Ohio State freshman forward Emaly Vatne (14) heads the ball down the field in the game against Florida Gulf Coast University on Sept. 7. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

Freshman forward Emaly Vatne has traveled a lot in her career playing soccer.

Coming from Sterling Heights, Michigan, Vatne originally participated in club soccer for the Michigan Hawks for five years, getting the opportunity to travel to Italy for her first International Women’s Tournament of Gradisca in 2016.

Even with the soccer experience, Vatne still viewed her transition from Sterling Heights to Ohio State as very difficult.

“The transition from high school to college is challenging,” Vatne said. “Every team we play against is super athletic and technical. The speed and strength of the teams we play against every week is nothing like club or high school.”

The transition to the college level was not the only thing facing Vatne prior to the start of her first collegiate season.

Vatne ended up enduring a brutal knee injury in March 2017, forcing her to miss time for an entire year.

She said the timing of her knee injury hindered her ability to play in her first game back, limiting the amount of preparation she had prior to her first season at Ohio State.

“In the first five games I wasn’t allowed to play a lot,” Vatne said. “This meant that I didn’t get a lot of game time before coming to Ohio State. It was hard to tell myself I’m ready to play in my first college soccer season after a knee injury when I hadn’t played in very many games before. Knee injuries always are difficult, but I had great support and I’m pretty happy with how my recovery went looking back on it.”

Vatne continued to make strides game-by-game, in her first season competing in college soccer, while bouncing back from the knee injury.

Then, the Buckeye freshman had her career breakthrough.

With an Ohio State team that had lost two of its first three games of the season, Vatne made history, scoring three goals against Morehead State on Aug. 30. It was the 15th hat trick in Ohio State history and the third time a freshman had ever accomplished the feat.

Vatne said, after that performance, she feels like she can be an important factor when it comes to her role on the team, especially after the loss of an Ohio State senior midfielder.

“I feel like I can contribute good passing and vision to the team.” Vatne said. “I was asked to step up when Sarah Roberts got hurt, so with help from her and the other seniors, I think I’ve been able to contribute to the team.”

Head coach Lori Walker-Hock said the coaching staff has asked a lot from Vatne this season, and that she has done well to make adjustments thus far.

“It’s pretty traditional in our program that we ask players to be able to play multiple positions,” Walker-Hock said. “Just so that we can always be covered by injury and player availability, and I think that that’s only going to benefit Emaly to be playing central and wide.”

Now, with Ohio State earning three straight in-conference victories, Vatne will continue to show how she can make a sizable impact.

Her three goals and eight points lead the team, and with Nebraska next on the schedule, which sits at the top of the Big Ten, she will need to keep up the offensive production.

For Vatne, she said she is just playing the sport that she loves.

“I’ve been playing soccer as long as I can remember.” Vatne said. “I grew up playing a lot of different sports with my dad and younger brother, but soccer was always our favorite. I don’t know why I liked soccer so much when I was younger, but as I grew up I learned about soccer around the world and it made me love it more.”