VAN ALSTYNE — Despite not having a high school team to play for, Van Alstyne senior Emmè Fernandez signed to play soccer at the University of Montana on Tuesday.

The Division I program has been competitive through its 24-year history. The Grizzlies went 7-9-6 during the 2018 season and also made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament with a first-round loss against Washington State after winning the Big Sky Conference tournament title — the fifth in school history and first since 2011.

Fernandez hopes to contribute to this tradition of success after committing during her sophomore year and hoping to play at forward, but she has been taught and has the athletic ability to be impactful anywhere on the field. This wide range of ability has been developed for quite sometime, as soccer has been ever present in her life.

“I’ve been playing soccer since I’ve been able to walk,” Fernandez said, “I started playing in the Van Alstyne recreational league when I was little, my best friend’s dad was my coach and ever since that we’ve both kind of decided that this is something we want to keep doing for as long as we can. It’s an amazing sport. I love it.”

Her older sister, Hannah, just completed her college career as a defender for Texas Tech.

Because Van Alstyne does not offer a soccer program as do many schools in Class 3A and below, Fernandez honed her skills with her club team, the Dallas Sting.

“Emmè is a strong, powerful attacking player who will really help us over the coming years. She is the type of forward who has the technique to cause problems for defenders and additionally she has a will to win that is going to be very hard to stop,” Montana head coach Chris Citowicki said. “She has both Development Academy and ENCL experience, and she’s confident and fun to be around. We can’t wait to have her at Montana.”

The decision to sign with Montana came to Fernandez for multiple reasons — the credibility of the program and the prestige of the academics to name a few. However, it was a more unique reason that finally made up her mind.

“In the seventh or eighth grade I watched a movie called A River Runs Through It,” Fernandez explained, “and the scenery in that movie is absolutely gorgeous, so ever since I’ve watched that movie I’ve always wanted to live there… then the opportunity came along to play soccer there, so putting the two together just made sense.”

Fernandez is hoping to get into animal physical therapy after her four years at Montana. Growing up with horses, she has always had a love for working with animals and with a fantastic pre-veterinary program and physical education program, she will be in a great position to start her career.

Fernandez has plenty of appreciation for the ways her coaches and the faculty at Van Alstyne have helped her realize this dream, as well as thanking her coach for all the hard times.

“My coaches have all been tough, they can be very hard on you,” Fernandez said, “but I’m thankful they were, because if they hadn’t helped build up my mental strength as well as my ability to play, there’s no way I would have been able to play college soccer. I’m beyond thankful for how they pushed me and supported me throughout my career, I will carry the lessons they have taught me as I start this next chapter.”