K-PARK PHENOM: Yeager reaches legendary status on the pitch
Kingwood Park girls soccer is home to a legend in the making.
With star forward senior Emma Yeager setting a new all-time career goal-scoring record (108) for the Panthers this past Valentine’s Day, fans and teammates were showing plenty of love for the young athlete who might be the GOAT of K-Park.
When KPHS took the field against Lufkin Tuesday night, the Panthers faithful were on the edge of their seats, awaiting for the standout scorer to finally break the record that was previously held by Vannesa Valadez during her 2011-2014 tenure (106).
Almost inevitably within the first half, Yeager rocketed the ball into the back of the net, subsequently compelling her teammates to race down the pitch to congratulate the Missouri State-signee for her incredible accomplishment.
“It [breaking the record] wasn’t necessarily something I focused all of my efforts on,” said Yeager. “I played more on a game-to-game basis, trying to dig out a win with the team. It’s a great feeling to have that effort rewarded and praised in the way it has been.”
The Panthers proceeded to defeat Lufkin (5-0) with Yeager adding another score. Furthermore, this victory propels the Kingwood team to an 11-1 record (4-0 district), improving their division rank to the first-place spot with their final game of district play taking place tonight against Dayton.
Immediately after goal No. 107, coach Jess White exchanged the game ball in order to later present it to the two-time District MVP and first-team, all-state recipient. The senior team captain will be adding it to the one she earned during her sophomore year when she broke the single-season scoring record (44).
“Several fantastic players have blessed our program,” said White. “The standards they set are being elevated by those that come after. Emma’s given someone else in the future something to go after. The ball will remind her of the record and the teammates who supported her the entire way… One of the most enjoyable parts of our profession is seeing young athletes develop. Emma has become more confident and vocal each year. She’s gone through adversity and has become a more complete athlete. It’s a pleasure.”
Said teammates include the likes of MF Bailey Ricker (Sr.-Captain), MF Brynn Baldon (Jr.-Captain), Olivia Roach (Sr.), and Nadia Lawrence (Sr.), just to name a few. Each complements the other’s talents in the team’s perennial push for the playoffs.
“With team success comes individual recognition,” Yeager said. “I’m lucky to have played with a talented team all four years at K-Park. Without having those teammates to support me on and off the field, none of this would have been possible. It’s a team game, and I’m blessed with teammates that have skill, soccer IQ, and heart.”
In recent years, KPHS girls soccer has consistently dominated, earning five consecutive district titles (2018-22), most recently, advancing to the Regional Quarterfinals. Due to several injuries, the closest K-Park has come to a State Championship is when they fell to Highland Park (4-1) in the 2019 State Semifinals.
However, this year feels different for the talented Panthers' roster.“I think one of the main differences this year is us having a healthy group,” said Yeager. “We had a handful of injuries with various recovery times, and we have them back this season. We've also had several young players step up last season, so they are returning more skilled and experienced…We want to continue to go into the rest of the district with the same connection and intensity. It’s hard to top a performance like that [vs. Lufkin], but if we match it or top it, we’ll continue to find success.”