Share This Page

After losing mother to cancer, Apollo-Ridge star Emminger returns to court

| Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, 12:41 a.m.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Apollo-Ridge's Ashley Emminger (right) and Freeport's Macy Smolic (left) and Carly VanTine fight for the ball during their game Monday, Dec. 9, 2013.

Ashley Emminger is back to helping Apollo-Ridge win, but she does so while coping with the most tragic of losses.

Emminger, a senior forward and St. Vincent recruit, is continuing to play her final season with the Vikings after the death last month of her mother, Kriss, from a six-year battle with cancer.

The Vikings' leading scorer before her mother's passing, Emminger is a critical piece for an Apollo-Ridge team that has qualified for the WPIAL playoffs for the first time in four years. But basketball is the smallest concern now, as coaches and teammates try to lend support to one of their senior leaders.

“She was very important to me. She was always a role model,” Emminger said.

“I get down on myself when I do something bad, and I haven't been playing up to par lately. But I feel she'd be happy knowing I'm still out there playing.”

Emminger missed two games and some practices in the weeks after her mother's death, but she has been trying to fit back into her old role with the team.

That transition hasn't been easy, said Apollo-Ridge coach Jim Callipare, who is balancing preparation for the postseason with doing what is best for a player in a time of need.

“We're trying to keep things normal as much as we can,” Callipare said. “She's struggling right now, and we have to take things day to day, but if we can be there to help her, that's the most important thing.”

Emminger is grateful for the allowances the coaching staff has made for her, and she said the support of her teammates has been important.

“They've been extra nice to support me and give me a little leeway when I get a little crazy in practice,” Emminger said. “It helps a lot knowing I have my team behind me. At first, it was hard enjoying anything after losing my mother. It's been getting better, and I am doing the thing I love (playing basketball).”

Emminger will have basketball beyond high school after deciding she would join the team at St. Vincent next season. She chose the Bearcats over her other top choice, Virginia Wesleyan, in large part because of it being closer to her home and her family.

“My mom was sick, and I figured being close to home, there would be more of a support system in place,” Emminger said. “I wanted to go to Virginia, but there were lots of things about the school — the landscape, the team — that convinced me St. Vincent was the right place.”

On the court, Emminger hopes to regain her best form before the end of the season. She has just one double-digit scoring game in six contests since returning to the team, but her coach knows they need her presence on the floor and is optimistic things will come around for the WPIAL playoffs, which begin next week.

“Our girls understand Ashley's not playing like she can but that there's a reason for that. I don't think anybody can imagine what she's been going through,” Callipare said. “We're just learning on the fly how to deal with it, and we're hoping it will all work out by the end of the season.”

Emminger, meanwhile, is looking forward to the playoffs. She hopes she can help add a happy ending to the season with a good performance in the first playoff appearance for her or any of her teammates.

“It's a real big deal for us to make playoffs. We still aren't at our potential, but I feel like we're working as a team, making our passes and communicating better,” she said.

“It's a whole different atmosphere this year with the new coaches. Coach (Callipare) yells the whole time, but he's very encouraging. You can tell they care about making us better.”

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.