Soccer, Basketball, Lacrosse
Favorite athlete: Tobin Heath.
Favorite team: The Sixers.
Favorite memory competing in sports: Scoring a goal on my soccer senior night to tie the game and celebrating with my friends and family after.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: Scoring an own goal off of my head when we played against Gwynedd Mercy.
Music on mobile device: Country & Rap
Future plans: Play soccer at East Stroudsburg and eventually become a physical therapist.
Words to live by: "Leave it better than you found it".
One goal before turning 30: Be financially independent and focused on my career.
One thing people don’t know about me: I know every word to every song in the broadway show, "Hamilton".
By Craig Ostroff
The Bensalem girls’ soccer team entered 2019 season with a much different look than last year.
More than a dozen players had graduated. Gone was a large veteran group that was counted upon for several years to lead on and off the field, a group that powered the 2018 Owls’ squad to one of the most successful seasons in recent memory.
The role of this year’s senior class would be much different. This year’s seniors and captains would be counted on to teach a young team filled with inexperienced underclassmen, to keep the younger players positive, and to accept that improvements throughout the season might not be reflected in final scores and team standings.
Fortunately for the Owls, Emily Wineburg was among this year’s group of seniors.
“The way Emily led this year says a lot about her,” said Bensalem girls’ soccer coach Bob Crawford. “It had to be frustrating for her - we had 14 seniors last year, and she was used to playing with that group since she was a freshman. Now everyone is looking at her and her classmates to be those leaders.
“Emily always stayed positive. In the beginning of the season, we were losing 1-0, 2-1 games, and it can wear on you. She fought through it, never gave up, made sure the team stayed positive. The way these girls were playing by the end of the year, they didn’t want to lose. Our record might not show how good the team was at the end of the season, but they had really improved as the season went on, and that was because of players like Emily who never gave up.”
For Wineburg as well as her fellow seniors and captains, their final season on the soccer pitch made for an intimidating responsibility, but the group looked at it as a challenge and an opportunity to help rebuild and set a solid foundation for the future.
“It was definitely nerve-racking in the beginning,” she said. “We’d had so many upperclassmen to look up to, and now you’re the one being looked up to. It was challenging to always be on your A game and be that example.
“We had a lot of underclassmen who were new to playing at the varsity level. The seniors were very good about making sure the girls knew this was a rebuilding year, plus we play in a tough division, so it was really important to make sure everyone stays positive.”
One of Wineburg’s roles as a captain for the young Owl squad was to serve as a liaison between the coach and the younger players. During games, she let her feet do most of the talking.
“Emily is a quiet leader,” Crawford said. “But she has a foot that can strike a ball a mile. I would joke with her that she should be a placekicker for the football team, that’s how strong her leg is.
“Emily was one of the first people I would go to when there was something that needed to be communicated to the team. I’d talk to her about what we need to do to play better, and she’d talk to the other captains and the girls and relay the message in a way that sometimes a coach can’t.”
Last year’s senior-heavy squad pulled out a winning record in the Suburban One National Conference (6-5-1). This year’s team battled through a two-win season.
But Wineburg – a four-year starter who will play next year at East Stroudsburg University – said she wouldn’t trade this season for anything.
“We had our struggles this season, but everyone really became super close, it turned out to be a really enjoyable season,” she said. “You could tell we put a lot of effort and heart into the season. We definitely turned a corner during the season, we all really started to depend on each other and we all wanted to help each other.”
“Emily was always hungry to learn, and the younger kids saw that,” Crawford said. “Halfway through a tough senior season, to have a kid still hungry to learn says a lot about her. Sometimes a kid sees the end is coming and they just go through the motions. Emily never did. She wanted to keep learning and keep playing.”
Of course, being a leader and setting the course for a team is nothing new for Wineburg. And she’s had the opportunity to do something quite rare at the high school level. Because while every athlete wants to leave a legacy – to write their own page in the history of their respective sports – Wineburg was able to open the book.
She and a group of friends started Bensalem’s girls’ lacrosse team in their sophomore year. While the team plays a varsity schedule, it is not yet recognized as a varsity level team. It is slated to earn that status in the spring of 2021.
So just as she did in soccer this year, Wineburg is helping the lacrosse team build a foundation for its future.
