-star recruit values her role on the team and is consistently invested in upping her game.

“My role is just supporting my teammates, cheering them on, like when they’re doing well, keep them up, and when they’re not doing so well, just cheering them up, telling them to keep going,” Worley said. “I also played a couple exhibition matches last season, which was fun. My goal is to just keep working as hard as I can these first couple years so I can hopefully start playing more.” 

While she’s here, the Tom Osborne Citizenship Team member is also invested in giving back to Lincoln’s community.

“Over the four years I just really want to be involved, especially with volunteering,” Worley said. “I love volunteering. Last fall, we did the Husker Heroes thing with kids with special needs, and we played games with them on the football field. I love that stuff. We did something at the Lincoln Zoo this year for Halloween, and we also went to a nursing home and we did a trick-or-treating thing there, where we brought candy to the the people living there and just talked to them, which was really cute. Last year, me and my teammates also did a coat drive, where we help people find coats and stuff. Just being able to give back, it just makes me really happy making other peoples’ day. It just makes me happy.”

After individually volunteering at a community center and working with preschoolers last spring, Worley decided to volunteer this fall as a mentor at a local elementary school. For one hour a week, Worley meets with, listens to and advises a group of fifth-grade girls at Holmes Elementary. The philanthropic player plans to extend her mentorship on into next semester.

“I like just helping them out, because they’ll talk to me about anything, and just being able to be there for them, whatever they need," Worley said. “It’s like being a big sister.”

Worley said her life motto is “hard work pays off,” and she plans to apply that to her volunteer work, as well as to her academic and athletic career at Nebraska.

“I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get somewhere like here for tennis, because I didn’t start playing tennis competitively until seventh grade, so it was really late,” Worley said. “But I just kept working, and the opportunity came to walk on here and I was amazed. So just the hard work, just knowing it will pay off, or same in school, if you work hard, study hard, the grades are going to pay off.”

The two-time Nebraska Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll member is studying nutrition and health sciences, and she’s interested in working as a strength and conditioning coach or in an athlete performance lab in her future. As for her current career on the courts, Worley is looking forward to the Huskers’ upcoming season and the chance to play a contributive part on the team.

“I’m just excited, especially with the matches in the fall, like I know what I can do and if I’m able to have the opportunity to play, I’m just going to go out there and just put it all out there and do as well as I can,” Worley said. “I’m excited. 

Head Coach Scott Jacobson said Worley “fits the mold perfectly” as to what Nebraska desires in a student-athlete.

“Emma has made great strides over the course of the last year here at Nebraska,” Jacobson said. “Emma is one of the quickest individuals in our program and it benefits her in a big one from the baseline. Her ability to handle pace has improved dramatically and her commitment over the summer has definitely benefited her game. In addition, Emma has a team-first mentality, a genuine concern for her teammates’ well beings and a tremendous understanding of the philosophy of our program. We are incredibly thankful to have Emma representing our Husker family.”

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