“One of my friends, Kaitlyn DeWees, has been playing lacrosse her whole life, and her dad was passionate about starting team,” Wineburg said. “We went to our athletic director and three of us started winter workouts. In the spring, things clicked and so many athletes tried out.”
While the learning curve was steep, Wineburg found that her basketball experience proved invaluable on the lacrosse field.
“The footwork you learn in basketball translates to lacrosse,” she said. “It definitely made the transition a lot easier. During our sophomore year, we were all on a more individually focused learning curve as we learned the rules and worked on our games. Last year we were all practicing all the time in the winter, we really enjoyed playing together, and last year was a team effort to be better as a whole team.”
Before heading back outside, however, Wineburg is focused on her final season on the hardwood. Last season, the Owls finished 13-10 overall and 6-6 in the National Conference, earning a trip to the District One playoffs. This time, the two-year captain and three-year starter wants to help her team take the next step - or two.
She will be counted on to expand her role this year. Always a force in the defensive paint, Wineburg is hoping to make more of an impact on the offensive side of the court as well.
“She blocks shots – she’s an intimidator inside, but we need her to score a little bit this year,” said Bensalem girls’ basketball coach Sheldon Per. “That’s why we’re working on her post moves and her scoring. And she steps up to the challenge. She’s just a great, great kid. She’s very coachable.”
“Last year we were a low-scoring, defensive team, this year we want to turn that around and be a more offensive-minded team,” Wineburg said. “I’m usually a low post player on offense, but I’ve really been working on my shot from the outside. And I’m working on shooting more. I’ve always been more a facilitator than a basket-first kind of player. This year, my coach told me he wants me to keep shooting whether it’s falling or not, find my groove, generate more offense on more of the court.
“It’s a nice change and a fun challenge. With my size, I do think I have more an advantage on defense than offense, but this year is definitely more fun on offensive side of the court.”
In the classroom, Wineburg is just as eager to take on any challenge. Her slate is packed with honors-level courses. She is a member of the National Honor Society, is in the top 10 percent of her class, and is a member of student government as well as the Building Bridges club that visits district middle schools to help prepare the kids for high school life.
She is also a member of the Bucks County Student Forum, a monthly meeting where four students from every high school in the county meet to talk about current issues in their respective schools and share ideas.
With three sports, a loaded class schedule, and plenty of extracurricular activities, the last thing Wineburg needed was the added pressure of selecting a college. She got that out of the way early, signing a letter of intent to continue her soccer career at East Stroudsburg University while she pursues a degree in exercise science.
“Seeing friends go through stressful times with colleges, I value the fact that I don’t have to go through any of that,” she said. “I had gone to an ID clinic at East Stroudsburg and I felt a really good connection to the players and coaches. I love the campus, I love everything about the school. And they called me back for my official tour and made it feel like they really cared that I was going to be a part of the school. And it’s the perfect distance. My parents can still come see me play, I can come home when I want to, so I’m excited about that. As for the team, they’re excited to have a tall center back coming in, so I’m going to do everything I can to earn my playing time.”
And when she hangs up her blue and gray for the final time, Bensalem’s loss will become East Stroudsburg’s gain.
“She’s a great student, great athlete – an outstanding soccer player,” Per said. “She been a delight to coach in the year-and-a-half I took over the team. She works hard, and she’s a great leader.”
“The hardest part about coaching is that every year, you lose kids that you develop this relationship with,” Crawford said. “Personally, I’m losing someone I can communicate with, have a good conversation with and get smart feedback. The team will miss a great leader. East Stroudsburg is getting a kid who’s going to work extremely hard and is going to do great things there, and do great things in the future.”
And while Wineburg takes her myriad talents a couple hours north, chances are that the seeds she helped plant in soccer and lacrosse will start to bloom. She may not be a part of the future successes these teams may achieve, but she helped lay the foundation.
That’s more than good enough for her.
“A lot of the teams I’ve been on at Bensalem haven’t always had great seasons in terms of wins and losses,” Wineburg said. “Being a part of a lot of rebuilding years is something that you struggle with at times, you work hard every day in practice and in games and you want to be able to see the results. But it feels good to know you’re making an impact on next year’s team. I tried to always bring my best efforts and do things the right way, and hopefully the younger kids were able to see that and take something from it. I hope so. I’m excited to see what the classes after me can do. I can’t wait to come back and see how everything is going and see how well they’re doing.”
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